YOGA AND HEALTH – HOW TO FEEL GOOD
Irrespective of your origin, age, status or development – Yoga is for all! Anyone can practise it. There is an immediate correlation of yoga and health and I will explain some of the many benefits for you in the next chapters. If you stick to it, you will realise how your life will change and how you will feel good about yourself, your body and mind.
ORIGIN OF YOGA – WHERE DOES IT COME FROM?
The word YOGA comes from the language of ancient India and means joint or unite. Yoga joins all aspects of the individual – mind, body and spirit.
Yoga is a group of physical, mental and spiritual practices or disciplines which originated in ancient India. around the 6th and 5th centuries BCE.
The term YOGA in the Western world often denotes a modern form of Hatha Yoga consisting largely of the postures called asanas.
An asana is a body posture, originally a sitting pose for meditation and later in Hatha Yoga and Modern Yoga, adding reclining, standing, inverted, twisting, and balancing poses to the meditation seats. An asana is also described as a position that is steady and comfortable. Asanas are also called yoga poses or yoga postures in English.
WHEN AND HOW TO PRACTISE YOGA
You will ask yourself – when and how can I practise yoga and integrate this into my everyday busy lifestyle. But when you start to choose a day and time you will see that it does not take many hours of your week to get a regular practise. Already 2 times a week and let’s say 40 minutes each will give you good results and will improve your health and well being.
It is a good advice to start yoga as a beginner in a class with an experienced instructor – you will have to find somebody you can connect with and you will have to like the style of the teacher – there are many out there and I would say just try some of them, you will soon realise who is good for you.
Once you have learned the basics you might well practise at home and you can then also rely on books or publications about yoga and health.
THE FIRST FIVE BENEFITS OF YOGA
1. Improved flexibility
This is one of the first and most obvious benefits of yoga. At the beginning, you might not be able to stand straight, bend down and touch the floor with your fingertips. But if you keep practising, you will realise that you loosen up and eventually even impossible poses become possible. You will also notice that aches and pains will slowly disappear. That is the immediate result of loosened hips and hamstrings which can strain the knee joints or flatten the lumbar spine which causes back pain. And inflexibility in muscles and connective tissue such as fascia and ligaments can cause poor posture.
2. Stronger muscles
Stronger muscles will not only shape your body but protect you from conditions like arthritis and back pain and they also help elderly people to prevent falls. You could also build up muscles in the gym but this will not include improved flexibility which yoga does at the same time.
3. Perfects your posture
Your head is very heavy and if it is balanced directly over an erect spine, your neck and back muscles have much less work to support it. If you move it several inches forward you start to strain those muscles. And if you do that constantly over all the hours of the day you will feel tired and a poor posture can cause many problems like back pain, muscle and joint ache.
4. Lowers the risk of a heart attack
Getting your heart rate regularly into the aerobic range – which means 70 or 80 % of your maximum heart rate – you can lower the risk of a heart attack and even relieve depression. But also Yoga exercises which do not get up your heart rate that high can improve cardiovascular conditioning (narrow or blocked blood vessels). Yoga can also improve your maximum uptake of oxygen during exercise.
5. Drops your blood pressure
If you suffer from high blood pressure, you will definitely benefit from yoga. A study published in the British medical journal THE LANCET compared the effects of the yoga posture Savasana (corps posture where you lie on your yoga mat on your back and relax and breath deeply) with simply lying on a couch. After three months, Savasana was showing a drop in systolic (the top number) and diastolic (the bottom number) of blood pressure. And the higher the initial blood pressure, the bigger the drop.
There are a number of other things you can do to help lower your blood pressure:
- Eating a healthy diet
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Avoiding alcohol
- Reducing stress
- Exercising regularly
- Quitting smoking
Yoga can help with three of these lifestyle changes:
Exercise, maintaining a healthy weight and reducing stress.
YOGA AND HEALTH – WILL IT WORK FOR YOU?
If you start with little steps and take out your yoga mat regularly, I can promise you that you will start to feel good, look better, have more fun and satisfaction in your life and you will also be able to cope much better with any stress coming up in your life.
Start today and look up yoga classes in your neighbourhood!