Yoga, originating in India about 5,000 years ago, it is an ancient practice that centres on strength, flexibility and breathing to boost ones physical and mental wellbeing.
I have always been an avid advocate of the practice, a wholehearted believer in the immense benefits it can reap for the mind, body and soul. I believe it to be very closely aligned with the work I do as a nutritionist, promoting above all else, wellness, balance, and a commitment to a healthier lifestyle.
Preaching the benefits of yoga can often fall upon deaf or sceptical ears when it’s described as “increasing the prana flow” or “bringing energy through your spine”; in this week’s blog I want to explain, in the simplest of terms, the incredible healing properties of yoga.
Increased Strength and Flexibility
Muscular tightness is detrimental to our bodies in a number of ways. It puts unnecessary strain on our joints due to improper alignment, the resulting inflexibility in our muscles and connective tissues leading to poor posture, increased tightness and bodily pain – it’s a vicious cycle.
Through the repetition of certain stretches and movements, Yoga gradually builds strength from your core. As you build strength through yoga, you’re balancing it with increased flexibility, which in turn protects you from conditions such as arthritis and back pain as you’re alleviating the pressure from your skeleton. During your first class you may not feel terribly nimble, however, slowly but surely, through slow and gentle movements, yoga loosens you up and relieves the pressure that you carry around with you.
Helps your posture
Try as we may, most of us have less than perfect posture. The weight of our head, if not properly aligned, strains our neck and back muscles as they try to support it,putting unnecessary strain on the spine, causing numerous muscle and joint problems.
Yoga is a gentle but effective way of correcting this. Through certain well known poses, such as the ‘tree pose’ (Vriksasana) and ‘downward facing dog’ (Adho Mukha Svanasana), you elongate and therefore straighten the spine, promoting a stronger and aligned posture. Whilst our less than proper posture is an inevitable part of our day-to-day lives, a few asanas will have you standing tall in no time!
Helps With Breathing
One of the fundamentals of yoga is controlling and regulating your breathing, a practice commonly known as pranayama. This involves taking fewer breaths of greater volume, which is both calming and more efficient. By in taking more oxygen, balance shifts from your sympathetic nervous system (or the fight-or-flight response) to the parasympathetic nervous system. The latter is calming and restorative; it lowers breathing and heart rates, decreases blood pressure. When used in conjunction with other yoga practices, such as the asanas, it is considered the highest form of purification and self-discipline, covering both mind and body.
A Grounding Practice
Yoga is also believed to quell the tribulations of the mind. In other words, the dedicated and mindful practice of connecting your breathing to your body and your movements supports the slowing of mental loops of frustration, regret, anger, fear, and desire that can cause stress. And since stress is implicated in so many health problems—from migraines and insomnia to MS, eczema, high blood pressure, and heart attacks—if you learn to quiet your mind, you'll be likely to live longer and healthier.
This blog has only scratched the surface of the innumerable benefits of yoga. But for me, the bottom line is that yoga encourages you to listen to your body and be mindful and respectful of it. Taking the time to gently work out the strains and stresses and tensions of everyday life is a practice which extends into other routines; it will help you to sleep better, eat better and approach challenges with a healthier mind-set. Consider practising yoga alongside a Mediterranean diet to see the full benefits. If you’re looking for advice on how to improve your lifestyle, whether that be through altering your diet or starting up yoga, don’t hesitate to contact me for a free 30 minute discovery call.