Yoga has both preventive and therapeutic benefits. It has been shown to offer both physical and mental benefits to the body and the mind.
The many physical benefits of hatha yoga are: it improves flexibility and muscle joint mobility; strengthens, tones, and builds muscles; corrects posture; strengthens the spine; eases back pain; improves muscular-skeletal conditions such as bad knees, tight shoulders and neck, swayback and scoliosis; increases stamina; creates balance and grace; stimulates the glands of the endocrine system; improves digestion and elimination; increases circulation; improves heart conditions; improves breathing disorders; boosts immune response; decreases cholesterol and blood sugar levels; and encourages weight loss.
The mental benefits include: it increases body awareness; relieves chronic stress patterns in the body; refreshes the body by relieving muscle strain; relaxes the mind and body; centers attention; sharpens concentration; and frees the spirit.
Western doctors and scientists are discovering additional health benefits of hatha yoga. Studies have shown that it can relieve the symptoms of several common and potentially life-threatening illnesses; such as arthritis, arteriosclerosis, chronic fatigue, diabetes, AIDS, asthma and obesity. Many believe it even fends off the ravages of old age.
Yoga Benefits as An Exercise
A near-perfect fitness routine, hatha yoga provides the means for people of any age not only to get and stay in shape but also to develop balance, coordination, and a sense of centeredness. It renews, invigorates, and heals the body - stretching and toning the muscles, joints, and spine and directing blood and oxygen to the internal organs (including the glands and nerves).
Yoga is distinctly different from other kinds of exercise. It generates motion without causing strain and imbalances in the body. When practiced correctly, hatha yoga has no such negative effects on either the inner or outer body.
When done with dedication and purpose, hatha yoga can be a quite demanding, yet an immensely rewarding type of exercise. While not inherently aerobic, it involves almost every muscle in the body and challenges the body to work in a different and often more passive way. Since the limbs function as free weights, resistance is created by moving the body's center of gravity. This strengthening gives way to endurance as poses are held for longer periods of time.
Unlike conventional forms of exercise, such as weight training, walking, biking or hiking, hatha yoga stresses quality of movement over quantity. A consistent hatha yoga practice can quiet the mind and refresh the body, bringing health, relaxation, and happiness.
Yoga Benefits For All Ages
Whatever your age, yoga can enhance your lifestyle...
As well as being fun for children, learning yoga develops self-discipline and can enhance their physical and mental health. Asanas are good for developing coordination and help to improve concentration and memory. Regular practice can enable young people to keep their natural flexibility for many years.
It can help teenagers to keep their youthful flexibility and give them the inner strength to say no to negative influences.
Older people often find that gentle yoga exercises allow them to retain mobility and may relieve problems such as arthritis and poor circulation.
During pregnancy, yoga promotes good health in both mother and unborn child. Yoga asanas lessen the effects of such problems as overweight, backache, and depression. Most women who practice yoga find that it can make labor easier and shorter. Although some asanas have to be modified during pregnancy, their essence is perfectly suited to this time of expanded self-awareness. Pregnancy is also a very good time for meditation.
Everyone can benefit from following a regular yoga routine, as it counteracts many of the problems suffered in modern life. Asanas release the physical tensions caused by hours of sitting, deep breathing gives vitality by increasing the supply of oxygen to the brain and meditation enhances the powers of concentration. Yoga improves strength and flexibility in the mind as well as the body, and aids relaxation. Yoga can enable one to relax fully, and promotes sound sleep; it also improves digestion and stimulates circulation. It frees the practitioner both physically and mentally, often heightening intuition and creativity.
Yoga Benefits and Sports
Yoga postures are the physical positions that coordinate breath with movement and with holding the position to stretch and strengthen different parts of the body. Asana practice is the ideal complement to other forms of exercise, especially running, cycling and strength training, as the postures systematically work all the major muscle groups, including the back, neck, and shoulders, deep abdominal, hip and buttocks muscles and even ankles, feet, wrists and hands.
By their very nature, asanas affect major and minor muscle groups and organs as they simultaneously import strength, increase flexibility and bring nourishment to internal organs. Although most poses are not aerobic in nature, they do in fact send oxygen to the cells in the body by way of conscious deep breathing and sustained stretching and contraction of different muscle groups.
Whatever sport you choose to practice, yoga can enhance and complement your ability. Most sports build muscular strength and stamina, often in specific areas of the body. Yoga can help to check any imbalance in muscular development and will enable both your body and your mind to function more efficiently. If your body is flexible and supple you will be less prone to sports injuries, as your joints will be kept lubricated.
Skiing demands mental alertness as well as good balance. Yoga asanas strengthen your muscles, release physical tension and improve your concentration and poise. Yoga makes your limbs balanced, strong and relaxed.
Golfers may be prone to one-sided or uneven muscle development. Yoga asanas can strengthen weak areas and ease muscular tension. The standing poses improve balance and muscle flexibility.
Yoga breathing techniques help swimmers to breathe in a relaxed way when exercising.
For bicyclists, back bends can relieve any stiffness caused by bending over handlebars. Because a cyclist's back stays in one position for long periods, the muscles may become tense. This can be remedied with stretches. Gentle stretching exercises also ease stiffness in the legs and shoulders. Yoga asanas will also improve flexibility.
Racket sports often involve intense physical effort. Yoga practice can help players to relax and replenish their energy after strenuous games. It also promotes calm, clear thinking, even in situations that call for fast reactions. Asanas for joint mobility can make hips and shoulders more flexible.