There are many reasons why I began yoga some 20 years ago. Whilst initially I keen to make sure my postures looked like everyone else in the class, I noticed, as my body began to loosen up and the postures started to feel easier, some very unexpected benefits from my yoga practice started to surface.
Today I wanted to share some of the unexpected benefits of yoga that I’ve been really surprised to discover in the hope that it’ll encourage you to keep going (or begin?!) if you’re new to yoga.
- You get to know your body better. Whilst most of us haven’t lost our minds, we lost our bodies long ago. Much of our life is spent dashing from one engagement to another only stopping when our body becomes too tired or ill to go on & we’re forced to slow down or stop. Yoga encourages us to pay attention to how our body feels during a class & to modify the postures if needs be. This means that we become really good at hearing the subtle messages our body sends to tell us something’s not ‘quite right’. We get so good at listening that we hear these ‘messages’ even when we’re off the yoga mat. These enhanced listening skills means we take action early on to stay healthy & well.
- Yoga reduces anxiety. Yoga & meditation teach us to observe our thoughts & emotions without getting involved or attached to them. This means that we start to become more aware of what triggers our emotions & thoughts and we know what we can do to stay grounded and avoid being pulled into the downward spiral of worry & stress.
- You learn how to breathe! I know, it sounds odd as our bodies know how to breathe! But most people have got into the (poor) habit of shallow breathing, taking little short breaths only into the top of the lungs meaning two thirds of the lungs are left idle and they hardly (if ever) use the diaphragm muscle to breathe.
Yoga breathing techniques (pranayama) teach how to engage the diaphragm as we breathe which increases the volume of oxygen entering the lungs which means there’ll be an abundance of oxygen being delivered around the body into the billions of cells via our bloodstream. Oxygen is more important to our cellular activity than food & water! And, just as important, the diaphragm (if used ) will help expel waste gas from the lungs. Gas such as carbon dioxide (CO2) created during cellular activity and delivered back to the lungs ready for exhalation. Our bodies have no use whatsoever for CO2 .. we need to expel it as a CO2 build up can make us feel fatigued & foggy headed.
- Yoga improves sleep. Yoga teaches us how to relax & let go particularly the relaxing yoga postures such as corpse pose (savasana) at the end of class which creates an incredible feeling of inner peace which in turn helps to calm an over active mind & nervous system and so we feel deeply relaxed when bed time comes.
- Yoga helps improve your focus & concentration. When practicing yoga you’re encouraged to ignore what others are doing on their mats and focus purely on what your body can do. This focus creates great mental strength & can be used off the mat to help you maintain focus. Especially useful if you work in an open environment where you’re bombarded with noise & distraction!
If you’d like to experience these & many more benefits of yoga, why not join us for a yoga retreat here in Spain ?
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