With regular yoga practice you can reap a variety of health and relaxation benefits that will help you cope with life’s daily challenges and stresses. Daily meditation, controlled breathing from the diaphragm and deep relaxation at the end of each session also help to calm the mind and body.
Yoga means “union.” It aims to integrate the mind, body, heart and spirit. It focuses awareness on your mind, body and breathing to improve health. Benefits of yoga include:
- Better strength and flexibility. Slow, controlled movements warm up muscles and holding poses can build strength as well as lengthening muscles.
- Better balance. Standing on one foot in the tree pose, for instance, while you focus on a spot in front of you, can steady your balance and improve posture.
- Reduced inflammation and chronic pain. Regular yoga practice can ease some of the discomfort of swollen joints and arthritis.
- Improving heart health and breathing. Getting our blood flowing and practising diaphragmatic instead of shallow breathing is crucial to longevity.
- Relaxation and better quality of sleep. Calming our mind and body in the savasana /corpse pose or meditating prior to sleep will prepare you to fall and stay asleep.
- Relieving back pain. Specific yoga poses help to stretch, ease pain and relax tight muscles. For example, the cat/cow pose for the back or the pigeon pose for the hips.
- Decreasing stress. Yoga helps with stress management, mental health and mindfulness.
- Improving quality of life and mobility. The more active you are the better you’ll feel and remain independent.
- Easing anxiety and depression. Yoga can boost your energy level and alertness and offer positive vibes.
Different types of yoga are vinyasa, hatha, Iyengar, kundalini, ashtanga or power yoga, Bikram or hot yoga, yin yoga and restorative yoga.
With the stress of teaching secondary school and constantly tight muscles from running, I started taking hatha yoga classes to help me relax and improve my flexibility. I never thought I would be able to sit still that long or calm my mind — but to my surprise I started enjoying yoga and found that I had fewer injuries and slept better. My muscles weren’t as tight and I was able to focus and relax more.
Before long, I took intensive yoga teacher training and after retiring from education I built a studio in my basement and started teaching fitness and yoga classes at home. I even taught yoga to local kindergarten and Grade 1 classes. It was a joy to see the excitement on the kids’ faces when I walked into the room — they couldn’t wait to start.
I’ve been teaching fitness, including yoga, for 20 years and it is always rewarding and reassuring to know that my clients look forward to coming to class and feel better afterward. They are more relaxed, in less pain and can see the progress that they’ve made. It motivates them to continue practising.
I hope you enjoy my short video on diaphragmatic breathing and deep relaxation (savasana). The meditation is from Journey to the Heart by self-help author and yoga practitioner Melody Beattie. Namaste — “I bow to you.”