04 Apr Health Benefits of Yoga for a Healthy Body & Brain
Health benefits of yoga
There are a lot of people out there singing the praises of yoga (myself included!), but what exactly is so great about yoga? As an Osteopath, in practice this is a questions I get asked all to often. People are intrigued by the health benefits of yoga, but are often unsure of exactly what they are. Often in my Osteopathy practice, I find Pregnancy is a time when clients tend to turn to yoga. However, there are so any health benefits of yoga that are applicable during all stages of life. Today we delve a little deeper to find out what the health benefits of regular yoga practice are, and how to get the most out of your yoga practice.
The breakdown on the health benefits of yoga
The health benefits of yoga can be broken into two main categories – physical and mental (aka for Body & Brain… our cheeky joke!). The physical health benefits of yoga include improved flexibility & strength in your muscles and joints. Also, improved endurance, increased blood flow and reduced musculoskeletal pain. Yoga combines gentle poses, which aid in stretching the muscles and joints, with dynamic poses that require strength and endurance. This combination helps condition the body, while alleviating pain in tired and tight muscles. The dynamic nature of yoga helps improve circulation. This in turn, brings fresh oxygen on the body and removes toxins that build up when our lifestyles are stagnant.
The mental health benefits of yoga include improvement in mental acuity, mood and sleep quality. Yoga has also been shown to be helpful in reducing depression and anxiety. The mental health benefits of yoga come from the meditative qualities of yoga practice. By focusing on the breath in yoga, this helps you shift your attention away from lifes stresses, and focus more clearly. It clears the mind of all thoughts and allows for more mindful, uncluttered thought processes to occur. This improved mental acuity doesn’t end once you finish your yoga practice, but rather stays with you all day and has a cumulative effect the more you practice yoga.
So what is the best time of day to be practicing yoga?
There are advocates for both sides of the fence on this one. Probably more people sing the praises of morning yoga, as it is said to aid digestion and boost metabolism for the day, as well as improve your mental state and set the pace for the day ahead. First thing in the morning, you are said to be well rested, and better prepared for yoga, so are stronger through your body and able to stretch more effectively. I have always done my yoga practice in either the afternoon or evening, and I can assure you I don’t feel like I am missing out on the benefits of yoga. I sleep better, my body and muscles feel great and I am mentally clearer the next morning when I wake.
The best time for you to do yoga is always going to be based on what suits you. Listen to your body and find a time during your day that will suit you. Trying to do yoga first thing in the morning when your not a morning person isn’t always going to help you get the most out of your yoga practice. Finding a time in your schedule where you are calm and have the energy to focus on your practice will help you get the most out of it.
An important thought to finish on…
One of the biggest mistakes people make with yoga practice is that they go into class with the attitude of getting a workout. People try and work quickly through their yoga practice to get their heart rate up, and try advanced poses to challenge their strength thinking this will aid in weight loss, strength and conditioning of the body. Even if these are your primary goals with yoga, it is important not to rush your practice. You will get far more out of your yoga if you nurture your body through your practice. Yoga should follow a sequence – begin with slower, gentle poses which focus heavily on the breath, then build into more dynamic poses, requiring strength and endurance, and then finish with more gentle poses again that focus on the breath and meditation.
Some of the greatest health benefits of yoga come from the meditative qualities of practice, so the beginning and end points of the class are just as important as the middle. You should always finish your yoga class feeling, light, refreshed and energised, not tired and out of breath. Keep this in mind next time you practice yoga and notice the added benefits.