There is more to yoga than just stretching

Of the many benefits of yoga, we tend to only focus on its ability to stretch your body and help you lose weight. But this holistic practice has much more to offer.

Yoga is often referred to as a low-impact workout that stretches your muscles. But anyone who has practiced it, even for a little while, begins to see it as a science that targets your holistic wellbeing. Its benefits tend to cross over far beyond the realm of physical health and flexibility to the land of mental health and happiness as well. 

So let’s see the other benefits of yoga that people seldom talk about: 

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1. The mind-body connection
Syncing one’s breath with poses helps the mind focus its attention on breathing and body movements. For instance, in surya namaskar, one’s mind focuses on the current pose, the breath, what the next pose is, and which of the two feet to use first.

A good-to-know rule of thumb for breathing in yoga poses is: inhale every time your hands move away from the earth/mat and go towards the sky/ceiling. Exhale every time your hands move towards the earth/mat. In this way, focusing on breath and poses increases your mindfulness and is a form of meditation in itself.

Also, read: Just 20 minutes of yoga can give you better flexibility and memory. Here’s why

2. Pranayamas to relax
The stressors in our fast-paced daily life lead us to take shallow and rapid breaths. This makes us feel further agitated. Reminding ourselves and breathing slow and deep breaths makes us feel relaxed. Pranayama also focuses our attention inwards (away from the world) and our thoughts slow down. Therefore, spending five minutes to do simple pranayamas post yoga asanas and before meditation is recommended.

Pranayam can help you slow down and relax. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

3. Helps you psychologically
Chakras are the energy centers in our body that govern specific behaviours. Yoga practice works on a profound level to realign the chakras that weren’t working in an ideal way.

Psychologically, a few of the aspects I noticed changing in myself personally were: increased objectivity. I began to be less focused on my point of view and focusing on the other person’s perspective in a given situation. It made me more patient as well.

4. Pushing boundaries and letting go
When you begin a regular yoga practice you begin to understand the demands of your body better. It is essential to have an element of ease in your asana. So, you begin to understand when you can trust your body to stretch a bit more or where you can let go a little. The increased flexibility helps you build a growth mindset in life as well.

5. Bodyweight exercises
Some yoga poses require you to put their body in such orientations and positions that ultimately one has to support their own bodyweight. Chaturanga dandasana is an ideal example here. Moreover, when we try to hold standing poses such as warrior pose or triangle pose longer, it strengthens our leg muscles. Malasana, the squat holding pose and vrksasana (tree pose) are also beneficial for these reasons.

Yoga has more to offer than you thought.

6. Prevents injuries and keeps the joints mobile
Yoga asanas are designed to let your joints and most body parts such as limbs move in ways that they don’t get to otherwise. This is due to our lifestyle (we are looking at you, office chair!). The asanas ensure that our joints experience their intended full range of motion. The muscles too via regular use are better equipped to handle shocks and jerks.

Also, read: These 6 yoga stretches will prevent workout injuries by strengthening your muscles

As a new yogi, it helps to understand that yoga is just as much about feeling good, feeling present and getting better at life as it’s about toning, stretching and strengthening your muscles. The best way to experience goodness is to experience it ourselves. Did you know that a 20 minute at-home yoga session can serve these benefits too?

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