Yoga is good for you – plain and simple. Physicians, neuroscientists and psychologists are providing us with an ongoing stream of research demonstrating that yoga, practiced appropriately with a skilled teacher, is beneficial for every aspect of your health. The bottom line? Regular yoga practice can help improve physical, mental and emotional health and may help prevent and assist in treatment of some of our most common modern diseases. In honor of National Yoga Month, here are 10 proven ways yoga benefits you:
1) Anyone can do it. A skilled, educated instructor can adapt the poses to suit your abilities and needs. There are classes for every age group and for populations with specific needs. Don’t let anyone fool you – you can do yoga sitting in a chair or laying on a bed, if need be. As my teacher always said: “If you can breathe, you can do yoga.”
2) Through proper breathwork and breath /body awareness, you are learning how to naturally release tense muscles, de-stress and regulate your mental and emotional states. Asana (focused movement practice), pranayama (breathing practices) and meditation literally alter your brain structure – helping you be less reactive and experience more harmony, within and without.
3)Yoga boosts your immune system. Scientific studies provide evidence that yoga can affect expression of various immune-related genes in our cells and therefore, influence how your genes affect your health.
4)Your spine loves yoga. People who practice yoga experience a reduction in back pain and discomfort and show less evidence of spinal disc degeneration.
5)Your heart loves yoga. Dozens of studies demonstrate that yoga helps reduce the risk factors for heart disease.
6)Lubricate your joints! Want to move freely through life? In yoga, we move all of the joints: ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, spine…keeping them lubricated and healthy, and keeping you comfortably on the move.
7) Tired? Restless at night? Insomnia? Physical practice stretches and relaxes muscles, mindful breathing practices and savasana (relaxation) help your mind let go of distracting, anxious thoughts and your heart rate to slow, preparing you for sleep. Regular, simple meditation practices can also release mental and physical tension, so that you fall asleep easier.
8)Stay younger. Yep – yoga, it seems, helps preserve the length of telomeres – structures in our cells that, when too short, cause the cell to die. Yoga helps preserve their length. More yoga for me, please!
9)Chronic inflammation is bad news and, among other things, such as poor diet, can be triggered by stress & a sedentary lifestyle. The good news? Regular yoga practice has been shown to lower blood levels of inflammation-promoting cells.
10) Yoga is an amazing, fun adventure you take with yourself. Every pose is an exploration – of your limits and your potential, of your body’s endless ability to adapt, to move intelligently and gracefully, of your mind’s reactions, of the ebb and flow of your breath. It’s an adventure everyone should take – this is the only body you get. You can replace your car, your phone, your house – but you can’t replace your body. At every moment, you are moving through the world in a unique and precious vehicle- you. Enjoy, explore, be amazed at what you can do. Have fun! Whether you choose yoga, hiking, dancing, martial arts or any other practice – marvel and explore. Like you, your body is one-of-a-kind! Keep it as healthy as you can, keep it moving, love it – and it will love you right back.
Looking for a yoga class? Liz Bragdon has been practicing yoga for 26 years, specializing in traditional and viniyoga styles, as well as yoga with children. She teaches privately and to small groups. You can find her at Our Place Studio – and your first class is always free. Visit www.opcovington.com and www.move-with-me.com for more info. You can also find more wonderful yoga teachers and classes at our local gyms throughout Covington, as well as at the Yoga School, and outdoor, donation-based classes at Bogue Falaya park.