Submitted by Susan Tweed, PhD, RN, health educator at Optima Health, on the health benefits of yoga. Susan has been practicing yoga since her early 20′s.
Yoga has changed my life in many ways. It has helped my body stay flexible and strong and my mind become more compassionate and accepting of others.
The postures are only one part of yoga. Sometimes I take classes and other times I use a video at home or just practice some of the postures in my everyday life…like balance postures waiting in line in the grocery store.
What are some of the health benefits you can expect from a regular yoga practice?
Increased Body Awareness
You will begin to have an increased awareness of your own body. Over time, this will increase your level of comfort in your own body and can lead to improved posture and greater self-confidence.
Increased Mental Calmness
Yoga exercises, or asanas, are intensely physical. Concentrating closely on how and what you body is doing has the effect of bringing a calmness to the mind. Most yoga classes introduce you to the mediation techniques, which help calm the mind.
Physical activity is good for relieving stress. When you are focusing on your yoga practice, your daily troubles seem to melt away. This provides a break from your stressors, and helps you put things into perspective. Yoga emphasizes being in the moment which can also help relieve stress, as you learn not to dwell on past events or anticipate the future.
By stretching in new ways you will become more flexible, bringing greater range of motion to muscles and joints.
Many yoga poses require you to support the weight of your own body in new ways. In Tree Pose you balance on one leg and Downward Facing Dog requires you to support yourself with your arms. Yoga is often done slowly and purposefully which also increases strength.
Most of us breathe very shallowly and don’t give much thought to how we breathe. Yoga breathing exercises focus the attention on the breath which benefits the entire body.
Many people who suffer from back pain spend a lot of time sitting at a computer or driving a car. Increased flexibility and strength can help prevent the causes of some types of back pain.
Susan Tweed has spent the last 36 years making a difference in the lives of others. Read Family History Inspires, a personal essay on how her family history inspired her to become a nurse.