Yoga’s Health Benefits

OK, so you think Yoga is only for people who are flexible and healthy. What’s in it for you? Yoga has been around for thousands of years for some very good reasons. They include health benefits that people in today’s society might even need more than people did 5,000 years ago – Stress Relief!
Too much stress is never a good thing. Stress releases a chemical called “cortisol” into your body. Cortisol gives you an adrenaline rush to escape a “fight or flight” situation. If you’re under constant stress you release too much cortisol and it can cause problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, fatigue and depression.

When I first started practicing Yoga it was just another form of exercise that I added to my routine. I was a stressed out single mother of three. I used exercise to reduce stress and I thought it worked pretty well. Then I started practicing Yoga and became aware of healthy changes.

I didn’t know then that there were health benefits involved, but I noticed things that once would irritate me – didn’t. If I was angry I could step back and figure out what I was angry at and why without acting out. Awareness develops in your body and mind that allows you to breathe through situations rather than stress out about them.

Consider these healthy benefits:

– Lower blood pressure
– Reduced stress and help with anxiety and depression
– Promotes muscle relaxation (helping people sleep better)
– Increases muscle strength
– Improves general fitness and flexibility
– Increases lung capacity
– Feel-good chemicals are released from your brain
– Imbalances can be balanced; repetitive stress imbalances can be straightened out.

Basically, you feel better, breathe better, stand straighter and handle stress better when you practice yoga on a regular basis. The side effects of aging can also be decreased with yoga. As we age we lose muscle strength, we are less stable on our feet and sometimes a little less sure of ourselves. Yoga works on improving balance and building strength. Yoga poses can be adjusted to make them comfortable to your body.

Yoga makes you feel younger. It is said in the wisdom of yoga that when we release muscles and the tensions they hold we feel younger. I tell people in my classes that they will feel like teenagers when they leave.

Some specific health conditions to discuss:

Women suffer through menopause Yoga is a suggested activity to alleviates some menopausal symptoms. Practicing gentle yoga relaxes you, easing some of the changes your body is going through. At the same time, you are building strength and confidence. Since menopause is something our bodies need to go through, let’s do what we can to make it easier on ourselves.

Fibromyalgia is recognized by widespread pain, often accompanied by extreme fatigue and multiple other symptoms that can be very debilitating. Yoga can help your body gently move those sore muscles. When you practice Yoga you pay more attention to your body and each part that you are working on. That ‘attention’ or awareness allows you to ease into positions and adjust poses or movements that are painful.

This information seems a little geared toward women, but men enjoy the health benefits of yoga just as much. Working in the construction industry, many of my clients look forward to a yoga class to relax them a few times a week. Some of my clients are athletes and they need the flexibility to be the best they can be in their sport. There are more men in most of my classes than people might think.

For all ages the most needed health benefit of yoga is the stress relief. An awful day of aggravations can melt away in just one yoga class. If you can allow yourself to relax and breathe, you simply stimulate your body and mind while working through poses with awareness and then you consciously relax.

Sometimes all it takes is a little lifestyle change to make you feel good. Take advantage of the health benefits of yoga. People have been practicing yoga for thousands of years. Yoga is now being researched to medically prove the physical and mental benefits.

Of course you should check with your doctor before starting any new exercise routine. I find that many doctors encourage yoga (my grandmother’s doctor and my husband’s doctor did!) But you should still check just to be on the safe side.

By Kathi Duquette
Certified Yoga Instructor
Certified Personal Trainer

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