For the yogi in you

For the yogi in you

World Yoga Day

For the yogi in you

In the last decade, Indians have been spending more and more money than ever before on healthcare and wellness. Despite this, incidences of heart attacks, cancer, anxiety, depression etc. continue to be on the rise. Expensive diets and state-of-the-art fitness studios are clearly not helping us combat the stress of our lifestyles. What is the solution to this clear paradox?

The solution lies in a system of health that is holistic. A system that can address the cause instead of treating the symptoms of our ailments. This system might well be the ancient practice of yoga.

With the increasing interest in health, fitness and wellness, yoga has gone mainstream. Until now, yoga was perceived as something slow and boring. However, as the number of yoga classes grew and an increasing number of lithe bodies got certified to teach yoga, people began thronging to yoga studios everywhere. Today, we see dancers, martial art exponents, crossfitters, bodybuilders and weight-lifters heading to the neighbourhood yoga centres. Why are so many people turning to yoga? Clearly there is something in the practice that is benefiting people.

What are the benefits of yoga and why does yoga provide all the benefits that other systems of movement don’t?
The answer lies in yoga’s inherent ability to impact the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Nervous System, or the SNS and PNS. The SNS is responsible for the flight response of the human body.  As humans, we are constantly bombarded with stressful thoughts and situations and this causes the SNS to constantly be active in our body.

Yoga helps in strengthening your responses and perception so that the SNS isn’t overworked and fatigued. The Parasympathetic Nervous System is the complimentary system to the SNS. It is responsible for our ‘rest and digest’ activities.  
So once the SNS is stimulated, the PNS kicks in to bring the body back to its normal state. Any aberration in the behaviour of these systems weakens the body and can even prove to be fatal over time.

Here are some of the reasons why yoga is beneficial for you...

Improves flexibility
As a form of movement, yoga focuses on keeping the body supple and flexible. As we discover the deceptive joys of sedentary lifestyles, we lose our mobility. This translates to creaky, painful joints and restricted movement.

Decreases chances of injury
With daily yoga practice, your coordination improves. Performing different asanas while controlling your breath and transitioning from one asana to the next, requires the practitioner to cultivate mind-body coordination. When our coordination improves, our reflexes also improve.

Corrects the posture
Yoga focuses on the health of the spine. Taking time to focus on form helps in gradually fixing any imbalances and weaknesses in the spine. It also ensures that your abdominal muscles are strong and supple enough to support your spine.

Increases focus
You may have heard time and time again that you need to do your asanas ‘correctly’. This means that you must be very present in the moment. This increases your ability to focus on any task at hand.

Reduces the risk of lifestyle-related diseases
Yoga has proven effective in common lifestyle-related diseases and conditions such as blood pressure, migraines, diabetes, stress and obesity. Most lifestyle-related conditions are due to our physiological and psychosomatic responses to the situations we encounter. These responses can be regulated by the healthy functioning of the SNS and PNS.
Changes fascia
If you’ve been up-to-date on the latest fads about yoga, you might have come across the concept of face yoga. This type of yoga helps prevent wrinkles and even change the shape of the face. The body of a practicing yogi also changes from a stiff one to a more fluid and graceful body. The reason for this is that yoga helps in changing the fascia of the body. Fascia is sticky connective tissue, which binds our body together. Repeated practice of asanas actually changes the fascia, which makes it seem like our genetic attributes have changed.

Improves balance
Yoga works on balancing the left and the right sides of your body. Everyone has a side which is stronger. For instance, you may prefer to lift a heavy bag of groceries with your right hand, or kick with the right leg. This shows that the right side is the dominant, and usually, the stronger side. There is a need to strengthen the side which is weaker, to attain balance within your own body. If either side of the body is weak, the spine ends up compensating for the weaker side. This is an additional load on the spine, and it causes severe backache. After only a few years of a solid yoga practice you will be able to balance on your head. However, within a couple of months you will experience a new sense of balance while standing on your feet as well.

Inner peace
The meditative quality of the practice enables you to live more intentionally. When you correct yourself mindfully, you unconsciously begin to assess and even change existing habits in the other areas of your life too.

Keep in mind that the studies done regarding yoga aren’t exhaustive, and there is a lot more research that is yet to be done. However, the effects of yoga on people are numerous. On this International Yoga Day it is a good idea to plan how you can inculcate yoga into your life.