Yoga Health Benefits

In this subsection, Laura will be introducing you to many yoga health benefits. Yoga will promote your mind body connection which in turn will have an increased effect on your body’s self healing energy. Apart from a yoga mat you will fundamentally exercise without equipment.

Whether you became a casual or dedicated practitioner you will gain from the many benefits of this ancient ritual.

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The Sanskrit word “yoga” means to yoke or unite, referring on a cosmic scale to the union of the individual with universal energies. It also has to do with the union that takes place as physical, mental and spiritual capacities are brought into harmony, strengthening the mind-body connection.

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Yoga is associated with Hinduism, Buddhism and other religious traditions and some forms of yoga can be traced back to 2800 BCE. Today, yoga techniques such as pranayama (focused breathing) and asana (posture) are enjoyed by many individuals around the world.

Focused breathing and posture, as you would have read in the section on Health Related Fitness, calms the nervous system, stretches and strengthens muscles, and brings awareness and balance to mind and body, increasing access to self healing energy. 

Yoga is an exercise that can be performed in a variety of settings and requires no equipment, although some people prefer to practice on a rubber mat for enhanced grip.  However, the floor next to my bed, a mountain meadow, a small office space, a paddle board, an airplane seat, a community fitness center, or a pricey studio are among the variety of settings where I have breathed, lengthened, twisted, stretched, and enjoyed the many yoga health benefits.

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Yoga operates on the idea of prana, a universal life force that fills the immensity of space and flows through all animate and inanimate forms, including our bodies. It is in the sun, the air, water, the earth and plants, and we absorb it through eating, drinking and breathing.  What we put in our mouths and how we breathe thus become of vital importance, the building blocks to our overall health and our ability to access and use this life force. 

Prana runs through our bodies in energetic channels, invisible to the eye, known as nadis.  The Amazon River of these nadis, the sushumna, begins at the base of the spine at the root chakra (energy center) and rises through the center of the body to exit the head at the crown chakra. Yoga encourages the flow of prana up this central channel from where it can be spread throughout the body. 

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Try it!

Take a moment to uncross your legs, connect your feet to the floor, spread your weight evenly across your seat, lightly engage your core muscles to feel them supporting and lifting your lower spine and breathe in deeply through your nose. 

Feel how your ribs and belly expand to receive the in breath, and your spine naturally grows longer. Pay attention to breathing all the way out, allowing your shoulders to grow heavy. 

Try it again, drawing in the air as if you were breathing through the notch between your collarbones, allowing yourself a moment to float at the top of the inhalation, then slowly breathing out to rest at the bottom of the exhalation.  This is the foundation that will bring yoga health benefits. 

Although yoga is a rich tradition offering hundreds of postures from simple seated or standing poses, to complicated pretzel twists balancing on one hand, it all grows out of this practice of breathing with awareness, as if the breath you are currently taking in or letting out were the most important thing happening on the planet. 

Which in a sense, it is! 

Learning to breathe deeply and exhale fully can alter how we live our lives, as we learn to access what is most nourishing and meaningful and let go of that which no longer serves us. Breathing deeply can help reduce anxiety and balance emotions, creating clarity of mind and a still center when one feels overloaded. 

Our health is determined by the flow of life-giving prana in the body. When the channels that deliver prana are blocked through injury, misuse, sedentary habits, poor nutrition, or lack of sleep, our energy is depleted and we become vulnerable to illness, both physical and mental.  Pranic flow can also be blocked by negative thoughts and feelings, including hatred, anger, lust, greed, uncontrolled passion, delusion and pride. 

The physical practice of yoga encourages the literal opening of joints and muscles to allow life-giving, self healing energy to flow through unobstructed. One of the many yoga health benefits. 

The mental practice of self-discipline and personal reflection encourages the practitioner to alter the patterns that diminish and limit personal potential. 

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You are never too old, too young, too unfit or in too great a shape to enjoy the health benefits that come from yoga. The focused breathing, quieting of the mind and the stretching and strengthening of the body leaves one cleared out, receptive and with a more complete sense of self-awareness. 

There is a feeling of unity, of coming home to oneself, and of connecting to powers beyond.  You can find a wide selection of simple instructional yoga sequences online, which you can enjoy in the privacy of your home.  However, finding a studio or gym that offers a yoga class can be helpful if you want to make a more serious commitment to your health.  There is something about being in a group that can encourage you to keep at it. 

This page, which is part of my section on The Benefits of Exercise, was written by Laura Harper who has produced a series of videos on yoga for children. Visit Be the Story Yoga and start enjoying the many yoga health benefits, whatever your age. In the next subsection we examine fat burning exercises.

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