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Yogis have known the benefits of regular yoga practice for thousands of years and here in the West, we are finally learning about all yoga has to offer. Far from just being a spiritual journey to enlightenment, yoga has many positive benefits for both our physical and mental health. Here are five ways regular yoga practice is good for you.
1. It protects your body
In a world where good physical health is a major goal for many, the physical benefits of yoga are well known. But yoga can do more for you than just reshape your body or be an alternative to the gym. Regular yoga practice protects your body by increasing your flexibility and muscle strength, improving your posture, and improving the health of your spine and joints.
Yoga asanas (postures) stretch and strengthen your body as you move through them.
At the same time, asanas rely on body strength to hold each position. This natural increase in strength and muscle protects your body from injuries and falls, and improves your balance. Additionally, because you move your body through a full range of motion during yoga practice, your joints and spine benefit from fresh nutrients moving through them which keeps them healthy and prevents a breakdown in cartilage.
Yoga’s ability to protect your body doesn’t stop there. Asanas focus on aligning the body correctly. Not only does the correct alignment of your spine and joints further reduce your risk of injury but it encourages and ‘retrains’ your muscles so that your posture naturally improves over time. When you demonstrate good posture, you reduce your risk of developing headaches, back and neck pain, reduce your levels of fatigue, and your digestion and breathing improve.
2. It helps your heart and lungs
Many people think of yoga as a passive activity with slow movements that barely change your heart rate but in truth, yoga has a positive effect on your heart rate, blood flow and breathing. Yoga styles such as flow or Ashtanga are especially good for increasing your heart rate due to their more dynamic nature but in reality, all forms of yoga help to increase your heart rate and blood flow during practice and this is in part due to the focus on breathing.
One of the key concepts in yoga is breathing, particularly through the nostrils. Breathing brings prana (or life force) into your body and keeps energy flowing through you.
Effective breathing also increases your blood flow, improving your circulation, and increasing your red blood cell count which helps to thin your blood and reduce the risk of clots forming (this in turn helps to reduce your risk of stroke or heart attack from a blood clot).