The Many Benefits of Yoga
Since its creation about 5,000 years ago, yoga has been known by students around the world for its many benefits including its ability to heal on multiple levels. But what exactly does it really do for us?
Can yoga truly help us to find better balance, health and wellbeing? Can we all also achieve the ultimate alignment of the body, mind, and spirit that many yoga masters speak of? People today typically experience various forms of stress. Can yoga function as a way to overcome the often-negative effects of stress?
When I discovered yoga, I was hoping to find answers to these questions. I hoped that practicing yoga might feel like exercising my body, mind, and spirit—all at the same time. Yoga brought to mind a phrase I came across when I was a medical student by the Roman poet Juvenal: “Mens sana in corpore sano,” meaning “sound mind in a healthy body.” I was wondering if yoga might affect me in the same way as an easy run on my favorite trails on a sunny afternoon: feeling my body move, listening to my steps and the rhythmic sound of my breath, and feeling the sun on my face while completely relaxing my mind. I have learned that, in fact, it does!
Some of you aren’t runners, but might be involved in other kinds of sports and physical exercise. Many yoga and health experts suggest the practice of yoga as a beneficial addition to your current sport activities.
In the article “Yoga for the Right Balance,” I introduced you to some of the benefits of yoga as well as those benefits specific to runners. In the summary below, I have listed additional benefits that people who practice yoga on a regular basis may look forward to. I have divided these benefits into three categories: physical, mental, and spiritual.
I hope you can experience the benefits of yoga yourself, just as I did. Yoga works, it really does! Just start practicing… and you will see! Firsthand!
Yoga’s physical benefits:
- Improved body flexibility, alignment, and balance
- Enhanced overall muscular strength and tone
- Improved cardiovascular endurance (stronger heart)
- Improved stamina and strength
- Lubrication of the joints, ligaments, and tendons
- Improved bone density
- Improved digestion
- Improved abdominal strength and core awareness
- Weight control
- Enhanced immune system
- Detoxification, cleansing from the inside out
- Relief from chronic physical pain
- Deepening of the breath and increased energy levels
- For women: some of the asanas (poses) have a therapeutic effect for menstrual and menopausal symptoms
- For men: many asana (poses) help release constricted muscles for better flexibility
- Both men and women: look younger due to better blood circulation 🙂
Yoga’s mental benefits:
- Enhanced ability to relax and discover the power of patience
- Calmer mind
- Better concentration
- Improved sleeping patterns
- Stress relief, thanks to controlling emotions
- Prevention and relief from stress-related disorders
- Intellectual enhancement, leading to improved decision-making skills
Yoga’s spiritual benefits:
- Life with meaning, purpose, and direction
- Inner peace, tranquility, and contentment
- Become inspired to revitalize your life and live more joyfully
- Age gracefully
- Deepened self-awareness
- Deepened sense of gratitude
- Yoga brings a kind of stillness that brings out one’s inner beauty
Within the framework of yoga, there are many practices we can learn, all of which affect us somewhere along the physical, mental and spiritual spectrum. But some practices will have a stronger effect in one area of our life than another. For instance, the physical practices—or asanas—will have a more direct impact on our musculature, while meditation will more strongly affect our inner realm, and breath work—or pranayama—will promote both mental and physical healing while more directly expanding our breathing capacity.
Creating a yoga practice that incorporates these three aspects will offer you the most satisfying and possibly life-altering results. To start your own yoga routine you may find helpful information in our program Yoga for Performance, which offers a specialized sequence of poses designed to meet the needs of athletes and students new to yoga. Later I hope to add information about benefits and techniques of meditation and pranayama.
Updated July 13, 2016