Yoga is an ancient practice that originated in India thousands of years ago. In the middle ages, it was considered a practice for only the royal and scholarly classes. There are several types, some of which you have probably heard of like hatha yoga and bikram yoga. Many people would find it surprising that the postures, or Asanas, make up only one of the eight divisions of yoga. Others include Dharana, meaning one pointed focus, and Dhyana, or meditation. The fundamental principle of yoga is the unity of the mind, the body, and the spirit.
Increased balance and flexibly are some of the most touted benefits of yoga. Incorporating it as a regular practice in our lives allows us to achieve a sense of fluid stability that will prevent us from injuries. Flexibility can also protect us from injury, as well as prevent back pain and help our muscles to achieve their full range of motion.
Another benefit of practicing yoga is its effect on emotional states. Studies have shown that when practiced regularly, it can improve symptoms of depression and increase levels of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that allows you to feel satisfied and happy. It also decreases levels of monoamine oxidase which is an enzyme that breaks down cortisol, a neurotransmitter released in response to stress, and other neurotransmitters.
Stress related diseases are abundant in today’s society. A study in 2012 examined the effect of yoga on stress by dividing 73 reportedly distressed females into three study groups. One group was assigned 12 90-minute yoga sessions over the course of three months, another assigned with 24 sessions, and another placed on a waiting list. At the end of the study, the women in the two practicing groups reported significantly lower perceived levels of stress, anxiety, and depression and improved psychological quality of life and mood states. Decreased stress leads to better sleep, and sound sleep has many benefits of its own.
It doesn’t end here. Yoga is also great for protecting your spine and improving your posture, increasing blood flow, controlling blood sugar levels, improving your mental focus, and releasing both physical and cognitive tension. The list goes on!
To reap the benefits of the full spectrum of yoga look for a jivamukti, kundalini, or kripalu style class. These three types especially place emphasis on fostering the mind, body spirit connection.
Interested in practicing yoga?
Most yoga studios will offer a free class or even a week of practice! Check out http://www.yogafinder.com/ to find a yoga studio near you. Namaste