Why Should You Practice Yoga?

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Yoga’s twisting, inverting and back bending moves encourage your body to spend more time in the parasympathetic nervous system, which boosts your immune system. Yoga also helps strengthen your core, which is good for your back and balance.

Regular practice of yoga can build a strong sense of discipline and the ability to overcome inertia and change dysfunctional habits. This is known as tapas, the fire that fuels your yoga practice and your life.

The benefits of yoga

Yoga is an exercise that builds strength, flexibility and endurance. It also promotes breathing and cardiovascular health. It has been shown to reduce stress and improve sleeping patterns. People who practice yoga report feeling happier and healthier. This may be because of the way that yoga stimulates the release of helpful brain chemicals.

Yoga also helps to strengthen the thoracic spine, a common source of neck and back pain. The poses are designed to increase the range of motion in that area, as well as to improve posture by correcting slouching habits.

Yoga is a form of exercise that can be performed by people of all ages and body types, including those with medical conditions. However, it is important to learn the basics and begin slowly under the supervision of a trained instructor.

The asanas

A yoga class begins with a series of postures or asanas. These poses stretch, strengthen and balance the body and relax the mind. They are beneficial to those with back problems, arthritis and menstrual issues. They can also reduce stress and improve cardiovascular health.

The asanas are named for animals, other living things, sages and the earth. They are also given numbers and directions. For example, tadasana means mountain pose.

Some of the asanas are held for a long time, like the tree or frog pose. Others are moved quickly from one position to another, using the breath as a guide, such as the sun salutations. Over time, the body becomes used to the postures and they are no longer difficult. The goal is not mastery of the asanas but Samadhi, meditative absorption.

The postures

The postures or poses in yoga can be challenging, especially for beginners. But even if you can’t touch your toes or do a handstand, there are still many benefits of practicing yoga, including better back health.

One of the first poses you’ll learn in yoga is cat-cow, which helps you stretch your spine. It also strengthens your legs and outer hips and improves balance.

Bridge pose is another backbend that’s great for beginners. It’s a good way to gently explore backbends, which are beneficial for your neck and shoulders. It can also help with your back pain and relieve stress and tension. To do this, start by standing with your feet together and then slowly bend the front knee over your back leg to bring your torso parallel to the floor.

The breathing exercises

For thousands of years yoga has employed breathing techniques (pranayama) to balance, restore and maintain physical, mental and emotional health. There are many different pranayama exercises but one of the simplest for calming the mind and nervous system is to exhale for twice as long as you inhale.

During this type of deep breathing the diaphragm and pelvic floor descend, expanding the lungs. The ribs and sternum then lift up to expand the chest. The teacher will usually sequence this with movement and may also use a mantra or focus point to aid concentration.

Another common breathing technique is Sitali Kumbhaka, which involves curling the tongue lengthwise to suck air in. Then hold the breath for a count of eight and exhale slowly through the nose. This is said to reduce pitta and helps cultivate mindfulness and calmness.

The meditation

The meditation or contemplation practices of yoga are a way to still the mind and achieve a state of calmness. There is no one way to meditate, but some techniques include focusing on the breath, repeating a mantra, and recognizing a detached witness-consciousness aloof from the mind’s constant ruminations.

At first, the practice can be boring and you may feel like it isn’t working, however, keep at it. Eventually thoughts become pure and devoid of emotion, and the ego begins to loose its grip.

You can start with the yoga postures, pranayama or meditation depending on your needs and preferences. Whether you begin with breathing, yoga or meditation, always end your practice with a relaxing savasana, also known as corpse pose. This is a great way to relax your body after a yoga class.