It has been said the time to relax is when you don’t have time for it. In 2008, the Department of Health and Human Services designated the entire month of September as National Yoga Awareness Month. The goal is to educate the public about the multiple health benefits of yoga, inspiring people to live a healthy lifestyle. Yoga is a science that speaks to overall well-being and to the harmonious alignment of the body, mind, and soul.
Research has shown that yoga can help reduce one’s risk of developing hypertension and can also aid in the management of hypertension. Additionally, it can help lower cholesterol levels and resting heart rate, as its meditative elements are an integral part of stabilizing the lining of blood vessels. When practiced during and after treatment for breast cancer, yoga can minimize physical discomfort and stress, as well as energize and relax women in recovery.
If you suffer from chronic back pain, certain yoga poses can relieve pain and strengthen vulnerable areas of the spine and the back, and for mental therapy, yoga has been shown to raise levels of GABA, a brain neurotransmitter, which helps to improve mood and alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety.
*Here are seven reasons why you should try yoga!
1. Awareness of body
Yoga is the only form of exercise that engages the mind and body—which means its benefits reach our physical as well as mental being. Through the practice of yoga, we are able to create deep relationships with muscles and parts of our body we never even known were there.
Certain yoga poses may make you uncomfortable at first. This is because our bodies become stiff over time due to inactivity and lack of physical exercise—it is like connecting dots that have never been connected before. Yoga helps us rekindle that bond and brings our awareness back to the temples we refer to as our bodies.
Everyone’s goals in life may look vastly different—but, in the end, happiness is the ultimate goal. Yoga has often been referred to as a “path to happiness”—and research backs that up. Studies show that practicing yoga in a group setting increases the production of the “love hormone” known as oxytocin. Additionally, practicing mindfulness through yoga significantly increases serotonin levels.
Studies have even shown that practicing yoga consistently can improve depression and anxiety by increasing gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) levels. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that essentially improves our mood and keeps us calm. Additionally, many yogis experience a post-yoga “high” after a session—a euphoric sensation that cannot be put into words and can only be felt.
3. Reduced stress and better sleep
Sleep plays an important role in our physical health, but high-stress levels can affect our ability to get a good night’s sleep. Yoga is a great way to release tension and give your body the downtime it needs. It encourages relaxation by allowing us to focus on the moment and on our breathing. It also reduces stress levels and relieves our nerves, allowing for a deeper, better-quality sleep. In fact, studies have also shown that yoga can help with insomnia. There are even certain asanas that you can do that specifically improve your sleep by activating the parasympathetic nervous system.
4. Mental clarity
When you set aside time for yoga you are essentially setting aside time to help you quiet your mind—you are away from any to-do lists or responsibilities, and you come back feeling as if a weight has been lifted off your shoulders. Unlike other forms of exercise, yoga requires our full attention. The meditative aspect of yoga improves mental clarity by making us let go of any distracting thoughts and focus on our breathing.
5. Increased flexibility
Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to have the flexibility of a gold-medal Olympic gymnast to practice yoga. Instead, yoga is a means of improving your flexibility (as well as strength and endurance.) You only need to do what your body is capable of doing comfortably—your practice is your own.
Yoga is all about challenging one’s own self and no one else. All it asks is that you be present and show up, physically and mentally. You may not be able to touch your toes at your first class, but after a few classes, you will surely notice that you can reach a little bit further. Before you know it, you will be able to not only touch your toes but also get into other poses you never dreamed of being able to do before.
6. Health benefits
From improving back pain to lowering blood sugar and blood pressure to alleviating symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, it is clear that yoga offers wide-ranging health benefits. Significant research is being conducted on yoga’s health benefits to virtually every system in our bodies. As physicians start to incorporate preventive medicine into their practices, many are looking to yoga—so much so that yoga is often referred to as a form of alternative medicine.
7. Inner strength
As well as helping you to become physically stronger, practicing yoga regularly can lead to inner strength. This life-affirming practice starts with a positive intention that you weave into each breath and each movement. People often turn to yoga during times of hardship, when they are looking to make a change in their life or when they are looking for a natural way to heal themselves. This is because yoga has transformative powers that make it easier to improve all aspects of our lifestyle, such as quitting smoking or drinking alcohol—just think of it as a means of rewiring your brain!
Ready to try yoga? Please join us for our free Chair Yoga class every Friday from 11 am to 12 pm – you can learn more here.
*Before beginning the practice of yoga, please check with your physician.