While the spiritual benefits are central to this ancient path, the physical aspect is what initially draws most people to yoga. It is certainly true that practicing yoga leads to better health, less stress, and a happier, more peaceful mind. But while it might be tempting to think of yoga as merely another exercise routine, the real healing benefits come from it’s integrated approach to working with the body and mind.
Some scientifically proven benefits of yoga are:
- It moves you from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system, or from flight-or-flight to rest-and-digest. You typically have less anxiety and enter a more relaxed state. As soon as you start breathing deeply, you slow down out of fight or flight and calm your nervous system.
- Improves your psychological/mental well-being
- Helps with anxiety and depression
- Boosts memory and improves concentration
- Reduces the effects of traumatic experiences
- Increases flexibility
- Promotes better balance
- Increases feelings of well-being and improves body image
- Regulates high blood pressure (hypertension)
Modern research has discovered what the yoga tradition of India has known and relied on for thousands of years: the mind and body are intimately connected. In fact, they are one continuum. The body may be viewed as the physical expression of the mind and spirit. Thus, when you think and act in a habitual way, thought patterns take root in the mind and translate into physical conditions in the body.
Chronic stress, unhealthy eating patterns, low cardiovascular function, low immune function, prolonged feelings of anxiety, and many other conditions associated with your modern lifestyle can be treated and healed with regular yoga practice.
Bending and moving the body in new ways encourages the body and mind to operate in a new way that is more conducive to long-term well-being. The combination of cleansing poses and deep breathing increases the body’s capacity to renew itself. The breath acts as another mechanism for the removal of old toxins and waste materials while calming and clarifying the mind.