International Day of Yoga Article

Yoga is a mind-body practice and I personally have experienced physical and mental benefits. When practised regularly, yoga can assist with physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. I initially started yoga to keep fit. While I have noticed improvements with fitness, I have also observed other positive benefits.

As a hypermobile person who works a physical job, I have had trouble with shoulder instability. In fact, when I first started yoga, my left shoulder was very uncomfortable with many of the poses, such as Downward Facing Dog, Plank and Chaturanga Dandasana (Half Push Up).

Even though it was initially a challenge, I have found that practising these asanas (poses) has really helped to strengthen the muscles of my shoulders and upper arms.

Yoga is great for the musculoskeletal system. Joints are moved through their range of motion. Gentle stretching releases muscular tension, reduces the feeling of stiffness and improves flexibility. Holding poses helps to develop strength in the muscles. Weight-bearing poses may assist with osteoporosis prevention. The physical practice of yoga, under a teacher with appropriate training, may also be beneficial for those already suffering from osteoporosis. According to Fishman et al (2014) in Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation, “Yoga appears to be an effective way to build bone mineral density after menopause.” With yoga, many people report a decrease in pain in their bodies as well as improvements with posture.

Yoga has also helped me mentally. I am a person that finds it difficult to do very little. When I first started practising yoga, my interest was in the physical poses and I didn’t realise the mental impact it would have.

When I participated in my first Yin Yoga class (where poses are held for longer periods of time) my mind was very active and I found it extremely difficult to hold a pose for an extended period of time. I felt agitated and I couldn’t relax. Now I have come to really appreciate the time I have for myself when I practise. I now finish a class feeling relaxed. I also find that my sleep improves following a yoga class.

A number of studies have shown that yoga may help with the management of stress and anxiety. People often say their mood improves as well as their overall sense of wellbeing, which I have also found to be true for myself. According to research by Kozasa et al (2008) in Perceptual & Motor Skills, “A significant reduction in scores on anxiety, depression, and tension was found in the yoga group as well as an increase in well-being in comparison with the control group.”

Yoga teaches the individual how to control their breathing which may improve the health and function of the body and mind. The combination of physical exercise and breathing prepares the body and mind for meditation. The meditation and relaxation aspects of a yoga practice help the individual to become more mindful and aware of the present moment without judgment.

It appears that people practising regular yoga may notice a decrease in stress, anxiety and fatigue as well as improved concentration and energy levels. Many people say they feel calmer.

In conclusion, yoga brings the body and mind together incorporating exercise, breathing and meditation. Individuals practising yoga may benefit from a great range of health benefits.

References:

  1. Agnew, H. (2016) Yoga Trinity: Vinyasa Flow Yoga Teaching Manual.
  2. Better Health Channel (2016) Pilates and Yoga – Health Benefits. Available at: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/pilates-and-yoga-health-benefits (Accessed 19 March 2017).
  3. Yoga Alliance (2017) Yoga for Mental Health. Available at: https://www.yogaalliance.org/Learn/About_Yoga/Yoga_Research/Yoga_for_Mental_Health (Accessed 19 March 2017).
  4. Yoga Alliance (2017) Yoga for Osteoporosis and Aging. Available at: https://www.yogaalliance.org/Learn/About_Yoga/Yoga_Research/Yoga_for_Osteoporosis_and_Aging (Accessed 19 March 2017).