Yoga is an ancient practice that incorporates breathing exercises, meditation, and special poses, which are combined in a way to promote relaxation and reduce stress for the mind and body. Word of mouth says yoga has many benefits to your mental and physical wellness, but what exactly are those effects? How does it differ from other forms of exercise? And where should a beginner start when first getting into Yoga? This article will help in answering all of these questions.
Part 1: What Can Yoga Do For Me?
First, let’s talk about the mental health benefits of Yoga. Yoga is primarily known for its effectiveness in reducing stress and promoting relaxation. Multiple studies have looked into the relation of yoga and stress, and it is believed that yoga helps reduce cortisol, which is the main stress hormone in humans. In addition, regularly practicing yoga has also shown to assist with reducing symptoms of anxiety and PTSD. While the exact reason for this is unknown, the combination of meditation and healthy exercise is definitely a powerful way to increase relaxation and improve one’s quality of life.
Furthermore, some studies have shown that regularly practicing yoga can lead to improved sleep quality. One study comparing two groups – one which practices yoga regularly, and a control group – showed that the group practicing yoga were able to fall asleep more easily, and felt more refreshed in the mornings. Another study showed that yoga reduced sleep disturbances, improved quality of sleep, and reduced the need for sleep medication.
In terms of physical beneifts, the various poses that are utilized in yoga – whether they are simple or more advanced and complicated – mostly incorporate a combination of core strength, flexibility, and balance. Furthermore, maintaining these poses will also contribute to improvements in physical endurance. In this sense, yoga is the one-stop solution for improving your base-level altheticism and physical strengh.
Yoga has also been suggested to improve symptoms of chronic pain. Multiple studies have looked into the effects of yoga on patients with chronic physical pain, and have shown that long-term practice of yoga can reduce pain and increase physical functionality. In another cases, yoga has proven useful for patients who suffer from migrains, by reducing headache intensity, frequency, and pain level. Researchers have suggested that this may be due to the fact that yoga stimulates the vagus nerve, which is known to influence migrains.
Yoga V.S. Other Forms of Exercise
Yoga combines body strength, flexibility, core balance, breathing exercises, and meditation, which makes it quite different from other popular forms of exercise or sports. While it might not seem like the most physically enduring of exercises, you would be surprised at how much you lose your breath by the end of an hour-long session. One study compared two groups – one which were instructed to practice yoga, and another which were instructed to practice calisthenics – over the course of a year. After one year, yoga proved much more effective in improving overall flexibility of the body.
While exercise in general is healthy for the mind and body, one key unique factor about yoga is the incorporation of meditation. Various studies have shown that regularly practicing meditation can help to improve quality of life in many areas. One such study examined the effects of mindfulness meditation on depression, anxiety, and stress. The results showed that a 10-week course on mindfulness meditation had positive effects on all three affective states, reducing their severity and intensity in the participants. Distress levels can be reduced by an increased awareness of one’s cognitive and emotional states, and mindfulness meditation helps individuals to accept thoughts, emotions and sensations as they occur, minimizing their influence on sustaining affective disorders.
Yoga combines the positive effects of meditation with the healthy benefits of physical exercise, which makes it a unique endeavour for anybody who is keen to take part.
In part 2, I will outline a few beginner poses in Yoga and help you get started on your yoga journey!