Despite the current popularity of yoga all over the world, yoga at the dawn of its existence was not well received in the Western world. In its early history, yoga resisted the prevailing orthodoxies of the populace, which often treated it as an unwelcome foreign import. Only in the late 20th century did yoga increase in visibility and gain more adherence across the globe. And it was made possible by the fact that many countercultural figures, including well-known ones like the Beatles, experimented with yoga. Yoga became an increasingly popular lifestyle option because people thought it could make everyday life better and, for some people, because it promised salvation. So, yoga has faced many obstacles on its path to acceptance as a practice for enhancing both physical and spiritual well-being.
Great aspects of yoga
1Yoga improves flexibility
The poses that yoga masters do are beyond the capabilities of the majority of individuals. Even the most basic toe touches can be challenging at first. However this is normal! The idea that beginning yoga requires a high level of flexibility is untrue. In fact, one of the main reasons people begin yoga is to increase their flexibility. It is during these challenging yoga classes that you will gain flexibility, and you’ll be able to effortlessly execute poses that at first seemed unattainable. Having well-developed flexibility is crucial. Good flexibility can improve athletic performance and posture, as well as make daily activities easier, while poor flexibility can increase the likelihood of low back discomfort and contribute to a low back injury.
2Yoga can relieve stress and anxiety
Yoga is one of the most peaceful physical activities you can find. Sometimes it’s hard to evaluate how important moments of peace and solitude are in our lives, but these moments are one of the best ways to overcome stress. It is crucial to not ignore the problem of stress because it is linked to a variety of health problems, such as heart disease, asthma, and accelerated ageing, as well as obesity, diabetes, headaches, and digestive problems. By practising yoga, we can achieve these periods of time when we can be completely present and let go of all the regret, anger, and fear which may cause stress. And studies back it up, showing that yoga’s reduction of the need to treat stress and anxiety can significantly lower medical costs!
3Yoga can correct your posture
We hardly ever consider it, and very few of us ever take action. The human head weighs roughly 4 kilograms (about 10 pounds). The neck supports this weight for almost the entire day and only gets a break when we lie down. Even with perfect posture, the neck is under a significant amount of strain. Moreover, whether using a computer or readings through work materials, we routinely sit incorrectly and unintentionally tilt our heads forward and downward. This can severely harm our posture and cause neck and back pain. We can remedy this situation through yoga. A review of 34 studies showed that yoga has a positive effect on brain areas involved in interoception, posture, motivation, and higher executive functions. Simply told, yoga makes it easier for you to recognise when your posture is sagging or slouching so you may correct it, leading to healthy benefits for your neck and brain.
4Yoga may enhance cardiovascular health
Breath control, or pranayama, is regarded as a crucial element of yoga. In order to examine the total effects of pranayama, scientists analyzed 1,400 studies and published the results in the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine. This review, among other findings, demonstrated a substantial reduction in systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure with consistent practice of slow breathing for 5 minutes each day while maintaining a 2:1 ratio of expiration to inhalation. Maintaining a healthy level of blood pressure is extremely important, as high blood pressure is a contributing factor in approximately 54% of strokes and 47% of coronary heart diseases worldwide.
5Yoga may improve bone health
Up to 200 million individuals already suffer from osteoporosis and osteopenia all over the world. People with such diseases are more vulnerable to such serious injuries as hip fractures, which can lead to an irreversible deterioration in one’s quality of life. However, a study published in the Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation showed that doing yoga for just 12 minutes each day can greatly enhance bone health. And participants of this study that were identified as compliant with more than every-other-day yoga improved their bone mineral density in the hip, spine and femur.
According to other studies, falling itself is more directly related to fracture than bone mineral density is. In this case, yoga is also helpful. Because of other benefits of yoga, such as better posture, improved balance, a greater range of motion, and reduced levels of anxiety, yoga can help reduce the likelihood of sudden falls.
6Yoga may enhance sleep quality
It is frustrating to not be able to fall asleep for hours, and after finally doing so waking up at the slightest noise. This can lead to exhaustion throughout the day and long-term health implications of poor sleep. Such sleep disorders may be caused by insomnia. If you have such problems, you can think about sleeping pills, but studies have indicated that long-term use of sleeping medications can result in undesirable side effects, including sleep-related eating disorders or sleepwalking. Yoga, on the other hand, has been shown to be a simple and relatively safe method of overcoming sleep disorders.
7Yoga can improve one’s focus
Concentrating on breathing during yoga sessions teaches us how to be present at the moment. We concentrate on our breathing, and nothing else enters our minds at this time – only a slow inhale and then a slow exhale. Being present at the moment it’s a very useful skill in life; it allows us not to think about work when we work out, not to think about our favourite TV show when working, and so on. Additionally, when we are less preoccupied with our thoughts, we are better able to solve issues and learn and remember information.
8Yoga can improve your overall lifestyle
Yoga can help you transition to a healthy way of living as well. An analysis in which three complementary health approaches were compared – natural product supplements, yoga, and spinal manipulation – showed that yoga users were much more likely than users of other complementary health approaches to reporting specific wellness-related outcomes, such as feeling better emotionally. Nearly two-thirds of yoga practitioners claimed that their practice had inspired them to work out more frequently, and 4 in 10 claimed that it had inspired them to eat healthier. They were also the most likely to admit to reducing their consumption of alcohol and cigarettes.
Disadvantages of yoga
It may sound ridiculous to consider that yoga can be harmful. But it’s not that simple; with a mindless approach, even a relaxing activity like yoga may have downsides.
When we like something, we usually start doing it with a lot of enthusiasm, so much so that we begin to abuse it, which eventually leads to negative consequences. When you first begin practising yoga, you may be captivated by the poses performed by more advanced yogis and try to repeat those poses. But advanced positions require a high level of mobility and flexibility, and attempting to assume them at the start without proper preparation may result in injuries or cramps.
It might be difficult to master yoga without assistance. Yoga consists of more than 100 poses, and with this many poses, it can be easy to overlook the finer points of the technique. You can still master yoga on your own by watching some yoga videos on YouTube, but it will probably take a much longer time for you to understand all the subtleties of yoga.
This may seem counterintuitive at first because yoga classes are typically slow, meditative, and performed in a refreshing environment. However, some yoga techniques, such as hot yoga, are meant to be slightly different. Dehydration and overheating are common issues in hot yoga classes. Furthermore, even regular yoga classes can cause such issues because, during long and easy yoga sessions, it is easy to forget to drink water.
Beginners’ tips to get the most from yoga
When you first start practising yoga, you’re bound to have a lot of questions about what awaits you. Knowing what to expect in your first class will put you at ease.
Get familiar with the style
Yoga comes in a wide variety of styles. So it will be a good idea to know a little bit about the main yoga styles before getting started.
1. Hatha yoga. This is a good option for beginners. Hatha yoga is slow and non-intense; poses in this style of yoga are often held for several breaths before moving on to the next, which allows you to better understand the movements and poses.
2. Vinyasa and power yoga. These classes are more athletic and physically demanding than Hatcha yoga. It can be challenging to maintain the pace of a vinyasa class if you are a beginner.
3. Ashtanga yoga is another physically demanding kind of yoga in which you move quickly from one pose to the next in predetermined sequences that must be completed in a certain order.
4. Hot yoga is yoga practised in a hot environment; many studios heat yoga classes to temperatures close to or slightly above 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit). Such environments will appeal to some people, while others will find them repulsive.
5. Yin yoga is a form of yoga in which there is no movement from one pose to another. You spend the majority of your time sitting on the floor or lying on your back or belly, this style is more passive and focused mostly on stretching.
The variety of poses can be bewildering the first time you try yoga. So, instead of attempting advanced poses at first, begin first with easier stretches and avoid pushing your body too far. Also, instead of eating a large meal right before practising yoga choose a small snack. If you’re going to be full during your yoga session, you’re not going to be very flexible, and performing various poses will be more difficult. And if you’re new to yoga, consider having a warm-up before each session. Don’t dive into the hardest poses right from the start. Choose gentle poses to warm up your body and acclimate it to tension. A typical yoga class lasts between 45 and 90 minutes. However, if you practice yoga at home, stick to a time frame that allows you to incorporate yoga classes into your schedule and allows you to do it consistently. As a study shows, yoga doesn’t need to be long to be beneficial. When we begin with simple behaviours, we are more likely to stick with them until they become habits.
Provide yourself with everything you need
If you’re going to practice at home, you’ll want to get your own mat. Or if you’re attending a yoga class, you can rent a mat there, as most yoga classes have this option. However, in the long run, it is preferable to purchase your own mat. A supportive, well-made mat makes all the difference and ensures that you will not experience back pain as a result of lying on a hard surface. Consider water as well. If you do long and light sessions, you may want to drink water afterwards, and if you do more intense classes, you may want to drink water directly during the yoga session. It will also be good to have a hand towel around if you sweat a lot or are trying some more intense styles of yoga.
Fun & curious facts about yoga
Tao Porchon-Lynch was a French and Indian-born American yoga master and award-winning author. She taught a weekly class in New York and led programs all over the world at the age of 101.
The USA Yoga Federation registered it for competitive purposes in late 2015, and the Olympic Committee approved it the following year.
Let’s summarise yoga
Yoga provides us with a wonderful opportunity to experience moments of calm and silence in our lives. At the same time, it provides us with a long list of physical benefits such as increased flexibility and better posture, improved bone and heart health, and mental benefits such as stress relief improved sleep, and focus. Overall, yoga is a great way to relieve mental and physical tension.
Hungry for knowledge? Here is more!
Take a look at this 22-minute full-body, gentle yoga practice for beginners from registered yoga teacher Flo Niedhammer
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