It’s surprising that more people don’t practice yoga to improve their mental and physical fitness, because it’s one of the world’s easiest programs to follow. Yoga can be performed by anyone in any condition, and its benefits to both the mind and body have been well documented.
For years, yoga practitioners have extolled yoga’s benefits, remarking on how they feel calmer, stronger and have more energy and endurance. Over the past 50 years, medical studies have shown that the regular practice of yoga improves not only physical fitness, but also mental concentration and emotional control.
How is this possible? All exercise can improve physical strength and release endorphins in the body. Yoga goes a step further, because its exercises, known as asanas, are meant to bring about greater awareness of the practitioner’s body, breathing and overall alignment.
In America, one of the most commonly reported maladies is back pain; meanwhile, in India, where yoga was invented, hardly anyone complains of back pain. Yoga relieves back pain because it eases bodily stress, improves muscle strength and enhances flexibility. People with arthritis who practice yoga report that their joints ache less and seem better lubricated as a result of their exercises.
People who practice yoga have shown substantial improvements in both the body and mind. For instance, asthma sufferers have been able to avoid attacks without the use of medication. Yoga also lowers blood pressure and heart rates. Other ailments and conditions that can be improved through the regular practice of yoga include digestive disorders, diabetes, varicose veins and chronic fatigue.
Yoga has also been found to help slow the aging process. The disciplined practice of yoga asanas reduces cell deterioration, cleans the body of toxins that speed up aging and maintains flexibility in the muscles and joints. Overweight people who practice yoga report weight loss and the reduction of food cravings, especially the emotional eating associated with stress.
Other studies have documented yoga’s psychological benefits. People who suffer from mental ailments such as anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorders and stress say that doing yoga improves their mood and gives them better emotional control. Their self-awareness increases and they have higher energy levels, better memory and concentration. Some say that the physical and emotional benefits of yoga give them more self-esteem and better social skills. Medical studies have found that daily yoga exercise lowers blood sugar, cholesterol and sodium levels in the body.
These benefits show that sticking to a yoga program, which is both easy to start and to maintain, can improve the health of the body, mind and spirit.