As the International Yoga Day is commencing, many of us might be wondering that why “Yoga” which is a form of exercise is given so much prominence globally. While there are many other forms of exercises as well, but, Yoga is different.
Have you ever wondered that what are the benefits of yoga, which make it a unique form of exercise not just among the fitness oriented personnel, but, also among the international players and celebrities as well?
Well, the benefits range from increased flexibility to augmented mental strength, from a healthy heart to calm mind, from posture perfection to increased focus and concentration.
Yoga is not just a physical practice, but, is a unique way to create harmony and strength in both body and mind. The benefits of Yoga are not limited to the physical well-being, but, it makes a permanent difference to your life.
Table of Contents
- International Yoga Day – 21st June
- History and Origin of Yoga
- Benefits of Yoga
- Physical Benefits
- 1. Strengthens the Overall Fitness
- 2. Enhances The Muscle Strength
- 3. Improves Flexibility
- 4. Weight Loss
- 5. Enhanced Blood Flow
- 6. Boosts Immunity
- 7. Lowers the Blood Sugar and Cholesterol
- 8. Increased Cardiovascular Endurance
- 9. Improves Sleep
- 10. Strengthens the Bones
- 11. Helps in Developing Resistance Against Viruses and Allergies At Bay
- 12. Eases The Pain
- 13. Cures Digestive Issues
- 14. Improves Lung Function
- 15. Improves Balance
- 16. Reduces Stress
- 17. Enhances Joint Health
- Mental Benefits
- Spiritual Benefits
International Yoga Day – 21st June
Yoga is a way of life whose cardinal aim is to enable people to attain “A Healthy Mind In A Healthy Body”. Yoga implies the union with self, and aids in the promoting the balanced development of physical, mental and spiritual health.
Yoga, which originated in ancient India, has been adopted by people across the globe. International celebrities like Shilpa Shetty, Kareena Kapoor, David Beckham, Shakira, Jennifer Aniston etc., all practice Yoga to gain its innumerable benefits.
Owing to the way Yoga can change the lifestyle of a person, it is even practiced on a regular basis by Indian Prime Minister “Narendra Modi”.
In fact, it was on Mr. Narendra Modi’s suggestion, that United Nations took the decision to celebrate Yoga through an International Yoga Day in 2014, and declared that 21st June every year would be globally observed as the International Yoga Day.
The International Yoga day is celebrated to draw the attention of people from different parts of the world towards natural and holistic benefits of Yoga.
History and Origin of Yoga
Yoga is believed to have originated in India, about 5000 years back, when people living in the Indus-Sarasvati civilization in Northern India started practicing it.
The first mention of the term “Yoga” can be found in the Rig Veda. Vedas define the rituals which should be practiced by Brahmanas to live an ideal life. Gradually, Yoga got refined and was further developed by the Rishis and Brahmanas, and Yoga’s mention can also be found in the sacred “Bhagvad Gita”
In the pre-classical phase, the Yoga was a blend of a lot of diverse beliefs, ideas, and techniques, many of which conflicted with each other.
The systematic practice of Yoga was finally defined in the Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and was written somewhere in the 2nd Century AD. Patanjali segregated the practice of Yoga in 8 different branches and stages, and one needs to cross these stages in order to attain “Enlightenment or Samadhi”. Many consider Patanjali, as the father of Yoga and his Yoga Sutras are popular in the current age too. Many of them still strongly influence our modern Yoga poses and styles.
What we primarily practice today is the “Hath Yoga” which is comprised of the radical techniques for cleansing the body and mind. While the eight branches of Hath Yoga include Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Dharana, Dhyana and Samyana or Samadhi, but, most of us practice physical poses or asanas and breathing practices, also known as “Pranayama”. Meditation is also a part of Yoga and is practiced by many people, in both, east and west.
Benefits of Yoga
There are numerous benefits of Yoga which make it one of the healthiest practices that we can adopt. The benefits of Yoga can be categorised into three main categories – physical, mental and spiritual.
1. Strengthens the Overall Fitness
By being a regular practitioner of yoga, you not only develop higher flexibility but, also improve the overall health. One can gain both, physical and mental strength, and protect the body against various injuries.
Yoga asanas and pranayama also help in detoxifying the body and strengthen the immune system.
2. Enhances The Muscle Strength
Yoga utilizes one’s own body weight to build muscles, and thus, helps an individual to attain a strong body which does not get affected by the outer conditions like weather, age, and health conditions easily.
The strength that you gain from yoga is balanced by the flexibility, and that’s why it offers a bigger set of benefits when compared with strength training using external weights.
3. Improves Flexibility
One of the biggest health benefits of Yoga is the improved flexibility in the body. Yoga asanas stretch the body without affecting it.
As you practice the Yoga, you tend to become more flexible with your body. Yoga helps in toning the muscles while improving the posture of the body.
4. Weight Loss
The yoga poses help in losing the excessive weight and burning calories faster. There are many yoga poses whose primary aim is to reduce the fat deposits from the tummy area.
Yoga helps in faster burning of fat, and as it pumps in more oxygen, it becomes easier to lose weight.
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5. Enhanced Blood Flow
When you practice Yoga, the blood flows more freely in your body. The increased circulation of blood helps in oxygenated blood to flow in the organs. This oxygen is used by the cells and it helps them grow.
Yoga also aids in boosting the count of red blood cells and hemoglobin levels in the body. It also helps in thinning the blood by reducing the level of clot-promoting proteins and making the platelets less sticky.
The thinner blood and increased blood flow help in decreasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
6. Boosts Immunity
As the muscles are constantly contracted and stretched in the yoga poses, the drainage of lymph increases. Lymph is a viscous fluid which is exceptionally rich in the immune cells.
It aids the lymphatic system to destroy the cancerous cells, fight infections and flush out the toxic waste from the body. Consequently, immunity is boosted.
7. Lowers the Blood Sugar and Cholesterol
Yoga helps in lowering down the LDL, that is, the bad cholesterol and the blood sugar. At the same time, it boosts the production of HDL, that is, the good cholesterol.
Yoga helps in lowering down the blood sugar in multiple ways. It encourages the weight loss, lowers the adrenaline and cortisol levels, improves insulin sensitivity and enhances the blood flow. All these contribute to the lower diabetes and blood sugar levels.
8. Increased Cardiovascular Endurance
Yoga asanas help in enhancing the blood flow, lowering the heart rate and the levels of the bad cholesterol, that is, LDL.
The slower pulse rate can be attained with Yoga, and the slowed down pulse rate shows that your heart can pump more blood with fewer beats, and thus, is strong.
Better circulation helps in lowering down the blood pressure. Also, improved oxygenation of the body aids in strengthening the heart whilst reducing the risk of cardiac problems.
9. Improves Sleep
Yoga helps in overcoming insomnia and improving the sleep. When you practice Yoga on regular basis, you are not only able to fall asleep faster but are also able to get sound sleep. Moreover, when you wake up in the morning, you feel replenished and refreshed.
Yoga poses relax your body and mind, and thus, you find it less difficult to fall asleep on time.
10. Strengthens the Bones
While practicing Yoga, we are required to lift our own weight. These weight-bearing poses help in strengthening the bones and warding off osteoporosis.
By strengthening the bones, Yoga helps in reducing the vulnerability to fractures.
Also, Yoga helps in lowering the level of the stress hormone “Cortisol” which helps in preserving the calcium in the bones.
11. Helps in Developing Resistance Against Viruses and Allergies At Bay
The breathing exercises in Yoga, also known as Pranayama, help in internal cleansing of the body, especially the intestines.
The activities like Jal Neti aid in removing the viruses and pollens from the nose while preventing the mucus from building up. Yoga also helps in draining the sinuses.
12. Eases The Pain
The pain tolerance becomes much higher in the individuals who practice the Yoga regularly.
Apart from increasing the pain tolerance, Yoga also helps in reducing certain chronic pains like the back pain.
13. Cures Digestive Issues
Constipation, ulcers and irritable bowel movement, all are digestive troubles which can get worse with stress.
Yoga, with its specialised poses, meant to strengthen the digestive system cure constipation, stomach ulcers and thus, help in preventing the colon cancer.
Yoga poses move the body in a way that food and waste products are transported much faster through the bowels. Furthermore, yoga helps in releasing the stress, which is why these problems do not increase.
14. Improves Lung Function
Yoga helps in increasing the lung function and enable the lungs with more room to breathe. By practicing “Pranayama” and long breathing techniques, the yoga practitioners are able to improve the oxygen saturation in their blood.
Yoga also helps in promoting longer breaths and the nose is able to pull in more oxygen. Improved breathing better filters the air, warms it, humidifies it, removes the dirt and pollen and other elements that your lung cannot handle.
Thus, the individuals who practice yoga are less likely to suffer from an asthma attack or any breathing problem like bronchitis, sinus etc.
15. Improves Balance
Yoga improves the body posture, enhances the ability to balance better, and increases proprioception.
Bad posture is often linked with back pain and knee troubles. By improving the posture, yoga helps in preventing these problems.
16. Reduces Stress
Yoga has the direct effect on the stress. Practicing yoga helps in lowering the cortisol levels.
Cortisol is a hormone which is secreted by the adrenal glands in the event of a crisis. This hormone is often linked with high-stress levels.
Stress can badly affect our physical and mental health. Yoga helps in reducing the secretion of cortisol levels, and thus, helps in overcoming stress.
17. Enhances Joint Health
Every time you practice yoga, your joints go through their full range of motion. It helps in preventing the joints related health problems like degenerative arthritis.
Joint cartilage squeezes out its fluid and becomes capable of receiving fresh nutrients with the help of yoga. This makes joints resist the wear and tear, and stay strong.
18. Makes Us Happier
If you are feeling sad or depressed, you can try sitting in the “Lotus Pose” of yoga, and you will start feeling better.
Studies have also concluded that the consistent practice of yoga reduces depression and increases the levels of serotonin while reducing the cortisol. Yoga practice also helps in reducing the levels of monoamine oxidase, which as an enzyme that breaks down the neurotransmitters.
Consequently, you feel happier and content.
19. Increases Concentration and Focus
Studies exhibit that the regular practice of yoga helps in improving the reaction time, coordination between the mind and the body parts, and memory.
With certain yoga poses, you are able to concentrate better and work with increased focus. Yoga actually reduces the distraction of mind by the thoughts, and thus, enhances the focus.
20. Helps You Relax
Yoga slows down our breath and blocks the disturbing thoughts from affecting our peace of mind.
It also reduces the secretion of the stress hormone and decreases the blood pressure. It also helps in curing the stomach troubles which are one of the major causes of irritability.
Furthermore, yoga helps in making us sleep better. All these factors contribute towards the body relaxation, and thus, with regular practice of yoga, we are able to relax our entire system.
21. Improves Relationships
One of the noted benefits of Yoga is that it helps in the development of feelings like compassion, friendliness, and higher equanimity.
A mind which is contended, happy and relaxed is able to better deal with the sensitive matters that affect a relationship. Yoga enhances the peace of mind, and one gets rid of the negative feelings like ego.
This helps in making all the relationships stronger.
22. Yoga Enhances Inner Peace
Yoga and the breathing exercises calm down a disturbed mind and release the stress which is the cardinal reason of mental pressure.
By lowering down the cortisol levels, yoga helps in attaining mental and inner peace. Moreover, when we practice yoga, we feel ourselves connected with the Almighty, and thus, attain an inner peace which is incomparable.
23. Creation Of New Awareness
Regular yoga practice helps individuals to attain a connection and harmony between their mind, body, and spirit. This unity aids the development of the feeling of oneness within you.
With pranayama and meditation, this oneness leads to the creation of new awareness. Gradually one learns to calm down the fluctuations caused by the disturbing thoughts, and rise above the false beliefs.
24. Spiritual Fulfilment
Enhanced awareness attained through regular yoga practice leads to a natural state of peace. It is this state when one gets a greater sense of purpose and achieves spiritual fulfillment.
As mentioned above, the health benefits of yoga go far beyond increasing the physical fitness and flexibility. Truly, Yoga is “a way of life”.
So, on this International Yoga day, which is coming on 21st June, let’s take a pledge that we will make Yoga an integral part of our daily routine, and will practice it every day.