Yoga benefits it’s practitioners in countless ways, far too numerous to cover in a single essay. But we’ll try to explore a few of the benefits of yoga and why it is still growing in popularity around the world.
There are several angles to approach this ancient form of exercise and they’re all equally valid. Fitness, weight loss and improved health are common traits of most exercise disciplines, but yoga has a few unique qualities that provide remarkable results:
Intensified Core Strength – while many think of yoga and conjure up images of bendable pretzel legs, the fact is that most yoga postures are achieved through increased core strength. Yoga builds up one’s core, providing a solid foundation for everything from athletics to housework.
Detoxification – many postures massage the internal organs, providing a natural form of self-cleansing which rids the body of stored up toxins, making this one of the most profound health benefits of yoga.
Increased Cognitive Functions – very few other exercise regimens send as much blood to the brain as yoga does. Countless forward and back bends send oxygen rich blood to straight to the brain, leading to sharpened awareness and mental clarity.
Improved Vitality – because of it’s unique qualities, yoga provides more stimulating rejuvenation than other disciplines, creating the sensation of receiving more in return for the work that is performed.
Flexibility – very few fitness regimens concentrate as much on flexibility as yoga does. In fact nearly every single movement or posture in the yoga canon has increased flexibility as it’s goal. It deserves more exploration…
The effect of continuous practice is quite perceptible as the muscles and skeletal system become exceedingly supple over time. This is of special interest to athletes who have dramatically decreased the risk of injury due to the increased flexibility yoga provides, as well as witnessing an overall improvement in their sport.
For an even more powerful example of the distinct benefits of increased flexibility, contrast the countless examples of seniors still practicing well into their 80′s and 90′s against those who never touched a yoga mat – the choice between living through retirement with flexibility and grace versus being stooped over and struggling with mobility should be clear.
Going deeper into the question “what are the benefits of yoga?” it’s beneficial to reflect on what kind of goals you have in life. While anyone who enjoys swimming, running or participatory sports might say they have certain objectives (staying fit, losing weight, competition, etc.) most probably wouldn’t consider reducing stress or finding peace of mind as important. But as many of it’s practitioners find, one massive benefit of yoga is it’s ability to clear and calm the mind, providing dramatic stress reduction and even leading one to a newly discovered sense of inner tranquility.
As with all disciplines in life, regular practice is key. Yoga won’t work miracles without commitment. With consistent training, at least 3-4 times per week, one can find dramatic results that are all but guaranteed to bring about profound, long-lasting changes.
Benefits of Yoga for Women
Women are busier than ever these days, juggling careers, families and relationships, so getting on a yoga mat regularly can help dramatically improve mental focus while increasing strength and flexibility simultaneously.
Additionally, yoga helps you feel more centered and calm, especially while traveling. Above all it helps us to learn about our bodies. This is not as simplistic as it sounds because through a consistent practice you learn to recognize and respect the subtle changes in your body’s strength and flexibility and with this experience comes a source of deep seated pride. This is the “yoga glow” we get after class — a radiant pulse that breathes new life into all areas of our being.
Yoga Benefits for Men
Yoga benefits men and women in many of the same ways, but differs mainly in the personal goals we have. Men tend to be more interested in sports and other “rugged” activities which yoga is fantastic for – it creates increased flexibility in stiff joints, which is particularly beneficial to prevent sports injuries, specifically in the knees and shoulders.
Yoga also helps correct bad posture, helping counteract back problems which 1 in 3 men suffer from. For guys looking for cardiovascular workouts, Bikram is one of the best formats. (It’s also free of the more “touchy feely” aspects of yoga which often turns off many guys.) For more info about specific yoga programs for men, check out this article about “Broga“.