Yoga is renowned for its ability to unite the body, mind, and spirit, which is related to the belief that both mind and body are one, and that bodies are able to reach perfect harmony enabling them to heal themselves.
Yoga has increased in popularity in recent years, with an estimated 6 million Americans currently engaging in regular workouts. Part of yoga's popularity is simply that it provides so many health benefits. It assists a person in becoming more aware of their body: their posture, their alignment, and the way they move. Yoga helps people become more relaxed and centered, less prone to stress, more energetic, happier, healthier, and more peaceful.
The start of a class usually consists of breathing and stretching, which aids participants in preparing mentally as well as physically. During most classes, the asanas are performed either as individual poses, or linked together in vinyasana. The class usually ends by a period of relaxation and meditation in shavasana (corpse pose).
There are several forms of which can be practiced. Generally different forms of yoga produce different benefits. For example, Iyengar is for correct bodily alignment, and often utilizes props (including blocks, straps, or cushions). Bikram is also known as hot yoga, as it's performed in a heated room. It generally consists of a set of 26 poses done in a particular order. These are both forms of Hatha yoga and are commonly practiced in the US, as they focus on the use of strengthening and breathing exercises.
How can you benefit? Yoga promotes excellent flexibility, is great for the circulation, and also increases muscle strength. The benefits go beyond the physical body, as it also promotes a calm and relaxed state. Yoga has, as one of it's most basic goals, the aim of balancing a person's life with respect to mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health.
From a scientific standpoint, yoga has been studied and practiced for thousands of years. While the practice is ancient, the principles have been studied and proven by modern medicine to be beneficial. Over the years, substantial research has been done on the health benefits, through the Asanas and through Pranayama (breathing). Yoga has been shown to produce three sorts of effects on the body: physiological, psychological, and biochemical.
As far as physiology is concerned, yoga is able to reduce the respiratory rate and pulse, it can lower blood pressure, improve cardiovascular activity, assist in the body's excretory systems, aid in weight control, and effect a decrease in pain. Psychologically, yoga has been demonstrated to improve overall mood and feelings of well-being, it can decrease both anxiety and depression, improve the concentration, assist in learning, and even improve social skills and depth perception, as well as an overall increase in self acceptance. Biochemically, yoga has been shown to decrease blood glucose, sodium, both LDL and VLDL cholesterol, and increases HDL cholesterol and hemoglobin, and also creates a decrease in overall white blood cell count.
Yoga is a simple and profound practice which does more for people than other forms of exercise, and just a few yoga sessions a week are all a person needs to greatly increase their overall health and well-being.
Ana Paula Hernandez has over twenty years of yoga experience, and knows how beneficial it is for the body. She promotes a focus on the basic yoga poses and postures as a means of maximizing benefits.