Experts disagree on the history if yoga, but some believe it dates back as far as 6000BCE. It is certainly true that evidence of yoga practice can be found in Hindu texts as old as 2000BCE. Yoga focuses on the mind as much as the body. It is not a form of exercise intended singularly for physical fitness, but rather is a holistic approach – meaning the body and the mind are viewed as one, both equally important. In yoga, the well-being of the body is linked completely with the well-being of the mind; you cannot have one without the other.
As such, there are a vast number of benefits to yoga in everyday, modern life. On the physical side of things, these include:
– Improved flexibility and muscle tone. For weight loss, yoga can really help to improve tone. More generally, yoga movements and poses help to gently increase flexibility, which in time can vastly improve health (particularly among the more elderly)
– Increased stamina and concentration. This is an example of a benefit to yoga which crosses between physical and mental well-being. Many more advanced yoga poses require stamina to hold the pose for an extended period of time, but this physical stamina needs to relate to calm and centred concentration from the mind. This is a particularly useful benefit for sports men and women and runners. It is also thought to be beneficial to pregnant women, since practicing these states of mind can assist calm focus and stamina during labour.
– Improved flexibility for the joints. Yoga can really help to encourage flexibility in the joints, without risking damage or wear to the joints. This is particularly beneficial for the elderly, who are more likely to experience stiffness and reduced mobility in the joints. Because yoga should be practiced daily, frequent use of the joints can really help to keep them supple and mobile.
– Detoxifying affects. By encouraging blood flow all over the body, yoga can help muscles and organs that might otherwise be starved of oxygen to gain a much larger influx, which helps the body to expel toxins that may have built up.
As mentioned, the second but equally important focus of yoga is on mental well-being. So here are a number of benefits to yoga which relate to the mind rather than the body.
– Improved ability to focus and concentrate. Though not technically difficult, many yoga moves and poses require concentration and focus to maintain balance. Calm concentration is central to yoga, and instructors will advise the yoga practiser to clear their mind, which in turn makes concentration on the task at hand much easier. This can be translated into many other everyday tasks.
– Taking time to relax and reflect. Yoga should be practiced daily in a quiet, calm environment. Everyday life can be so busy, rushed and stressful that taking a short amount of time each day to stop and be calm can have substantial benefits. Stress can genuinely affect physical well-being (a consistently stressed person will likely have a lessened immune system and be more susceptible to illness), so taking some time to relax each day is a fantastic benefit of yoga.