The Benefits of Yoga
By Emma Scott, Grace Yoga Expert and Personal Trainer
Yoga is becoming increasingly popular in the Western world. You can’t go on social media without seeing someone in an incredible asana (yoga pose) or wearing the latest pair of yoga leggings. However, as with any trend, it’s important to understand the reason behind the sequences and combination of asanas. You may experience a feeling of release, relief or a sudden surge of positivity and relaxation as you leave your class – but have you ever stopped to question why this happens? Before arriving in India for my yoga teacher training, I had never really stopped to think about the science behind yoga and why it makes us feel so great. I thought it was just a physical workout but soon discovered that the ancient practise connects mind, body and spirit through poses, controlled breathing and meditation. I learnt that these practises boost the health of our body, both inside and out.
Here are the top yoga health benefits:
- Blood pressure: yoga practice helps to decrease blood pressure by regulating the circulation and oxygenation of the body. Forward bends and inversions such as headstands and shoulder stands are particularly effective at lowering blood pressure. No wonder yogis look so calm when upside down!
- Metabolism: a healthy metabolism results in a healthy body. There is a huge amount of research at the moment indicating that a healthy gut leads to a healthier body and a happier, more productive mind. When we twist the body in yoga, we are massaging our internal organs (responsible for digestion). This massaging kick-starts our organs into working more efficiently, thereby boosting our metabolism.
- Higher pain threshold: pain tolerance is often much higher in regular practicioners of yoga. There are many documented instances where regular yoga practise has improved people’s areas of chronic pain, particularly in the lower back. Sufferers of lower back pain can use yoga, with the support of props, to improve and lengthen their muscles and joints. Physical yoga practise increases the production of osteoblasts, meaning that your bones become much stronger and less prone to such pains.
- Anti-ageing: yoga stimulates the detoxification process within the body and detoxification is attributed as one of the key aspects of anti-ageing. This is one of the reasons why people who practise yoga every day have a glow about them. Before I regularly committed to my own personal practise I suffered with acne, especially around my chin, but it’s now almost completely gone!
- Energy: if you practise yoga correctly you should feel energised rather than tired after your class. This is because yoga balances the energy within our bodies – learning to breathe correctly will help you achieve this energised feeling.
- Aids depression: sometimes negative feelings and emotions that you have been holding on to come to the surface during yoga. When this happens this negative energy is preparing to release and work its way out of the body, leaving you feeling happier and more positive.
- Mind-body connection: there are few other forms of exercise that offer the same mind-body connection. Simply by showing up and sitting on your mat, you are committing an hour to just focus on yourself, mind and body. Combining controlled breathing with body movement, the mind becomes retrained and able to find that place of peace and calm. In a busy, bustling city like London, we could definitely all do with a little more peace and calm in our lives.
Yoga is for everyone, no matter their age, ability, shape, size or mind-set. It’s an opportunity to take an hour out of your day to focus and be present, to look after yourself. It helps eliminate worries and stress, allowing you to calm your mind. There is much more to being a good yogi than being able to sit in the splits or meditate for two hours a day. My favourite yoga quote from Bahgvad Gita sums it up perfectly, “yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self”. Looking forward to seeing you on a mat soon.