Yoga Benefits; A Practice of Healing
Originating in India, yoga has been practiced for centuries as a method of physical, spiritual and emotional expression. It is more commonly known in Western culture as a method of relaxation, but numerous studies are showing that yoga benefits stretch far beyond those of simple relaxation. The documented physical and emotional benefits of yoga have become an interest to wellness practitioners as the practice has shown to reduce blood pressure, relieve stress and anxiety, improve concentration, improve flexibility, increasing strength, decrease muscle and joint pain, and improve bodily systems. Yoga consists of a variation of different postures and breathing techniques that promote calmness of the nervous system and muscles and joints. While the people of India have long known the healing power of yoga, this practice and its benefits is fairly new to the west. The brief references to yoga the media and the various fitness facilities that market to capitalize on the practice have done little to define it or its benefits. As an accompaniment to regular chiropractic care, the results of practicing yoga are quite rewarding.
Yoga Benefits For Pain and Physical Well-Being
As mentioned, yoga provides many physical benefits, including the following:
Improves Flexibility and Prevents Cartilage Degeneration. Tightness and inflexibility of muscles and connective tissue may cause issues such as pain, increased risk of injury and poor posture. Regular yoga stretches and poses will improve muscle flexibility and decrease risk of injury or strain.
Builds Muscle Strength. Although yoga does not require lifting of heavy weights and is known as a calmer exercise, supporting your bodyweight in certain positions will definitely fire up those muscles! Building lean muscle tissue also has the added benefit of a boosted metabolism, more energy, and decreased chance for conditions such as arthritis or chronic lower back pain.
Improves Posture and Protects the Spine. Bad posture can cause back, neck, and other muscle and joint issues. As you slouch, your body may compensate by flattening the normal curves in your neck and lower back which can cause pain and degenerative arthritis of the spine. Yoga can restore the natural curvature of the spine and make the discs (the round ‘shock absorbers’ between vertebrae) more supply, just as adjustments help realign the spine and remove subluxations.
Promotes Better Blood Circulation. Relaxation exercises you learn in yoga can help your circulation, especially in your limbs. Yoga also gets more oxygen to your cells by encouraging venous blood from the legs and pelvis to flow back to the heart, where it can be pumped to the lungs to be freshly oxygenated. Twisting or inverted poses help with this as well.
Stimulates the Lymphatic System. By stretching, twisting, deep breathing and moving the body in certain positions, you increase drainage of lymph which helps the lymphatic system fight infection, destroy cancerous cells, and dispose of the toxic waste products of cellular functioning.
Gets the Digestive System Moving. Yoga, like any physical exercise, can ease conditions such as constipation and theoretically lower the risk of colon cancer as moving the body facilitates more rapid transport of food and waste products through the bowels. Yoga also relieves stress which has been shown to be a huge factor in IBS and chronic constipation.
Eases Pain. Any physical activity has been shown to strengthen weak muscles, improve ligament function, decrease inflammation and therefore reduce pain. Yoga benefits the body by relaxing tense muscles, allowing proper blood flow and easing pain caused by conditions such as fibromyalgia, arthritis, carpal tunnel and many other conditions that cause chronic pain and discomfort.
Yoga Benefits for Mental and Emotional Well-Being
Along with its physical benefits, yoga also plays an essential role in rejuvenation of the mind and our emotional connectedness. With our constant on-the-go lifestyles, it is easy to get stuck in a chronic state of fight or flight; yoga helps relax the tension and bring our stress response back to neutral. Other ways yoga benefits our mental well-being include:
Better Concentration. Yoga requires you to focus on deep breathing and clear your mind of any thoughts or stresses that occur during the day. This focus on relaxing has a spill over effect into other areas the require concentration as well. Regular yoga practice improves coordination, reaction time, memory, and even IQ scores as you less distracted by thoughts, which can play over and over like an endless tape loop. Chiropractic has also been shown to help concentration and boost energy by realigning the cervical spine in order to help the transmission of signals between the brain and body.
Relaxes the Nervous System. Yoga shifts the balance from your sympathetic nervous system (or the fight-or-flight response) to the parasympathetic nervous system. The latter is calming and restorative; it lowers breathing and heart rates, decreases blood pressure, and increases blood flow to the intestines and reproductive organs. Additionally, removing spinal misalignments also takes stress off of the central nervous system and allows the body to relax easier.
Better Sleep. Yoga provides downtime for the nervous system. Another by-product of a regular yoga practice, studies suggest, is better sleep—which means you’ll be less tired and stressed and more likely to function more efficiently.
Increase Self-Esteem. Yoga is a method of self-care and you time. The more you get into the practice and its teachings, the more you value your wellbeing and integrate its philosophy into your own.
Reduces Adrenal Exertion and Reduces Stress. Regular practice of yoga has shown to reduce secretion of the hormones cortisol and adrenaline – which are responsible for our fight-or-flight response in acute or chronic stressful situations. Excessive cortisol has been linked with major depression, cognitive decline, osteoporosis (it extracts calcium and other minerals from bones and interferes with the laying down of new bone), high blood pressure, and insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome. One study found that a consistent yoga practice improved depression and led to a significant increase in serotonin (the happy hormone that regulates mood) levels and a decrease in the levels of monoamine oxidase (an enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters). This results in alleviating stress and providing more peace of mind.
As shown, regular yoga practice along with chiropractic care is an ultimate duo for improved physicality, emotional control, and mental function. Try integrating some stretches and poses into your morning or evening routine and see how yoga can benefit you!