Yoga is a practice that reaches far beyond traditional physical exercise. The ancient training encompasses many different facets including breath work, physical postures, and meditation to ultimately allow the practitioner to reach the state of samadhi, or enlightenment and nirvana. This sacred practice is the perfect resolution for your New Year's exercise routine, because yoga is a lifestyle. And once you begin incorporating all the elements of yoga into your daily life, the physical exercise aspect will naturally manifest itself, becoming an unbreakable part of your daily routine. No more resolutions that disappear after one month. No more unhappiness about your body. No more stress through the mind. The practice of yoga teaches you to respect and honor the body as you challenge your physical limits daily with grace and playfulness. There are infinite reasons why yoga should be one of your New Year's resolutions, but here are ten key points as to why it should be high on your list this year:
10 Creates Flexibility
It is no secret that yoga creates flexibility. But more often than not, people claim that they cannot do yoga because they are not flexible. This absurd excuse is like saying you are too dirty to take a shower. This is because the practice of yoga actually creates flexibility in the body, so it is certainly not a prerequisite for practicing. The more that you practice yoga, the more you will find yourself moving deeper and deeper into postures that at one point seemed impossible. As you move with control and follow your breath, you will soon find that flexibility is well within your reach (as are your toes!).
9 Strengthens Muscles
The physical practice of yoga is the perfect combination of strengthening and stretching the muscles of the body. So just as yoga creates flexibility, yoga also strengthens your muscles. The practice is much more than simply sitting in a forward fold. There are many different styles of yoga, many of which are dynamic and vigorous physical exercises. Can yoga help you to lose weight? Absolutely. Can yoga create chiseled abs and toned arms? Without a doubt! So if you’re looking for an exercise routine this New Year to work the full body and encompass strength training, flexibility calisthenics and the power of the breath, then look no further than yoga.
8 It is Detoxifying
Yoga is a unique form of physical exercise, because it works very closely with the major hormone systems of the body to specifically target different glands with each posture. Aiming to either stimulate or inhibit blood flow, yoga uses deep twists, inversions, and folds to literally wring out the internal organs of the body. The regeneration of blood flow aids the body in cleansing, purifying, and removing toxins. Furthermore, many pranayama (or breath work) exercises help to detoxify the body on a more esoteric level, removing any buildup of unwanted energy and balancing the right and left sides of the body.
7 Relaxes and Relieves Stress
According to Mayo Clinic, numerous studies have shown yoga to help reduce stress and anxiety. The mind-body practice of yoga teaches you to listen carefully to your breath and sit in relaxation for at least a few minutes every day. Just bringing simple mindfulness and awareness to the thoughts that pass through your head helps to alleviate stressful thoughts, which is practiced time and time again in yoga. MSN states that just a few minutes of yoga during your day can relax both your body and your mind by “releasing tension that accumulates in your muscles and pacifying your overworked brain.” So if you’re looking for a Zen and stress-free New Year, then you definitely want yoga as a part of your life.
6 It Energizes
A normal workout routine can leave you feeling exhausted and sore. However, yoga creates the opposite effect. According to the Art of Living, a well-balanced yoga practice will leave you feeling energized. With a combination of challenging physical postures, control of the breath, and relaxation of the mind, yoga is a perfectly balanced practice to restore and rejuvenate the body and mind. Practicing daily, can create drastic shifts in energy levels, which drastically affect your whole mood. Incorporating a yoga practice into your daily life will create a surge of energy in all that you do.
One of the most important lessons learned in yoga is how to control the breath. Pranayama (or breath work) is incorporated into every yoga practice. Pranayama literally translates to the flow of life force, and as you control this flow, you cleanse and remove unwanted or stagnant forces. Breathing is the only autonomous system of the human body that can be consciously controlled by the mind. And according to Gaia, the breath is an indicator of the mood and the mood is an indicator of the breath. So when you control your breath, you can positively affect your mood. Furthermore, Gaia states that breathing slower and taking longer, deeper breathes can reduce your appetite, once again allowing yoga to positively affect your body and your mind.
4 Positively Affects the Organs
The American Heart Association claims “yoga can help lower blood pressure, increase lung capacity, improve respiratory function and heart rate, boost circulation, and muscle tone. It can also improve your overall well-being while offering strength-building benefits.” The physical practice of yoga moves and contorts the body in ways that constrict and elongate the internal organs to move the blood flow and help increase circulation. The practice of pranayama works with lengthening and retaining the breath to improve lung capacity and respiratory abilities. And the aerobic practices within yoga help to maintain healthy (and even improve) heart rates. Even more, the spiritual and emotional practice of yoga calms the body and the mind to keep anxiety and stress levels low, maintaining a healthy and happy heart.
Mediation is the focal point of a yogic practice. It is said that the physical postures of yoga were simply created to prepare a yogi’s body to sit in meditation for longer periods of time. The symbiotic relationship of yoga and mediation is crucial to the practice. Within the exercises of yoga, you are always encouraged to turn your attention inward and notice all of the sensations happening within your body, as well as the thoughts moving through your mind. The physical asana practice is meant to be a meditation in movement, carefully and mindfully gliding the body from pose to pose linked by the breath. The meditative aspect of the practice provides infinite benefits to both the body and the mind, making it one of the most beneficial and essential elements of yoga.
2 It Opens the Heart
Countless postures within the physical practice of yoga are backbends, also known as heart openers. These postures counteract the way that most people tend to hold their bodies all day long. A traditional desk job where you are working at a computer, tends to cause the shoulders to round and the back to become slightly hunched forward, lengthening the muscles behind the shoulders, but also simultaneously shortening the muscles of the chest. Backbends counter this action by opening the chest and shoulders (also known as the heart center, or Anahata Chakra). Opening this center of the body has benefits on both a physical and esoteric level. Keeping the body neutral and balanced, the opening of the heart also symbolizes an open heart in life, allowing for healthy vulnerability and openness to both giving and receiving love.
1 Encourages Presence
Possibly the most important thing that yoga teaches is presence. Becoming totally aware and engaged in the present moment creates peace of mind and gratitude. By living in the present moment, anxiety and stress are relieved, and mindfulness is achieved. Yoga encourages you to be aware of your body, your breath, and your mind in each moment. Yoga teaches patience and faith, as you’ll witness tiny accomplishments with each practice, such as a slightly deeper forward fold or a slightly easier-held plank. Slowing down and becoming mindful and conscious is the essence of a yoga practice and the perfect way to ring in the New Year.
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