In short “physical, physiological, mental and emotional, it’s remedial and restorative, it’s health giving, and it’s fitness”.
But what does this all mean? From my perspective and 27 years of practice, yoga has sustained my overall health (mental & physiological), my fitness and wellbeing in a most natural way, but above all it has supported my healthy lifestyle, keeping me on track!
In real terms, on a physical level, you improve flexibility, posture and balance as well as building up muscular strength. It releases tension and on a deeper level you nourish your joints and tissues. So physically you are stronger, steadier and freer in your body. This translates to utilising your body more efficiently in all active tasks. Eg: gardening (bending, squatting, kneeling, pulling…), driving (turning your head independently from your trunk to check sideway or back!).
On a physiological level your immune system is strengthened and your organs work better. The combined practices of yogic breath and postures has a direct effect on your metabolism and blood circulation, as well as your respiratory, cardio, digestive and endocrine systems.
So physiologically you are more efficient and that translates into better digestion, elimination, and utilization of nutrients as well as better oxygenation.
On a mental and emotional level, your sleep improves. It is not uncommon for students to report that their best night of sleep is after a yoga class. In the practice of yoga we bring our attention inwards, we learn to be in the here and now, teaching the mind to grow quiet. We deeply connect with what is happening in the body as we move. The combined practices of yogic breath, postures, meditation and relaxation sharpen our focus and pacify the mind. Over time this translates into mind space and lightness, calmness, increased energy and lowered stress levels which all improve your physiological efficiency, hence you don’t get sick or less sick, and when sick you recover extremely fast!
So the practice of yoga does maintain, improve health and fitness, but it is also remedial and restorative. A more remedial or restorative practice can be very beneficial in case of injuries or chronic health issues, to support healing or prevent further deterioration. Studies have shown that specific yoga practices can help with lowering high blood pressure, asthma, heart conditions, arthritis, weight loss, decreasing cholesterol and blood sugar level to name a few.
Do not come to yoga when you are only feeling your best. How many times did you catch your mind saying “it’s too hot, it’s too cold, I’m tired, it’s raining, I have no time, I'll go tomorrow, ill go next week, after this or that, I’m not well, I’ve had a hard day, I did not sleep well, I’m aching, I’m down….”.
Yoga is in essence therapeutic and it reaches to us on all occasions. It picks you up when you are low or sad, it enhances your spirit when you are in the right frame of mind, happy and healthy all-is-good type of feeling, it assists in your healing process when you are sick, it appeases your mind when you are excited, angry, frustrated and it brings inner peace during challenging times.
You will always feel better after a purposeful yoga practice!
Yoga is a discipline and once instilled will guide us through the stages of our life; childhood, teenagehood and adulthood going through puberty, childbearing, parenthood, from youth to aging. The reason why yoga can benefit us as we go through our lives is because it is a tool that can be used according to our state of being. We can change the practice to suit our needs; at times dynamic and at other times more passive and restorative, and when the body is injured, a therapeutic practice. So no matter how you are feeling, it is always the right time to practice!
See you on the mat!