Of course yoga makes us feel good! It is a tried and tested holistic health system that seems to have an endless number of wellbeing benefits.
Yes there are the obvious positives to practicing yoga (toned triceps, flexible hamstrings) but the truth is, your practice may also be doing a lot more for you than you think! Check these out.
There are classes around the world that focus specifically on this subject (unsurprisingly named Detox Yoga) however you will receive benefits during any dynamic form of yoga due to the increased flow of oxygenated blood. An asana class can also help things move along – and out – as certain postures apply gentle pressure and stimulation to the digestive organs, as well as the kidneys and liver (key players within the detox process). Twists of any kind are particularly beneficial, as is the Bow Pose, and including pranayama before, during or after asana will help increase oxygen and cleanse the blood.
2. Become More Patient
Ah, another wonderful side effect of a regular practice, yoga teaches us to let go of the outcome and surrender to the present moment. Impatience is a need to be somewhere else – quickly - and there is no better way of counterbalancing impatient tendencies than holding postures and focusing on your breath. With no place to go other than your mat, you get to practice trying to find stillness and peace, exactly where you are.
3. Balance Your Hormones
Yoga is known to help bring the entire system back into equilibrium, particularly the glands of the endocrine system whose job is to secrete hormones in the body. You nourish these glands (both physically and energetically) every time you practice and some postures have a particularly powerful healing effect. Childs pose, for example, has a very soothing and rejuvenating effect on the adrenal glands, which secrete a number of hormones including cortisol, the stress hormone. So yes, at the end of a hectic day, ditch the glass of wine and hit the floor for a few minutes in Childs Pose!
4. Improve Your Concentration
Concentration is simply taking your attention to a single point of focus. In every day life the mind is easily distracted which makes it hard to concentrate and get things done. During a yoga class, you are encouraged repeatedly by your teacher to come back to your breath, which is a way of putting this single pointed focus in action. You can try this really simple technique of watching your breath any time, on or off the mat and you will notice your concentration skills start to improve.
5. Feel More Grounded
The root chakra (Muladhara) relates to our roots, our sense of physical security. When it’s functioning well, it helps us feel grounded and connected to the earth. Located two inches in front of and below the tailbone, this chakra is stimulated through wide legged asanas such as Warrior 1 and 2, Trikonasana and wide legged forward bends (standing or seated). By holding these postures you work the energy at this chakra and become more grounded, which can be particularly beneficial during times of physical change such as moving house or travel.
6. Stimulate Your Creativity
The sacral chakra (Swadisthana) is the centre of creativity within the subtle body. It is located in the region of the tailbone/sacrum so asanas that activate this area will also ignite your creative flow. Remember creativity is not just painting a picture, it also relates to the way we think and solve problems which are beneficial whether you are artistic or not! Try adding Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend), Bhujangasana (Cobra) and Janu Sirsasana (Head to Knee) pose to your practice and let your creative juices flow.
7. Increase Your Confidence
On so many levels, yoga can help you become more self-confident. It gives you a practical way of developing internal and external qualities such as strength, balance and focus and when we see improvements in our practice, our confidence naturally increases. On an energetic level, the solar plexus chakra (Manipura) relates to confidence, so including postures that stimulate and work this chakra will see you striding through life in no time. Try holding plank for a couple of minutes each morning and see what happens!
8. Sharpen Your Intuition
Your intuition is usually right and this is the aspect of our mind that we should be listening to as much as possible. A regular meditation practice helps to quiet and still the oscillating fears, phobias and anxieties of the lower mind, and creates the space for the infinite wisdom of our intuition to present us with the answers we need to guide us forward.
What benefits to you get from your practice?