developed over thousands of year in observation and practice, provides the yogi
with stimulation and re-balancing of the endocrine & nervous systems which
in turn influences all internal organs and other systems within the body. Furthermore,
Yoga practice includes steps, which leads us to observe and enhance consciously
our inner world, thus assisting concentration, mental equilibrium, a general
relaxed poise and harmonious attitude to our environment and ourselves.
The daily practice of Asanas
can counter the
effects of a variety of ailments. Research has been done on many forms of practice
and favourable results were reported for conditions from asthma to arthritis,
from diabetes to high blood pressure, and from digestive disorders to heart
conditions. Laboratory tests have proved yogis’ abilities to consciously
control autonomic or involuntary functions, such as temperature, heartbeat and
Yoga acts both as a curative and preventive therapy. Contrary to the universally
excepted axiom that says becoming weak and sick is age-given, we should understand
that largely, the ageing process is caused by self-poisoning. The body has an
amazing regenerating capacity built in to its natural processes and mechanisms
and Yoga can assist stimulating this often burdened and abused complex and re-engage
the rejuvenation process, which is a component of our natural state. By keeping
the body clean, flexible and well lubricated, we can significantly reduce the
catabolic process of cell deterioration.
Yoga effects on the body are somewhat difficult to study with normal methoded
- isolating psycho/physical benefits as researched in laboratory studies, simply
because regular Yoga practice works on several systems simultaneously. Another
difficulty stems from the fact that there are many different types of Yoga (a
recent research in the USA alone has identified 27 different styles taught and
practised, ranging from very gentle meditative forms to the variety of the intense
styles). However, enough research and observation have been done
to note that Yoga provides benefits at all levels of our being: Physical, emotional,
mental and spiritual:
- Overall flexibility – 21st century lifestyle hardly calls for
the kind of movements that enact our naturally intended abundant physical activities
(remember your childhood?). The effect of lubricating the joints, ligaments
and tendons can take years off systems sluggish from too many sedentary habits.
Furthermore, unlike normal stretching routines, the interrelated fashion by
which Yoga is structured increases flexibility in all parts of the body.
- Increased fitness – Yoga has been proven to enhance the fitness
of practitioners as effectively as most athletic training. In recent studies
it has been shown to increase not just the muscle-tone, but also strength and
fatigue resistance capabilities as well as cardiovascular fitness.
- Internal massage/stimulation of organs. In fact, Yoga is probably the
only model of activity that takes complete care of all the internal systems
– even rarely stimulated organs such as the prostate and the pancreas.
This stimulation further enhances internal balance and assists the body in maintaining
a working order of all its functions.
- Most people tend to breathe in such a shallow fashion, that on average
they use only 15-20% of their lung capacity. Yoga retrains people to breathe
using their full lung capacity. The increase in enriched oxygen intake coupled
with better circulation to the muscles ensures optimum blood supply and nourishment
to all the cells in the body. Enhanced breathing also affects a better lymphatic
suction which helps in flushing out toxins.
- Some of the Asanas, such as the Shoulder Stand and the Fish Pose (which
targets the thyroid), stimulate the hormonal system thus regulating processes
such as metabolism and maintaining/reducing weight. Also, the transformation
of fat to energy assists and increases the conversion of fat tissues to muscles.
- Virtually all participants in long-term Yoga practices report an invigorating
effect and general upliftment of moods due to the increased vitality they experience.
- Enhanced breathing and relaxation effects anxiety levels and reduces
stress, which is now a given symptom and unfortunately accepted fact in every-day
life. The regular activity of stretching and relaxation affects the overall
emotional balance of Yoga practitioners and inoculates them to situations of
- Though the mechanism is not fully known (from a scientific point of
view), Yoga has been noted to help battling depressive disorders. It is assumed
that neurotransmitters in the brain seem to be effected by regular practice
through stimulation of the glandular system (particularly pineal and pituitary
- One of the most profound benefits of Yoga is the increased sense of
self-awareness and the ability to detect subtle changes in one’s homeostatic
processes (balance). Thus an impending infection or health disorder is sensed
well in advance of physical symptoms and allow time for pre-emptive measures.
Patients who studied Yoga reported using their experience to combat pain.
- A common Pranayama technique – Kapalbhati (alternative nostril
breathing) has been shown in EEG studies to increase activity in the side of
the brain opposite to the nostril. These findings suggest an increase in right-left
cross communication and an overall cognitive performance.
- The hectic pace and daily burdens of modern life-style often create
conflicts and confuse the mind. Yoga practitioners are likely to be better equipped
to handle a demanding schedule of tasks as combined Asana and meditation practice synchronises the Mind-Body connection and so assists in achieving focus. Yoga
is also proven to reduce high levels of Cortisol - the so-called Stress Hormone.
- Some of the advance practices of Yoga allow the practitioner to access
powers and abilities of the mind that are normally blocked or limited. The performance
of tasks, which are considered extraordinary or even paranormal, have been noted
and proven beyond doubt.
All these benefits on the physical,
emotional and mental aspects of our well-being are no doubt important
contributions to one’s life. Amazingly, they could all be considered ‘side
effects’ for the Yoga practitioner.
Why is that so? The practice of Yoga as we most people know it – Asana &
Pranayama – those are really just the preliminary step-stones meant to
prepare the practitioner for the internal journey of meditation and the
deepening of comprehension of the ultimate reality – the
Brahman Atman. Though very few people
indeed ever get close to that ultimate state of Atman Bodh – so called the
realisation of the Self – there is no doubt that serious Yoga practice, more
than anything, is a spiritual practice. Many benefits are derived from any
spiritual practice, mainly because at the heart of such practice are the
elements of grace, wonder and gratitude, all qualities which greatly
contribute to the state of happiness.
Although it is hard to conceive we can completely dedicate ourselves to the
spiritual journey of Yoga, any regular practice can definitely provide
spiritual mettle and serenity:
- Detachment from grasping onto circumstances in life, which stems out
of the perspective and insight gained through meditation.
- Calmness of mind leads to positive outlook, which in turn has great
influence for overall health.
- Inner peace leads to greater relaxation.
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