Namaste! June 21st is the fourth International Day of Yoga. To help you celebrate, let’s take a look at yoga and how it can improve your health and well-being.
Yoga has its origins in ancient India, dating back to the pre-Vedic Indian traditions. Yoga has been an integral part of our ancestor’s lives. It finds various mentions in the Rigveda, the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. Modern-day practitioners view yoga as a form of exercise, especially in the West. India however, has a much more revered view of yoga. Our ancestors believed that yoga heals the body, the mind and the soul, keeping us in harmony with nature.
What is Yoga?
The word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘yuj’, which means ‘to yok or join together’. Some believe this indicates a union of the body and the mind. Yoga is a combination of various physical, mental and spiritual practices that aim to relax the body and the mind. Yoga is a vast field, with different branches of yoga for different purposes. For instance, Hatha Yoga focuses on improving the physical health through ‘asanas’ and postures, whereas Raja Yoga targets the mind through concentration, meditation and breathing techniques.
Experts are in constant debate over the effects of yoga on a person’s health. Many scientific articles have been published on the health benefits as well as medical uses of yoga. While some debate that yoga acts as a placebo, studies show that yoga affects a person’s health just like any other well-designed exercise program would – improving their health and stamina, while reducing stress and other side-effects of a sedentary lifestyle.
Yoga for Mental Health
The most common method of mind-body intervention used to cope with depression is Yoga. Practising yoga can significantly reduce anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts while at the same time improving mental health. Yoga acts as an anti-stress agent by reducing the cortisol levels (stress hormones) in the system.
Studies have shown that practising yoga can have positive benefits for people having various mental health conditions including ADHD, schizophrenia and PTSD
Yoga for Physical Health
Today’s generation has a sedentary lifestyle filled with stress and supplemented with poor food habits. All of this combined puts a person at a major risk for various diseases. Studies show that regular yoga practitioners were able to significantly improve their flexibility, muscular strength, respiratory endurance and balance. Yoga practitioners frequently report that they are able to sleep better and feel less stressed.
As a form of exercise, yoga can effectively control a person’s blood pressure and cholesterol, keeping the heart safe from harm. Yoga lowers the heart rate, which is beneficial for people who have had a stroke.
A major health concern among the elderly is poor balance. As a person gets older, falls can be more fatal to them and can cause disabilities or even death. Yoga helps to improve balance and posture, which in turn can help improve a person’s quality of life. Yoga can also help with arthritis by helping you stay flexible and strong, without putting any added stress on your body.
In celebration of Yoga Day, let’s roll out our yoga mats and experience the benefits of yoga for ourselves while staying relaxed and rejuvenated. Remember, to fully reap the benefits of yoga, it needs to become a regular part of your routine. So start today! Check out these simple yoga poses for beginners, or try these yoga poses for specific parts of your body.
Author: Manju Athilat
Manju is our resident content writer. With a masters degree in biomedical engineering and a passion for healthcare, she authors content with a focus on living a healthy lifestyle and practicing preventive health.