“Yoga is not about touching your toes – it is what you learn on the way down!”
What is “Yoga”?
What is yoga, exactly? Is it just an exercise form? Is it a religion, a philosophy, an ideology? Or is it something else entirely? Yoga simply means “union”. The word “yoga” is derived from the Sanskrit root “yuj” meaning “to yoke or join together”, symbolizing a union of mind and body. Yoga works primarily with the energy in the body, through the science of pranayama, or energy-control. Prana means also ‘breath.’ Yoga teaches how, through breath-control, to still the mind and attain higher states of awareness.
As Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says, “Yoga is not just exercise and asanas. It is the emotional integration and spiritual elevation with a touch of mystic element, which gives you a glimpse of something beyond all imagination.”
Is Yoga actually effective?
The following points will give you your answer:
- Yoga builds muscle strength – Strong muscles do more than look good. They also protect us from conditions like arthritis and back pain, and help prevent falls in elderly people. And when you build strength through yoga, you balance it with flexibility. If you just went to the gym and lifted weights, you might build strength at the expense of flexibility.
- It increases flexibility and perfects your posture – improving flexibility is one of the most important and prominent benefits of yoga. During your first class, you probably won’t be able to touch your toes, never mind do a backbend. But if you stick with it, you’ll notice a gradual loosening, and eventually, seemingly impossible poses will become possible. You’ll also probably notice that aches and pains start to disappear. That’s no coincidence.
- It increases your blood flow – the relaxation exercises you learn in yoga can help your circulation, especially in your hands and feet. Yoga also gets more oxygen to your cells, which function better as a result.
- It improves your bone health – it’s well documented that weight-bearing exercise strengthens bones and helps ward off osteoporosis. Many postures in yoga require that you lift your own weight. And many also help strengthen the arm bones, which are particularly vulnerable to osteoporotic fractures. Yoga practice also increases bone density in the vertebrae. Yoga’s ability to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol also helps keep calcium in the bones.
- It lowers blood sugar and regulates cholesterol – Yoga lowers blood sugar and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and boosts HDL (“good”) cholesterol. In people with diabetes, yoga has been found to lower blood sugar in several ways: by lowering cortisol and adrenaline levels, encouraging weight loss, and improving sensitivity to the effects of insulin. Get your blood sugar levels down, and you decrease your risk of diabetic complications such as heart attack, kidney failure, and blindness.
- It helps you focus – An important component of yoga is focusing on the present. Studies have found that regular yoga practice improves coordination, reaction time, memory, and even IQ scores.
- It makes you happier – various studies have found that a regular yoga practice fights depression, and in turn, boosts the happiness factor. It also boosts immunity. Some yoga methods use specific meditation techniques, which focus the mind on your breathing to quieten the constant ‘mind chatter’, relieves stress and allow you to feel relaxed. It also makes you confident of your physical body.
Does Yoga help in weight-loss?
Being overweight is a sign that there are imbalances in your everyday life and one major contributor to weight gain is excess stress. Practising yoga enables you to bring a deep sense of relaxation to your body and your mind, helping you to de-stress and allowing you to lose weight naturally. Another important factor is that there’s all different levels of yoga. There is yoga that’s meant for the mind, and there’s power yoga that’s more of an exercise. You’ve got to be sure that you’re doing something more than just a mind experience with relaxing stretches, if you want to lose weight. As with any activity program for weight loss, you should engage in this activity 4 to 5 times a week to see body changes with shaping, as well as keep a portion-controlled balanced diet.
Also read: Don’t be a victim of stress, make it your strength. Here’s how:
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