*When you discover something that nourishes your soul and brings joy, care enough to make room for it in your life.” Jean Shinoda Bolen (1)
This just in from the Nation Institute of Health: “Americans who practice yoga report better wellness, health behaviors.”(3) OK, the article is from 2015 but the point is still an important one. More importantly, however, the article goes on to state that:
“Yoga users were much more likely than users of other approaches to report specific wellness-related outcomes, such as feeling better emotionally. They were also the most likely to report exercising more, eating better, and cutting back on alcohol and cigarettes. While the analysis did not show why yoga users reported greater wellness, more than 70 percent of yoga users reported a “focus on the whole person—mind, body and spirit.”(4)
If you are reading this it is almost assured you are on a quest for more health and wellbeing in your life.
As a Yoga teacher and therapist I witness my students and clients in nearly every phase of their journey, from seeking a solution to difficult movement and health concerns to looking to enhance their overall fitness and mental outlook.
Fitness may mean many different things to different people. Most would agree that basic and important fitness and wellness goals may include able to physically move with comfort and without pain, loss of breath, overall flexibility strength and ease. Traditionally, many use cardiovascular exercise, weightlifting or resistance training to develop a one or another of these states of fitness. Depending on the type of yoga and how the practice is integrated in one’s life, many of these fitness goals can be achieved through yoga itself. In other cases the practice of Yoga can serve to bring balance to your overall regimen to better assure that important needs are being met as you progress.
The Yoga is an expansive discipline and as such it can potentially incorporate a greater range of health solutions within it than simple exercise or sport. Depending on goals and intentions unique to each practitioner Yoga can represent and incorporate a fundamental balance of physical and mental performance practices. Best of all is the notion that it skillful practice may provide the foundation of well-being that can enhance to performance and joy of the other activities we love or those other training activities listed above. Because of this there’s a viable possibility that finding the right kind of Yoga for your needs can be very effective in improving and maintaining good health and offering support for lifestyle changes that can last a lifetime.
Part of the excitement of taking steps to improve one’s life is in the search for solutions, discovering, exploring and then committing to your own way of wellness to achieve your goals. A balanced and well targeted Yoga practice can certainly be an important part of this journey.
Below is a general description of six ways a balanced practice of Yoga may impact your health and well being:
- Rehabilitation and Healing
- Building Strength and Tone
- Improved body composition
- Mental/emotional balance
- Rehabilitation and Healing
For so many the initial draw toward Yoga practice is to address a real or felt sense of limitation, distress, dis-ease, physical injury or pain. When these concerns are more moderate and manageable a basic and balanced practice of Yoga asana, Prnayama(breath-work) and meditation can be a powerful support toward overall improvement with such concerns. For many, the intrinsic blend of movement, breath and awareness inherent to a balanced Yoga practice offer improvements in basic musculoskeletal balance and function, skills in relaxation and a greater sense of physical and mental ease that leads remarkable improvement in these initial difficulties.
For more significant and long standing concerns many choose a more targeted approach to practice. Taking a more individualized therapeutic approach with a skilled practitioner as a guide can help one develop a program tailored with specific Yoga practices that more directly address particular goals.
Physical Strength and Tone
Clearly, long-term yoga redefines the body and its ability to hold positions, weight, angles and forms. Using the body’s own weight as resistance, the entire body from the core to the legs and arms build up capacity. That in turn provides strength to do more and more, even when a person grows older. Pulled muscles, strains and sprains, and ligament twists don’t happen near as much, even when active, because regular yoga provides consistent stretching and strength-building year round. The muscle-building also helps a person burn more calories everyday as well, reducing or preventing weight gain with a good diet.
Yoga is well known for developing good flexibility in practitioners, especially in the back, core, and limbs. This type of stretching and position-holding helps people perform better without tissue or ligament tears that become common with older age. Increased stretching also allows the body’s muscles to handle greater strain without weakness as they can be stretched farther without damage.
Many of yoga’s forms, movements and exercises uniquely designed to settle, strengthen and improve cardiovascular performance. The ability to breathe better and stronger is improved over time through coordinated breathing exercises will holding positions, stretches and more. That, over time, helps create a stronger internal system for bringing oxygen into the body. It also helps reduce heart problems, cholesterol buildup, and weak blood vessels. The more pressure the body pushes through the cardiovascular system, the stronger the heart and related blood vessels become as a result.
Overall Body Makeup
Yoga provides a comprehensive approach to body development and balance. As a result, it will, over time, change a person’s body composition to perform better. This includes increased muscle mass, better flexibility, better breathing and reduced fat. It also helps of course to adjust one’s diet and not engaging in damage behavior such as smoking. That said, yoga can create a far better physical makeup with consistent practice and application. That, in turn, improves mental confidence and capacity, which improves mental outlook as well. The two become a circle of improvement, moving a person to a better and better stage overall.
When care is taken to build a connection of the physical movement practice and Yoga postures to meditative and mindful awareness practices the benefits of Yoga can deepen and expand to include to support stress relief and new mental and emotional perspective. Mainstream psychology is now, more than ever, embracing mindfulness meditation practices as a powerful tool to support the mitigation of negative habitual stress responses and positively impact mental and emotional well-being. Bringing mindful attention to experience and the breath within the physical practice of Yoga can provide a deepening of the many benefits of practice discussed above.
I believe no one activity or discipline can be a perfect non medical support and solution for overall health maintenance. People still get sick, catch viruses and may develop other conditions of mind and body as they grow older. However, the discipline of Yoga, because it encompasses so many approaches toward physical, mental and spiritual healing and wellness may be an important complainant of any plan to to improve a person’s overall health, which in turn creates long-term benefits. These improvements do contribute to enhancing wellness for those in a sedentary lifestyle and support better physical maintenance of the body. Incorporating meditative practices to Yoga may further deepen these benefits to help better the impact of stress on body and mind. The popularity of Yoga now is a key indicator that many are discovering how Yoga can help them meet there goals, helping contribute to enjoying life more, staying healthier, and a developing a better mental outlook. When so much of being fit and healthy involves balance of the body and mind, yoga is definitely an approach worth looking into for long-term health.
***Please remain aware that,when practicing any Yoga or meditation technique you accept responsibility for all you do and work in accordance with your medical needs and limitations. Read the website disclaimer for more information. I encourage you to seek out instruction and guidance from a teacher as you need answer any questions and to ensure the most positive outcome of this and any practice.