This past week was the yoga show in Toronto. Why practice Yoga? Yoga has been scientifically proven to reduce the physical and emotional effects of stress on the body. By encouraging relaxation, yoga helps to lower the levels of cortisol, our stress hormone. In turn heart rate and blood pressure will lower, digestion will improve, and the immune system will strengthen. Emotional symptoms like anxiety, depression, fatigue, frustrations as well will be eased.
Yoga helps to improve circulation and as a result of various poses, more efficiently moves oxygenated blood to the body's cells, naturally allowing for better flow of energy in the circulatory, endocrine, reproductive, digestive and all major systems in the body.
With the cortisol lower yoga can also assist in weight management and burn calories even with a less vigorous style of yoga. It will encourage proper eating habits through improved mind-body awareness which will enhance ones self esteem
Yoga is a four fold awareness: "Awareness of body, awareness of emotions, awareness of mind and awareness of awareness. One should start with the awareness of just how unaware one is" Swami Gitananada
Studies have shown and demonstrated that practising yoga asanas (postures), meditation or a combination of the two, reduced pain for people with conditions like auto-immune diseases, arthritis, hypertension, back and neck pain from various injuries, even cancer can be reduced. Dr Kabat Zinn who has opened the medical realm to mindfulness based meditation has proven that yoga and meditation together can assist in pain management.
Yoga teaches people to take slower, deeper breaths. This helps to improve lung function, relax tissues, increase oxygen to the body and brain. Deep breaths also calm the mind which will calm the emotions.
Besides all of the above the basic benefits are increased flexibility and joint mobility. With regular practise over time the ligaments, tendons and muscles lengthen, increasing elasticity, making deeper postures possible. Though the depth of the posture is not as important as the technique and postural awareness.
Yoga can also help with focus, being more present in the moment, opening the way to improved concentration, co-ordination, memory and reaction time.
Originally yoga was developed to help the student to reach higher states of consciousness and spiritual growth, thereby freeing the person from the monkey mind. In today's society yoga is so much more important because of the urban fast pace and demands on a person and little time for rest and pleasure .
So if any of the above appeals to you from any aspect of health either it be mind, emotion or physical, it might be worth your time to get a flavour for the type of yoga that resonates with you and your body.