Years ago, I tried yoga for the first time. Like many people, I was really skeptical as to whether or not it would actually do anything for me. As it turns out, there are some pretty unbelievable health benefits of yoga. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t give yoga a chance because they don’t have a solid understanding of what it is. In fact, before I tried yoga, I had only ever heard people say that it was for hippies.
Today I want to give some background on the practice by talking about where it comes from, how you can do it, and what some of the health benefits of yoga are. As you read on, try to keep an open mind, as yoga can significantly improve your situation if you’re coping with mental illness.
Okay, so, what is yoga?
Before we get into the health benefits of yoga, let’s address what it actually is. Yoga is essentially meditative stretching. During a yoga session, one is focused on their breath, body posture, and keeping a clear mind. There are many health benefits of yoga, though it is a perfectly viable tool to just use as a method of relaxation.
Where does it come from?
Yoga originated in India more than 5,000 years ago. Like meditation, the practice is commonly associated with religions such as Hinduism or Buddhism. However, you can practice and receive the health benefits of yoga no matter what religion you are. Yoga in itself is not a religion, but rather, a philosophy.
While some aspects of this philosophy tend to vary depending on the different styles of yoga that you choose to look at, you’ll find that the components of the practice tend to remain the same. Yoga typically considers three components: mind, body, and spirit.
There are different paths, philosophies, styles, and principles to yoga depending on where you look, but I’ll expand on these in future articles.
What is the purpose of yoga?
Yoga is commonly used for exercise and / or relaxation. However, it was initially designed for spiritual development as a way to observe your own human nature, the universe, and your mind. It is a practice that is thousands of years old that can help those seeking enlightenment or a higher state of consciousness.
Yoga trains us to be much more self-aware. It’s important to understand that yoga is just as much mental as it is physical, as the practice requires one to look inward and calm the mind.
So, what are the health benefits of yoga?
The list of health benefits of yoga can sometimes seem never-ending. Below you’ll find some of the many mental & physical health benefits of yoga. If you’re interested in the science behind these claims, I’d definitely recommend taking a look at some of the referenced articles.
Physical Health Benefits of Yoga:
- Boosts immune system
- Builds muscle
- Decreases blood pressure
- Helps prevent degenerative arthritis
- Improves balance
- Improves blood flow
- Improves flexibility
- Improves lung function
- Improves posture
- Increases bone density
- Increases good cholesterol
- Lowers bad cholesterol
- Lowers blood sugar
- Lowers risk of heart attack
Mental Health Benefits of Yoga:
- Improves attention-span
- Improves coordination
- Improves depression by significantly increasing serotonin levels
- Improves memory
- Improves reaction time
- Improves self-esteem
- Improves sleep quality
- Increases self-awareness
- Promotes mental clarity, feelings of calmness, and a quiet mind
- Reduces anxiety
- Reduces stress
What do I need to know?
Now that you’ve taken a look at that obnoxiously long list of the health benefits of yoga, I do have several important points to make:
- Be Patient – First, this is not something that you’re going to sit down and just be able to do right off the bat. Yoga takes time, and many practitioners have devoted their lives to it, don’t expect to see results overnight. Especially if you have bad anxiety, you might find yourself twitching at just the thought of sitting still. Be patient and give yourself a fair chance to slow down.
- Be Consistent – As with any form of exercise – even mental exercises such as meditation – repeating the behavior will make the results more pronounced. You’ll want to make sure that you set a routine for yourself and stay disciplined to it.
- Think Big – Yoga is very different because it encourages us to do something that a lot of people don’t do anymore: think about our existence. Yoga is a spiritual experience because we’re addressing our mind and everything that we’re made up of.
I’m sold! What do I need to get started doing yoga?
To get started doing yoga you’ll need a few things: a yoga routine, a water bottle, a yoga mat, and – if you’re not particularly flexible – a yoga block. Yoga blocks are just small blocks that one can use to release the strain of a particular stretch if it proves to be too difficult to start with. For example, if you can’t reach down and touch your toes, you might use a yoga block to close the distance between your hands and the floor.
Where do I find a good yoga routine?
Many people enjoy finding local gyms that teach yoga classes. This is a great option, especially if you can find a certified instructor. However, if you’re like me and you like to do things on your own, jump on over to YouTube. There are tons of great yoga videos and channels there. If you do some research, you can even find a certified instructor. But, you came to my blog for information so, I already found you a certified instructor on YouTube.
Check out Yoga with Adrienne. She has beginner-friendly videos that walk you through yoga sessions but also teach you about the philosophy. Furthermore, Adrienne’s videos typically include a modified version of the moves in case you’re not able to do a certain pose.
The health benefits of yoga alone are reason enough to get started. But the sense of peace and calm that comes from quieting your mind is perhaps the most crucial component for those coping with mental illness.