If you landed on this page, odds are you’ve thought about doing yoga-asanas, are a yoga enthusiast who wants to know maybe why he or she started in the first place, or have no interest in yoga, but thought this might be a good read.
Whether or not any of these are true in your case, I urge you to take up this practice, because it’s not every day we get the chance to change our lives in such phenomenal and health inspiring ways.
Today could be your day to start on your own path to inner and outer strength.
Here are five good reasons why you should start doing yoga-asanas today:
1. It heals your spinal issues.
Yep. Those vertebrae on your back? Maybe you sit at a desk all day, sit during lunch, sit on your commute home, and then sit to watch tv or eat dinner after your work day? Maybe this leaves you constantly tucking your hands behind your lower back, bending every way, hoping to alleviate the pain? Maybe you’re fit and you’re lifting heavy weights or running without properly stretching? Or maybe you’re getting older and experiencing the gradual degradation of your bones and muscles? Well, not with yoga-asanas your’e not.
Yoga-asanas have exceptional powers with all of their twisting and bending positions to stimulate the spinal nerves, benefiting your entire nervous system (the complex network of nerves and cells that carry messages from your brain to your spinal cord). The problem actually doesn’t necessarily lie in our backs, instead, it’s in our hamstrings. When these muscles are shortened, they cause pain in our lower backs, so it makes sense to stretch them right?
Right. Yoga-asanas teach and encourages you to stretch to your fullest capabilities, while strengthening your back through planks and low back holds like the sphinx, and lengthening your hamstrings with the supine hamstring stretch and triangle pose. With one week of yoga-asanas under your belt, you’ll start feeling the results.
2. It’s great for your digestion… and your… elimination.
The deep breathing involved in yoga (you’ll constantly hear teachers exclaiming “in” or “out” or variations of those words to keep you intentionally breathing through the poses) helps massage your organs, so they can compress and lengthen your intestines, bring fresh blood to your tissue and aid your healthy gut function.
You may notice yourself fatigued after large meals, or a long day, so backbends, a staple pose in most asana classes, are a great way to relieve tiredness caused by poor digestion and give you more energy. Certain positions have the ability to wring out your organs, stimulating the movement of unwanted toxins in the body and other positions can even help relieve cramps.
3. It builds total-body strength
In weight training, athletes sometimes isolate muscles, working on certain muscle groups at a time, using dumbbells or machines to gain their strength. In yoga-asanas, on the other hand, all “lifting,” squatting or holding, is done with his or her own body, nothing else (unless of course you’re in a partner class, and in that case, you’re using his or her weight). And this is what makes yoga-asanas so practical, and so applicable in our everyday lives. Yoga-asanas build our “functional strength,” helping us with daily activities that are often overlooked. Sitting, walking, standing, bending over, etc., we still need strength for those, right?! Here are a few poses that build total-body strength.
4. Reduces risks of various diseases and alleviates symptoms
Heart disease, Asthma, Arthritis, Insomnia, Multiple Sclerosis, PTSD, the list goes on and on.
Yoga-asanas have shown to help patients with their health issues, ranging anywhere from trouble sleeping or breathing to serious central nervous system diseases like MS. The deep breathing involved in the practice, for example, can help overcome and prevent asthma attacks. With a daily routine regulating your breathing rate, a cure is even possible!
Additionally, in many of the heart opening positions like the cobra pose (lie on your stomach and lift your chest off the floor with your hands palm face on the ground), your blood is able to flow more freely, stimulating the heart, thus aiding in the diagnosis of various heart problems.
And research has shown, that MS sufferers, can better manage their disease, with daily stretching. The type of stretching found in certain yoga-sequences may help address certain associated health problems: bladder control, balance and fatigue.
But the health benefits don’t stop at the body, because yoga is even suggested to those suffering from depression, schizophrenia and other psychiatric conditions, to help reduce their symptoms. Which leads me to number 5.
5. Yoga makes you happy! And teaches you to handle stress!
Without getting super technical (I will in a coming blog), I think UCLA neurologist Alex Korb Ph.D said it best when he said:
“Yoga (asana practice) is simply the process of paying attention to the present moment and calming the mind. Over time you will start to retrain your automatic stress reaction, and replace it with one more conducive to happiness and overall well-being.”
During your yoga asana practice, it’s important to remain calm through poses, breathe and accept where your body is at. This calmness is intentional. Poses aren’t necessarily unstressful, most are actually difficult. When your body naturally wants to react in a negative way (automatic stress reaction), practicing yoga asanas teaches you to react to stress positively and calmly, through breathing. This retraining helps you react to other events in your life the same way.
On the mat, we learn to diminish our superiority complex. We learn not to compare ourselves to our past or future selves, or others. And we can begin to learn patience.
It seems that sadness and dissatisfaction usually come from an constantly overthinking this “idealized self” or an “idealized future.” Wanting to be something that you are not, wanting to have something that you cannot, wanting, wanting, wanting – complete ‘I’ centredness. Through my own personal experience, it’s this ‘I’ centredness that stops you from living in the moment and being grateful for the things you do have. This can make worlds of difference in your day-to-day frustration. Instead of always looking for something better, shift to thoughts of gratefulness. I know that this can sometimes be difficult, but give it a try!