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Yoga and your body

Hands in prayer position
Hands in prayer position
Photo by Tim P. Whitby

This ancient form of exercise is great for so many things including stress relief, increasing balance and flexibility and improving the mind. Yoga helps rev up your system physically and mentally.

Most people breathe from their chest. Have you ever watched a baby or child breathe. Notice how they are breathing from the belly. As we get older, stress takes over and you do not pay attention to how you breathe. Breathing becomes shorter, tighter and restricting. By breathing with your chest you do not fully expand your lungs to take advantage of the air flow needed to heal the body. During Yoga in order to empower your lungs bring the oxygen within you through belly breathing. Take slow, long, deep breaths. Feel the lungs expand, as the rib cage opens and as the air fills your body down into your belly. Notice the difference of how this feels.

The benefits for your heart come with regular practice of yoga. The movement through the Asanas work the heart muscles to make the muscle stronger while inviting the relaxation and breathing techniques may help decrease your resting heart rate as well as decreasing your blood pressure.

Yoga helps your nervous system relax while you focus on your breathing, move into your poses and focus on what you are doing in the moment. This calms the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the "fight or flight" system. One of the natural channels in your body, the vagus nerve, sends the messages to calm down and relax throughout your internal organs. The vagus nerve also helps improve your immune system increasing your chances of healing during an illness or injury.

When you first begin each yoga session by slowly breathing in and out, your brain gears up the higher thought center, the prefrontal cortex, which improves your memory. The focus you place on your practice quiets that emotional network and allows you to have more control over your feelings.

Let's not forget about the hormones. Your adrenal glands, which control stress and produces cortisol, are generally overused each day. The forever to-do list, constant daily interruptions and constant running one does puts a lot of strain on the adrenal glands. To keep them in check continue your yoga practice on a regular basis. Even twenty minutes a day, two days a week will help keep your entire body more relaxed and able to deal with stress better.

By practicing yoga at least twice a week you will be increasing your balance and strength reaping all the benefits yoga has to offer. With continued practice you may find your limbs will be looser, your muscles and bones will be stronger and your mind will be clearer allowing for better choices. You may notice increased balance in your everyday lives and will be protecting your joints and ligaments from damage. You may notice improved flexibility and that you are able to get through you days a little easier. Yoga classes are all around as well as DVD's and even on cable television. Contact your local recreational center, Yoga center or YMCA and see what they have to offer.

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