The Health Benefits of Yoga

Yoga is a practice that combines the body, breath, and mind to balance and energize the complete person. This practice consists of breathing exercises, physical postures as well as meditation to improve general wellbeing.

Yoga originated in ancient India, and these days millions of Americans of any age and fitness level practice yoga on a regular basis. Even though yoga is a spiritual practice to many people, most Westerners make use of yoga for exercise or to lower stress.

Researchers do not know precisely how yoga works for health and wellness. Many claim it cuts down on stress just like other mind-body therapies, while others suspect that yoga stimulates the release of endorphins. Research has shown that yoga can reduce heart rate as well as blood pressure, increase breathing capacity and increase muscle relaxation.

All types of yoga mentioned below use 3 major techniques: exercise (asana or postures), breathing and meditation. These 3 techniques have been proven to improve health in lots of ways.

In yoga, breathwork is referred to as pranayama, which reduces oxygen consumption and increases blood circulation.  Breathing exercises could also boost how much air can be drawn into the lungs. Getting a lot of air into the lungs helps one feel focused and alert.

Asanas, or postures, give a gentle to intense work out which enhances strength, balance and flexibility.

Meditation stills the mind and leads to both emotional and physical relaxation, which will help lower blood pressure, cholesterol levels, anxiety and chronic pain.

Different types of yoga include:

Hatha yoga, which is the most common type of yoga in the US. It emphasizes exercise or physical postures, referred to as asanas, with the aim of balancing the opposites in a person’s life. In the exercises, a rounded back is accompanied by an arched back, flexing is accompanied by extension, and physical exercises are accompanied by meditations.

Bhakti yoga aims to take all the love in a person’s heart and direct it towards the divine. Through seeing God in all of creation, the individual that practices on a regular basis has respect for all life and is encouraged to treat other people generously.

Karma yoga uses the philosophy of yesterday’s actions defines today’s circumstances.  Karma yoga practitioners decide consciously to carry out selfless acts of kindness. Through ensuring that today’s actions are positive, they hope they are able to improve tomorrow’s situation for both themselves as well as other people.

Jnana yoga places emphasis on deep contemplation and the practitioners seek Jnana, or “wisdom,” by way of meditation.

Tantra yoga practitioners yoga aim to balance the opposites within their lives, and to also make an effort to break free of the 6 enemies, namely anger, physical longing, greed, vanity, jealousy and obsession, jealousy as well as the 8 fetters, namely apprehension, hatred, fear, hypocrisy, shyness, vanity of culture, pride of ancestry and egotism by making use of discipline, rituals and training.

Raja yoga is known in India as the royal road to reintegration. It blends the 4 layers of self: the body, the individual sub consciousness, the individual consciousness, and the universal and infinite consciousness. Being most focused on the spirit and mind, Raja yoga places emphasis on meditation.

 The Health Benefits of Yoga Infographic

The Health Benefits of Yoga Infographic

Image Source: Yogacara Shop

References: PMID: 15255625, PMID: 15055095, PMID: 9820263, PMID: 12065003