Health Benefits of Yoga (Besides A Rockin’ Bod)

Over the past several years, yoga has seen a dramatic increase in popularity in western culture.  In major cities, studios are popping up on every block and men and women are getting hooked on the practice.  But exactly what is it that makes yoga so appealing?

Apart from the transformative toning effect it has on the body, yoga has an infinite number of benefits which improve the mind, body and (yes, really) the soul.  While some consider it a form of exercise, others consider it to be a powerful form of alternative medicine.

No matter how you view the practice, however, its positive effects cannot be ignored:

Increased strength & flexibility

The asanas or poses taken during yoga provide a total body work out to increase strength and help you touch your toes! Bikram yoga, which is essentially yoga in a heated room, will engage your muscles on a deeper level and greatly improve flexibility.

Stress relief

One of the best reasons to try yoga is to rid yourself of stress. While going on a run may help you blow some steam, the meditation aspect of yoga will not only relax your body, but it will relax your mind and clear away worrisome thoughts.

Pain relief

Yoga is believed to reduce pain by “helping the brain’s pain center regulate the gate-controlling mechanism located in the spinal cord and the secretion of natural painkillers in the body.” In addition, breathing techniques taught in yoga can aid in relaxation.

Energy

Throughout a yoga session, as we stretch and strengthen our muscles, organs, joints, and bones, we release blocked energy – both physical and emotional.  In a popular pose called pigeon, extreme hip tension is released, and many will feel some level of emotion during this process. It’s important to note that feeling emotions during yoga is perfectly normal, and a fundamental part in getting the most out of the practice.

Attention & Focus

Attention in yoga involves letting go, a relaxation that surrenders to the “what is” of the posture. Here you are alert and watchful, but not passive. It’s the body that “decides” when to hold, when to back off, when to deepen, and when to come out of the posture.

Living in the Moment

Undoubtedly, the most important aspect of yoga is to focus on the present moment. It teaches us to slow down, become aware of our thoughts and be here now. By practicing the art of living in the moment, we set ourselves up for a more meaningful and satisfying life.

So if you haven’t already, give yoga a try and reap the many rewards.

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