Yoga is deeply embedded in our lives. An Indian ascetic phenomenon that centuries later, gained interest and affection and in other countries. No matter the climate, philosophy, lifestyle and culture, people of all ages find yoga fascinating and have it change their lives. Why is that? What does yoga give to modern people?
Let's take a look at a mantra many yogis use to on their inner journey - "I and the world around me constitute one inseparable and complementary whole." If we look past the religious meaning, this positive mantra tells us to we accept our peculiarities and to live in harmony with them. This attitude also works in relation to others; it leads to mutual understanding, tolerance and harmony between people, preventing and "negating" possible conflicting manifestations. Yoga is one of the most unique and effective systems of healing the body. Through a combination of body exercises - asanas, breathing practices - pranayama and concentration leads not only to strengthening and flexibility of the body and the musculoskeletal system, but also to a state of calm, state of inner satisfaction, peacefulness in regard to yourself and others, which is called "ahimsa" in yoga - doing no harm. Unwillingness to do harm to oneself and others comes through regular, correct asana practice.
Breathing self-regulation, or pranayama, helps a person manage his or her psycho-emotional state. We breathe differently when we experience a particular emotion. Knowing how to manage the breath with the help of pranayama techniques, a person learns to moderate, reduce the impact on themselves, regulate negative emotions, which is important in our time - a time of super intensive stress loads and increased emotional excitability of people. When changes occur quickly, the only thing a person can do is to keep a clear mind in order to find solutions. Proper concentration of mind and the ability to confront stress lets a person plan their time, take control of their actions and their behavior. This leads at least to saving time for actions, because such a person is deprived of vanity and avoids taking unnecessary, irrational, ill-considered actions. So, planned and conscious behavior. Intelligent, thoughtful, clear.
A very important effect of yoga practice is well-being. Excellent mood, optimism, harmony with the environment, and an a priori desire of good and happiness for anything and everything the practitioner experiences - none of it is accidental. This mood comes from the improvement in the work of the internal organs and systems of the body, which is being revitalized through the practice of yoga.
Yoga was formed on the Indian Peninsula, which has a hot and humid climate. Yoga was developed as a practice that reinforced Hindu religious thinking and in isolation from society. The goal of yoga teachings is to achieve the merging of individual consciousness with the universal, of one's soul (jivatma) with the World (Paramatma). To do this it was necessary to purify the mind and quiet the thoughts, to learn to detach from reality and contemplate. This was achieved by long concentrated meditation sitting with a straight back. If you try sitting straight back on the floor in lotus position for at least 5 minutes, you will see that it is not as easy as it might seem. Many people can't even sit upright. The physical exercises of yoga are aimed at strengthening the muscles, developing flexibility in the joints, and achieving balance and equilibrium. The practice must be done daily. Only in this way can you prepare your body for long meditation practices and benefit, not harm, from the practice. Pranayama practices are used to clear thoughts, to clarify the mind. Many practices are aimed at hypo- or hyperventilation of the lungs, which allows you to control your heart rate, achieve clarity of mind, and experience the full intensity of your emotions.
What are the benefits of yoga?
Yoga is not just a set of exercises whose performance improves health. This is a special way of life that allows you to achieve harmony in your physical and psychological state, to find new potential and hidden capabilities of the body. The essence of yoga is not just physical training, it is aimed at working with the human mind and includes methods of spiritual development and self-improvement.
The goal of ancient Indian practice is to achieve harmony with oneself and experience the joy of total health: physical and spiritual.
Scientific research confirms the therapeutic effect of yoga. It has been proven that systematic practice normalizes physiological processes in the body and has a beneficial effect on all organs and systems.
- They improve posture and the condition of the vertebral column. As spiritual practices require a healthy back, many yoga exercises are aimed at eliminating deformities of the spine and pinching of nerve endings, which leads to the disappearance of back and neck pain. Correcting the posture helps to increase the volume of the lungs, improve blood circulation of internal organs.
- It normalizes the hormonal level. The practice of asanas improves the functioning of the pancreas and thyroid gland, eliminates disorders in the sexual sphere, improves the health.
- Reduce weight and improves the body shape. Exercises strengthen the muscular corset of the whole body, speed up metabolism, improve the function of the gastrointestinal tract. The complex effect of asanas on the body leads to weight loss.
- They develop flexibility and plasticity. Increases the elasticity of ligaments and tendons, eliminating muscle tension.
- Normalize the cardiovascular system. Deep breathing provides an additional supply of oxygen to internal organs, stabilizes heart rate, increases blood circulation.
- Increases immunity. Muscle contraction and stretching stimulates the movement of lymph in the body, which makes it easier to cope with infections, activates the body's immunity.
The beneficial properties of yoga for the body are not limited to this. Unlike fitness, which is designed to improve your body and strengthen your health, the practice helps you to find a mental balance and fight stress.
Yoga is often used to treat patients with mental disorders, deep depression and insomnia. Asanas and meditation help to relax, to rise above everyday problems and routine, relieve feelings of anxiety, fear, anger.
Benefits of Yoga for Women
For women, yoga helps to establish the endocrine system, and on its proper functioning largely depends on women's health, well-being and emotional state.
The practice of yoga gives the following beneficial effects on the body of girls and women:
- normalizes the monthly cycle;
- alleviates premenstrual syndrome, menopausal symptoms;
- relieves migraine (decreases pain sensations and the frequency of attacks);
- slows down the aging process;
- increases libido;
- gets rid of insomnia and nightmares;
- reduces menstrual pain;
- removes the effects of walking in heels (relieves fatigue from the legs, swelling);
- helps to reduce weight and keep yourself in good physical shape;
- strengthens the nervous system.
Performing asanas and breathing techniques improves blood circulation and nourishes tissues of all organs. This establishes their work, has a positive effect on the skin, joint health, and the overall tone of the body.
Benefits of yoga for pregnant women
Women who practiced before pregnancy, in the early term can continue to perform the usual set of asanas. It is only necessary to exclude postures with drastic changes of body position and especially inverted postures, the risk of falling, compression of internal organs (twisting, bending), inverted postures.
From the second trimester you should not do exercises lying on your belly. In the third trimester, it is recommended to prefer breathing practices and asanas which are performed standing and lying on the side.
Women who are inexperienced in yoga should attend pregnancy groups.
You can start practicing from any month, but only after consulting your doctor and instructor, who will select a suitable exercise in accordance with your health condition.
The benefits of practicing yoga during pregnancy:
- reduce the symptoms of toxicosis;
- lower back pain;
- the risk of stretch marks is reduced;
- strengthens pelvic floor and back muscles;
- swelling and heaviness in the legs decrease;
- a positive attitude.
The practice helps prepare the body of the mother-to-be for labor, reducing pain during contractions and easing the postpartum period. Some asanas stimulate lactation.
Benefits of yoga for children
Yoga is good because it can be started at any age, with any level of fitness. For children, the practice is no less useful than for adults, and they usually practice with great pleasure
Yoga helps children:
- form the correct posture and correct existing disorders;
- develop flexibility and coordination;
- learn to control their bodies, different muscle groups;
- take a thoughtful approach to health;
- to strengthen immunity;
- to develop attention and concentration;
- to get rid of constipation and normalize digestion;
- learn self-control and self-control.
Yoga classes differ from other sports and fitness activities in that they do not have a competitive moment. The physical load for a child is serious, but it does not cause injuries and stress.
The benefits of yoga for the back
Yoga is the most effective and affordable method of restoring the spine. Exercises are useful for anyone who suffers from back problems.
The benefits of the practice are enormous:
- posture improves;
- strengthens the muscle corset that supports the spine;
- the blood supply and metabolic processes in the vertebral column are improved;
- clamps of nerve endings of the back are eliminated;
- flexibility and mobility of the spine is developed.
To achieve a therapeutic effect in back diseases, you need to practice under the guidance of an experienced instructor and strictly follow all the practice guidelines.
Benefits of yoga for body shape and weight loss
Most asanas in yoga are static exercises, which involve extreme tension of all muscles, including those located in the deep layers. Their stimulation leads to active fat burning. In addition, exercising reduces the level of cortisol, the stress hormone, which provokes the deposition of excess fat in the abdominal area.
Practicing dynamic and power yoga in combination with breathing techniques improves the metabolism and speeds up the process of losing weight, helping to consolidate the effect for a long time.
When you are overweight, it is useful to perform twisting, bending, stretching, sagging and inverted postures. Such asanas strengthen the abs and back muscles, actively burning fat deposits.
The most healthy asanas
There are many different postures and their variations (according to some sources 1300). But it is not necessary to practice all of them to feel the health benefits. It is enough for beginners to learn how to perform about 10-15 basic asanas correctly.
The most popular and healthy asanas are:
- Tadasana (mountain pose) - improves posture, prevents age-related degeneration of the spinal column, leg joints;
- Adho Mukha Shvanasana (downward facing dog) - improves cerebral circulation, stretches the spine and leg muscles, good for shoulder joints;
- Bhujangasana (cobra pose) - helps improve posture, maintain youthfulness, stimulates digestion, promotes the cycle;
- Virabhadrasana (warrior pose II) - strengthens the muscles of the back, legs, abdomen, promotes weight loss in the waist and hips;
- Shalabhasana (grasshopper pose) - improves digestion, strengthens and stretches the spine, stimulates the prostate gland;
- Balasana (baby pose) - stretches the muscles along the spinal column, relieves tension from the intervertebral discs, helps relieve headaches, fatigue;
- Trikonasana (triangle pose) - tones back nerves, stimulates the intestines, liver, spleen, nervous system, strengthens the muscles on the lateral surface of the trunk, develops flexibility;
- Marjariasana (cat pose) - improves the flexibility of the spine, increases blood circulation, stimulates the excretory system, restores reproductive functions;
- Sarvangasana (candle or birch pose) - has a powerful positive effect on all organs and systems of the body;
- Halasana (plow pose) - regulates blood circulation of the spinal cord, improves digestion, tones the genitals, and relieves fatigue of the spine;
- Shavasana (corpse pose) - relieves muscle tension, relieves mental cramps, stress, benefits heart disease, high blood pressure.
Salamba Sirshasana is considered to be the "king" of all asanas. It is beneficial for all organs and systems of the body, gets rid of chronic diseases, rejuvenates the body. But this asana is not for beginners, it is not suitable for the elderly or overweight people. Before trying it, you should gain experience.
Harms and contraindications when practicing yoga
Yoga classes have a significant impact on the human body. Unfortunately, this effect is not always positive for people with illnesses or injuries. Practicing some asanas can worsen the course of an illness and damage your health.
Anyone who decides to practice, should take into account their age, health status, the specifics of the body constitution. There are restrictions or contraindications for performing some asanas.
Yoga is not recommended for the following diagnoses:
- hypertension stage 2 and above;
- high intracranial pressure;
- brain or spinal cord infections;
- oncological diseases;
- severe damage to the heart or blood vessels;
- blood diseases;
- infectious diseases of the joints;
- exacerbation of chronic diseases of the digestive system (cholecystitis, pancreatitis, etc.)
- severe craniocerebral injuries;
- exacerbations of intervertebral hernia;
Do not practice earlier than six months after surgery, bone fractures, stroke or heart attack.
It is important to consult with your physician and yoga instructor before you start practicing yoga. Many illnesses and health conditions require only the exception of some asanas from daily practice, without being an absolute contraindication.
What is the right way to practice yoga?
Human beings were created in such a way, that they need to be in harmony with the outside world, in accordance with it. If this is not the case, it leads to mental discomfort, malaise and depression. Asanas help to restore balance, so how they are performed is very important. It is important to achieve precise posture, beauty of movements, therefore, it is better to train under the guidance of an experienced teacher and in front of a mirror for beginners.
One of the necessary components of success in yoga practice is satisfaction from doing asanas, the feeling of muscle joy. Without this, the effect would be incomplete.
Yoga classes should not be treated as a fitness training - it is necessary to take into account a few details.
- During the practice, it is important to constantly monitor the breath, do not hold it. If in some asana breathing stops or breaks, then this position is too early for you, you have to go back a step. You have to make a muscular effort on the inhale and a relaxation on the exhale. You have to breathe deeply and regularly, you get more oxygen in your blood, you feel less tired, your body becomes more enduring, you become less tired during the practice.
- To disconnect from external thoughts, to concentrate on the internal feelings. If you have discomfort, pain in the joints or back, get out of the posture.
- Do not strain yourself too much. Muscles in asana should be tensed as much as it is required to keep the body in balance.
- Practice on an empty stomach: don't eat two hours before the class.
- The optimal training time for beginners is 20 minutes. You should gradually increase its duration up to 60-90 minutes. Time is of minor importance, it is important to perform exercises properly and breathe correctly.
- You can practice every day or every other day - as far as time and desire allow.
- The best time to practice is in the morning.
Experienced yoga masters practice in the morning 2 hours before sunrise. This time is called Brahma Muhurta. But an afternoon or evening practice will benefit the body just as much. The regularity of the practice is much more important than the timing.
Beginners in yoga should not try to perform difficult asanas (like headstands) from the first classes. It's important to learn how to do the basic asanas correctly and how to control your body and mind, carefully listening your feelings.
Yoga is not a competition - you have to move at your own pace. Trying to impress people around you by bending or stretching better than your neighbor is likely to distract you and disturb your breathing. It is necessary to remember that practice is necessary, first of all, in order to become healthy and happy.
Of all that the ancient Indian system offers, it is necessary to choose what you can do and what you like most of all. You should not strive for unimaginable achievements. The practice of yoga involves absorption in the process of doing the exercises, dissolving in them.
What can I do instead of yoga?
Yoga is a unique health-improving system. No other type of fitness will have a similar effect on the body. But if for some reason there is no possibility of practicing the ancient Indian practice, you can pay attention to Pilates. This fitness technique has some similarities with the physical exercises of yoga, so it can be an adequate substitute.
The benefits of yoga for men and women can be enormous if this technique is used properly. If this health system is not a panacea, it can change a lot in a person's life for the better.