The benefits of Yoga are abundant; yoga can bring you calm, inner peace, connection to wider consciousness, gratitude, increased ability to focus, better mental health, healthy digestion, improved immunity, a healthier heart, increased longevity and more. Yet modern day medicine often forgoes such lifestyle preventative methods and is stuck plastering up symptoms with drugs, pills and chemicals that can offset the harmony of the human experience.
Yoga, an ancient tradition developed to help the practitioner get closer “union” with other beings and to “Samadhi” (inner bliss), encourages one to understand our bodies through pranayama, asanas, and meditation. Throughout one’s yoga journey, our bodies, minds, and energies are moved, stretched, twisted, inverted, relaxed, restored and stilled. Despite being an ancient tradition that has improved the lives of countless souls, it is only in the last few decades that science has really focused on the practice and it’s a potential role in health and disease prevention.
Through asanas and challenging our bodies strength and flexibility, our muscles are developed, and key joints and connective tissue experience better blood flow. Building muscle mass and dowsing these vital body parts in blood rich in nutrients and oxygen helps prevent them from eroding out and exposing underlying bone which can lead to aches, pains, wear, and tear. Through regular asana practice we can improve the functioning and longevity of our Annamaya Kosha (physical body). Scientific studies have shown that regular practice of asanas or meditation, or better a combination of both, can reduce pain in people with arthritis, carpel tunnel syndrome, back pain, and other chronic conditions.
Relaxing and controlling our prana and breath through pranayama causes the body to shift from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system, with better control. The parasympathetic nervous system is calming and restorative; it lowers blood pressure, breath rate, heart rate, cortisol levels, and increases bloody flow carrying vital nutrients to our internal organs and digestive tract. These practices help us digest properly, metabolise correctly, find balance, and connect us to our Pranamaya Kosha (vital body).
Yoga practice helps everyone find their own thread of personal growth to cultivate a state of bliss and balance, with improved mental health, self-confidence, increased empathy, reduced irritability, and a more optimistic outlook on life. Studies have shown that practicing yoga frequently can lead to inhibition of the posterior or sympathetic area of the hypothalamus, improving the bodies response to stressful stimuli. It also inhibits areas responsible for fear, aggression, and rage, whilst stimulating the brains pleasure centres in the median forebrain resulting in a feeling of happiness and joy. Reducing cortisol and stress levels can help prevent disease; over 90% of modern diseases are caused by stress, and less than 1% of disease is controlled by genetics, the rest by epigenetics which regulate genes, influenced by our diets, lifestyle and choices. Yoga is a way of living that will improve these lifestyle factors and help us live longer, healthier, happier lives free from disease.
If you want a heart that can live longer and love more, yoga is for you. Yoga has positive effects on cardiovascular factors, by lowering blood pressure, improving lipid profiles of in healthy patients and those with coronary artery disease, and reduced blood sugar levels in patients with diabetes reducing the need for diabetes medication, leading to healthier hearts. Yoga also helps practitioners appreciate themselves, focus on self-love and gratitude. Science has shown that literally feeling love and compassion, and increasing levels of the associated hormones, can improve our mental and physical wellbeing. By repetitive practice, meditation, and mantras we can grow nourishing neurons that promote positive thinking. A study of long-term mediators showed that long term meditation may have less atrophy of brain matter with ageing. Healthier brains can offset and prevent the onset of terrible brain related diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Whilst science can investigate the measurable benefits of yoga on physical and mental health, it’s difficult to measure the impact of yoga on someone’s soul and spirit, its ability to help us connect to our innermost selves, our Annandamaya Kosha (bliss body). Yoga can connect us to a wider consciousness, to the cosmos and the oneness of our universe that science still does not yet understand. Comprehending that there is something more than ourselves, something bigger and more divine that we can usually imagine is life changing too. Understanding the recycling of energy, our part in a larger beautiful painting, that we are all connected in a divine experience can bring us to the end of our human lives with calm. Our spirits are intertwined with that of the universe and yoga can help us strengthen that relationship, deepen that understanding.
Everyone experience’s yoga differently, and to truly reap the life changing benefits of this beautiful practice for yourself… you’ll have to give it a go!
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About the author - meet Earthan Lucy ColgraveLucy is the Founder & Chief Eartha Officer of Eartha. She created Eartha to help others find calm through sustainable shopping, learning and wellness. Lucy is a newly qualified 200 hour Yoga Teacher with Yoga Alliance and loves spreading the bliss that yoga can bring. You can check out her yoga channel on Instagram Lucy Glow Yoga.