What is the point of yoga, and does it really help with anything?
Yoga has so many benefits for the mind, body, and soul. It is a form of meditation that helps the body naturally heal and balance itself. Certain yogic practices have been shown to have specific healing qualities in addition to yoga’s inherent ability to create wellness and good health.
One of the main reasons people begin practicing yoga is for better health. The other main reason for learning yoga is to reduce stress. These two main benefits of yoga are linked and are the main factors on how yoga is actually a powerful therapy sess for healing not only the physical body, but the mental and spiritual aspect, as well. Yoga has also been used as a form of therapy for infertility, many cancers, lung disease, multiple sclerosis(MS), Parkinson’s disease, insomnia, joint pain, and even high blood pressure. The benefits are endless.
Medical research estimated that nearly 90 percent of all illnesses and diseases are stress related. That is HUGE. A few of the many diseases and conditions that have been linked to an overactive stress response include cardiovascular disease, depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, some autoimmune diseases, colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, reproductive problems, and suppression of the immune system. These days, no one can afford to have a suppressed or compromised immune system. We all must do our best to stay healthy and try to have as minimal stress as possible in our lives. I know that is easier said than done, especially during these times.
Chronic stress can really take a toll on one's body, not only mentally, but physically, as well. It can lead to continuously high levels of cortisol. This hormone at normal levels helps to maintain an active, healthy body- including regulating our metabolism and blood pressure. But, excessive amounts of cortisol can suppress the immune system, cause sleep disturbances, loss of sex drive, and loss of appetite. High levels can also increase your heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels making one at risk factors are heart attacks and strokes. The byproducts of cortisol act as sedatives, and can lead to changes in mood, especially to feelings of sadness and depression.
How does yoga help?
The emphasis put on yoga's long, deep breathing and conscious relaxation activates the parasympathetic nervous system and promotes its rest. A recent study has shown yoga to decrease the level of the stress hormone cortisol in the blood. The meditative practices of yoga help to reduce the reactiveness of the mind to stressors. Yoga teaches us to see potential stressors as challenges rather than threats, enabling one to avoid the stress response. It cultivates physical awareness and mindfulness that helps one to identify the symptoms of stress right at the start, allowing one to abate the stress response before it becomes toxic to the body. It's really no wonder why yoga has become so widely known and practiced in many cultures, as it is known for its endless benefits.
More yoga healing mechanisms
Not only does yoga have the ability to reduce stress and allow the body to heal itself, but the practice of yoga also improves the body’s natural healing abilities. Below are even more ways yoga helps the body heal.
- Strengthens the immune system. The twisting, compressing, and inverting that occurs in yoga enhances the circulation of blood and fluids in the body. This increase in circulation not only improves the body’s ability to deliver the materials needed to allow healing to take place, but it also activates the lymphatic system to maintain the normal functioning of the immune system.
- Improves mood. Yoga balances the central nervous system and endocrine system and stimulates the release of endorphins – natural mood-elevating neurochemicals. As you practice, your mind relaxes and you’re able to stop dwelling on stressful thoughts and situations.
- Supports a healthy lifestyle. Practicing yoga also encourages one to lead a healthier lifestyle, through developing the self-awareness and discipline.
- Reduces chronic inflammation. Studies have shown that doing yoga daily may be effective at lowering chronic inflammation.
- Reduces aches and pains. Practicing yoga poses improve muscle strength, flexibility, and range of motion, all very helpful for alleviating back pain and musculoskeletal diseases such as arthritis and osteoporosis.
- Strengthens the lungs. Yoga’s emphasis on deep breathing combined with backbends improves lung function.
- Improves eating and digestion. A regular yoga practice can reduce your appetite and encourage healthy food choices. Yoga also can strengthen your digestion, and stimulate waste elimination.
- Promotes a healthy body weight. Yoga can be an effective long-term holistic approach to losing excess weight through burning calories and boosting metabolism.
- Cultivates inner awareness. Long posture holds and meditation encourages shifting our focus inward, which cultivates a deeper awareness of what is going on inside us—physically, mentally, emotionally, and energetically.
- Improves posture. Most yoga poses can lengthen and help reverse abnormal curves in the spine. The body’s posture has been found to affect every system in the body, yoga’s efficacy in creating optimal spinal alignment will also improve one’s overall health.
- Encourages release of emotions. Emotions that are held within the body can create physical tightness, stress, tension, and even physical pains throughout the body. Yoga can release tension in the body which in turn encourages emotional and physical healing.
- Reduces negative thought patterns. Excessive negative thinking can damage the neural structures that regulate our emotions, memory, and feelings. Think of yoga and meditation as powerful tools that rewire our brains to experience more calm, peace, and happiness from within.
While yoga has such a strong support to the body’s healing mechanisms, it is important to view yoga as a complementary therapy, and not rely upon it as the only therapy for healing diseases. I am not a medical doctor or practitioner, and do not give medical advice. This post is to simply share the benefits of yoga and meditation, and to encourage others to practice it to live a healthier lifestyle.
Here are 15 beginner yoga poses and their benefits you can start out practicing along with a bonus pose to learn, after you have mastered the others.
1) Bridge Pose– (Bandha Sarvangasana)
- Great hip joints opener
- Strengthens your spine
- Opens the chest, and improves your spinal flexibility
- Stimulates your thyroid
- Relieves stress & anxiety
- Helps with insomnia
- Can help with depression
2) Downward Dog Pose– (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
- Lengthens and decompresses the spine
- Stretches the hamstrings
- Strengthens your arms
- Flushes your brain with fresh oxygen
- Calms your mind
3) Child Pose– (Balasana)
- Useful to relieve neck, back and hip strain
- While in the pose you should have slow, regulated breathing, extended arms, resting hips and your forehead should be touching the mat
- One of the most restorative and calming poses
- Helps calm anxiety
- Helps with digestion
4) Easy Pose– (Sukhasana)
- Hip opener
- It is calming
- Eases the menstrual pain for women in addition to lowering the level of anxiety
(While doing the pose, make sure your spine is streightened)
5) Warrior 1 Pose– (Virabhadrasana I)
- Relaxes your body and mind
- Strengthens your legs
- It strengthens the muscles of your knees and feet
- It stretches your shoulders and spine
- Helps with posture
- It improves your focus
6) Warrior 2 Pose– (Virabhadrasana II)
- Strengthens your legs and arms
- Opens your chest and shoulders
- Contracts your abdominal organs
- Improves patience
Your breath needs to be regulated, your focus should be on the expansion of your arms. Keep your self elevated rather than collapsing with your hips – don’t allow gravitation to pull you down
7) Triangle Pose– (Trikonasana)
- It improves the flexibility of your spine
- It helps with the alignment of your shoulders
- It relieves back pain and stiffness in the neck area
- It improves posture
8) Four Limbed Staff Pose– (Chaturanga)
- Strengthens your arms and wrists
- Strengthens your abdomen.
- Makes a good preparation pose for more challenging arm balancing poses
9) Chair Pose– (Utkatasana)
- Tones your leg muscles
- Stretches the chest and shoulders
- Strengthens your hip reflexors, ankles, calves and back
- Reduces symptoms of flat feet
- Stimulates your heart, abdominal organs, and diaphragm
10) Tree Pose– (Vrksasana)
- Improves your balance
- Strengthens Thighs, Vertebral column, Ankle and Calf
- Opens the Hips
- Stretches Thigh, Shoulder, Thorax, Inguinal region
11) Boat Pose – (Navasana)
- Helps build a strong abdomin and core
- Strengthens the vertebral column and hip flexors
- Stimulates kidneys, thyroid, prostate and intestines
- Improves digestion
- Relieves Stess
12) Crow Pose– (Bakasana)
- Strengthens the wrists, forearms and abdomen
- Stretches the hamstrings
- Helps with balance
- Helps with focus
13) Upward Facing Dog Pose- (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
- Helps you with the blood flow throughout your body
- It calms your mind
- Strengthens your arms
- Stretches your spine and back muscles
14) Corpse Pose– (Savasana)
- Lowering your blood pressure
- Calms you
- Rejuvenates your mind and body after practice while also allowing you to shift your attention to your inner-self
- One of the most important poses because of it giving the body an opportunity to absorb all of the benefits from the other poses previously practiced
15) Butterfly Pose- (Badhakonasana)
- Stretches the inner thighs, groins and knees, improving flexibility in the groin and hip region
- Helps in intestine and bowel movement
- Removes fatigue from long hours of standing and walking
- Offers relief from menstrual discomfort and menopause symptoms
- Helps in smooth delivery if practiced regularly until late in pregnancy
16) King Dancer Pose- (Natarajasana)
The King Dancer yoga pose is an advanced pose that is one of those poses that takes time to fully master. However, once you do you will reap the benefits.
- Strengthens your legs
- Improves balance and core strength
- Stretches your shoulders
- Improves your focus
- It is one of the most graceful asana
*Don’t forget you need to practice each posture on the left and right side, as balancing your postures is very important.
This post is one that was quite informative and jam packed with information. I hope that you enjoyed the read, as this particular post took me a while to write and do all the research on all the ways yoga is beneficial to one's mind, body, and soul. I even learned a few new things about yoga, myself. Feel free to share this blog post with others on social media, or bookmark the tab to refer back to the poses, whenever you begin your yoga journey.
If you already do yoga, tell me in the comment section below what your favorite yoga pose is, and how often you practice yoga.
Peace☮, Love♡, & Light🌟 to you-