What are the benefits of Yoga?
We all know Yoga is good for us but what are the real benefits of Yoga?
To answer that question properly would take a many thousand word essay, but to encapsulate in a nutshell – here are the top 3 answers we hear from our students:
- It improves flexibility and offers whole body muscle stretching
- It offers a way to relax and unwind in a way that incorporates more physical movement than meditation alone
- It offers a more gentle form of exercise for people with injuries. One that doesn’t place undue strain or pressure on joints.
No matter what the reason, the overwhelming response I hear from students returning to the yoga mat is that it just makes them feel good!
But why is that?
In yoga we practise asana, that is put simply, physical postures typically held for a few breaths. Over time, the practice of asana will indeed improve flexibility and strength in the body, however in this article I wish to delve into the importance of breath and how this is a key ingredient to why we feel so rested and rejuvenated after a yoga class.
Some experts say that we experience about 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts a day. A day! When we practice yoga we bring mindful attention to our physical body, and a gentle awareness to our breath. We encourage an even, steady breathing which is often synchronised with our movements. When do we ever pay such devoted attention to our breath except when instructed to, in a yoga class?
For most of us, breathing is a natural part of living, done unconsciously without a second’s thought. What happens when we practice breath awareness in yoga? Our minds, often subconsciously running circles around these 70,000 thoughts, begin to experience a state of concentration. Our senses gradually withdraw from the sensory stimuli of the environment, and from this place of giving attention to the rise and fall of breath, we begin to connect with our inner state of true being.
Students report experiencing this state of being at the end of a class, as a inner quiet or a sense of deep relaxation, and it is often the reason why they continue to practice.
In today’s world we frequently juggle many things – careers, family, relationships, hobbies – in an environment super charged by information, technology and social media. Everything is available all the time, and we want it all now!
It’s no wonder that yoga is such an effective medicine for the modern soul. It’s a similar experience to immersing yourself in nature for a while. We allow ourselves the experience to drop into a simple awareness of the present moment, and we reap the rewards.