As soon as you begin doing yoga you’ll begin to notice a lot of difference in yourself and your body. You'll begin to sleep better, get lesser coughs and generally feel more relaxed and peaceful. People do begin to notice the difference. But, have you ever thought how deeply yoga benefits your body -at a fundamental level.
It’s great to hear emotional benefits like "Yoga increases the flow of your Prana" or "Yoga brings energy through your body up your spine". But, let’s look at some benefits we can explain more explicitly.
1. Yoga Makes You More Flexible
We spend so much of our time hunched over a desk, without any exercise, our body begins to tighten up. Our tight hips then strain the knee joints. This happens due to bad alignment of the thighs and shin-bones. Many people also experience back pain because of their tight hamstrings which leads to the flattening of their lumbar spine. (R)
Rigid muscles and inflexible connective tissue like fascia and ligaments - all cause poor posture. Doing yoga everyday helps you to loosen up. Your flexibility will improve greatly. Remember your first class? You probably weren’t able to even touch your toes. But now you find it easy to do a backbend, isn’t it? That’s yoga making you more flexible.
2. Yoga Helps You Build Muscle Strength
Muscles don’t just look good, they have a very important functional role to play. Going to the gym and just lifting weights, will build your strength but at the expense of your flexibility. (R) Having good and flexible muscles protect from conditions like arthritis and back pain. Build muscle strength through yoga, though slow is balanced with flexibility.
3. Yoga Helps You Get That Perfect Posture
Our heads were made to be balanced directly over erect spines. If you have a correct posture it takes very little work for your neck muscles to support it. But, that’s not what happens is it? We strain our necks forward, always. We all are guilty of it. When working, cooking, and generally throughout the day. No wonder it's tiring! And fatigue isn’t the only problem.
Poor posture can cause back, neck, and other muscle and joint problems. As you slump, your body may compensate by flattening the normal inward curves in your neck and lower back. This can cause pain and degenerative arthritis of the spine.
4. Prevents cartilage and joint breakdown
Yoga takes all your joints through a full range of motion. There are areas of our cartilage that we may not use on daily basis. For example, when you sit in a Lotus position, it moves your joints in a way that sitting on a chair will not. Such movements prevent degenerative arthritis or reduce your disability by ensuring that all your joints are well oiled and in good working order. (R)
The cartilage of our joints is like a sponge. It receives nourishment when the fluid gets squeezed out and new can be soaked up. If this doesn’t happen regularly - all the neglected areas of the cartilage wear out, which exposes your underlying bones.
5. Yoga protects your spine
Your spinal disks are the shock absorbers between your vertebrae. These disks manage the bulk of your neural network. The only way they will get their nutrients and stay healthy is through movement. Yoga has well balanced poses that will give you plenty of movement. Backbending, forward bending, and twisting - all keep your spine and disks supple.
6. Betters your bone health
Weight bearing exercises strengthen your bones and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Yoga has many poses when you are required to lift your own weight. Downward Facing Dog & Upward Dog - both help to strengthen the bones of your arms. Arm bones are very vulnerable to osteoporotic fractures, later in life. Yoga increases your bone density in the vertebrae. Yoga also lowers your stress levels and the cortisol hormone which keeps the calcium in your bones. (R)
7. Increases your blood flow
Yoga gets your blood pumping throughout your body. Relaxation asanas of yoga improve your circulation, especially in hands and feet. You get more oxygen in your cells - which help you perform better.
Twisting poses of yoga wring out dirty blood from internal organs. This allows oxygenated blood to free flow through your body. The Headstand and other inverted poses, even allow the venous blood of your legs to get recirculated and replaced with freshly oxygenated one. Yoga boosts your hemoglobin levels and RBCs, which carry oxygen to the tissues. Good level of Hb in the blood keeps platelets less sticky and reduces the level of clot making proteins in the blood. (R)
8. Helps boost your immunity
Yoga makes you contract and stretch most of your muscles. Coming in and out of yoga asanas, you increase the drainage of lymph in your body. Lymph is a viscous fluid that is rich in immune cells. Because of this, your lymphatic system is able to fight infection and dispose of toxic waste products. All this keeps you healthy and your immunity high! (R)
9. Yoga helps maintain your blood pressure
A simple test of not being able to touch your toes when in a sitting position, indicates arterial stiffness. Arterial stiffness precedes cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. Anyone who's got high blood pressure, will benefit from yoga. (R) Regular yoga stretching keeps your arteries pliable and lowers your blood pressure naturally. Yoga stretches create many physiological reactions which reduce age-related arterial stiffening.
Obesity, high blood sugar,and low HDL - are all causes of high blood pressure. Blood pressure also reduces because Yoga helps you stay stress free, reduces blood sugar level and promotes general fitness.
10. Yoga regulates your adrenal glands
Our adrenal glands secrete cortisol which causes a temporary boost in the immune functions. Short bursts of cortisol help increase your long-term memory. Constantly being in a state of high level cortisol undermines your memory and can cause permanent changes to your brain. High levels of cortisol have been linked to depression, high blood pressure and heart attacks. Regular Yoga helps you stay calmer which reduces your cortisol levels. (R)