Yoga is often thought of as a way to move the body, strengthen weak muscles, and elongate tight muscles. While these physical benefits are helpful and for many serve as an ideal way to move the body in contrast with weight-lifting or cardio, yoga has far more benefits than purely physical.
Research shows that yoga can do many things including but not limited to: stress relief, improving mental/emotional health, improve sleep, better balance, and coordination, pain relief, relieve menopausal symptoms, manage anxiety and depression, help to quit smoking, lose weight, and manage chronic diseases.
The word yoga translates to union and has a way of unifying the mind, body, and spirit. Many fear that yoga is a religious experience and it is absolutely not. There is a spiritual component to yoga but not in a religious way. The spiritual aspect of yoga is to be connected to yourself and a higher power if you believe in one. For those who do not, yoga can merely help strengthen the connection with your own body and mind.
A major component of yoga is breathwork. The breath is viewed as the energy source in the body and breathing techniques are used to work with the energy systems in the body. Breathing exercises can be practiced without movement to decrease stress and achieve many of the health benefits mentioned above which makes yoga the perfect healthy habit for those with injuries or chronic conditions that limit them physically.
Yoga is made up of 8 limbs where only 1 includes movement. Therefore, yoga can be done as a movement or non-movement practice. Viewing yoga as a purely physical form is limiting the benefits it can bring.
Each yoga class ends with a corpse pose where the student is able to rest in stillness. This “meditation” does not need to be interpreted as a spiritual practice as it is about connecting to your breath and your body.
Chanting words such as “Om” help to unify the energy in the room and connect to the collective energy of the world.
The practice of yoga, movement or non-movement, has been shown to reduce inflammation, improve heart health, fight depression and anxiety, relieve migraines, and even improve healthy eating habits.
The overall reduction of cortisol that yoga is able to accomplish is responsible for many of the positive health benefits previously mentioned.
For the physical practice of yoga, there are many different styles to suit the needs of the yoga student. There are more vigorous practices to challenge balance and strength, there are slower, gentle classes to focus on functional training and mobility, and there are non-movement classes that focus on restoration and rejuvenation.
For a person who wants to achieve weight loss from yoga, the style of yoga should be selected to balance out what the body needs. If the body is craving vigor and energetic movement practice, then a more active class should be selected. If the body is craving rest, rejuvenation, and relaxation, a slower-paced class should be selected.
The body achieves optimal results by meeting all the needs including rest and relaxation. There are not any other movement practices that allow for such a wide range of options to truly meet the body’s needs wherever they are.
Therefore, yoga is a great practice for many different people with various goals and desires. There is no reason to feel intimated in a yoga class as the intention is non-judgment and inclusivity. Find the yoga community that makes you feel best.