6 Reasons to do Yoga That Have Nothing to do with Losing Weight
After the passing of yoga guru BKS Iyengar we look at the legacy he leaves behind. Iyengar helped bring yoga to the West and inspired an international community of yogis. Iyengar knew that yoga was for everyone – that no physical or mental limitation could hold you back. He created his own unique practice that is very diverse in the type of sequences that are done, even from day to day. Depending on why you are practicing or why you want to practice yoga, there is a style that is right for you and your body. Regardless if you swear by Bikram or are a Hatha flow junkie, there are some benefits that every form of practice brings us — and they have nothing to do with losing weight.
Helps you Live in the Present
Yoga helps us focus on the present and become more aware of our body and its place in the world around us. As we go through the sequence position by position we move through time moment to moment, drawing our attention to the task at hand. To be able to complete an asana correctly we need to focus on our breath and the form of our body. If the mind wanders, we fall out of form and need to begin again.
Relieves Stress and Promotes Sleep
Yoga employs many relaxation techniques, which with regular practice can make you calmer over time. A study by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital showed insomniacs fell asleep 15 minutes faster and slept an hour longer each night after two months of doing a 45-minute series of yoga poses daily before bed. Researchers speculate that regular yoga practice helped people relax, making it easier to turn-off at night. Daily training aids in focusing the mind on stillness and will teach you how to consciously quiet your mind whenever you feel overwhelmed.
Regular exercise and healthy relaxation practices have been shown to benefit immunity, increasing our resistance against seasonal illness and harmful invaders. Yoga specifically has been shown to support the immune system, even after one session. One study showed that yoga practice helped to increase the expression of specific genes related to immune function. It’s also a great exercise for supporting immunity during the winter, as it can be done at home in your pajamas!
Improves Circulation and Breathing
The way we breathe can affect our overall health and well-being, but it isn’t something many of us even think about. Yogic asanas and breathing exercises facilitate blood flow to every single part of the body. The heart pumps oxygenated blood to every cell and simultaneously brings de-oxygenated blood back to the heart for oxygenation.
Improves Flexibility and Prevents Injuries
Yoga helps to improve flexibility and mobility, increasing range of movement and reducing aches and pains. Many people can’t touch their toes during their first yoga class. Over time however, the ligaments, tendons and muscles lengthen, increasing elasticity, making difficult poses possible. Yoga also helps to improve body alignment resulting in better posture and helping to relieve back, neck, joint and muscle problems.
Gives you Inner Peace
Yogis are encouraged to meet their body where it is on any particular day. We are unable to force our bodies to move without the risk of injuring ourselves, therefore we have to relinquish all control. In the yoga studio the only competition we find is with ourselves. It is these meditative aspects of yoga that help many reach a deeper, more spiritual and liberating place in their lives.
There are many practices of yoga and there are many reasons to practice. September is National Yoga Month. Visit here to find free classes and events in your area.