For many people, the initial attraction to practicing yoga is physical – toned, slim bodies walking out of yoga classes around the world are a good advertisement. But being body conscious is just the start of the consciousness which rises out of a regular practice.
Boosting the Immune System
It is well-known that Yoga restores strength and flexibility. But it also improves posture, balance, and vitality. It can help lower blood sugar levels, cholesterol and blood pressure, and it is effective in improving cardiovascular conditioning, boosting the immune system, and protecting the spine, bones, cartilage and joints.
Finding the Path to Happiness by Quieting the Mind
Because Yoga promotes relaxation, slow breathing, and a focus on the present, it helps to quiet the fluctuations of the mind. This relieves the stress and unhappiness caused by the mental loops of fear, anger, anxiety, frustration, regret and desire. The effect is not only psychological, it is physical: Yoga increases happiness, and helps to overcome depression, by actually heightening serotonin levels while decreasing the levels of monoamine oxidase (an enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters) and cortisone.
It also improves focus, and studies have found that a regular practice improves concentration, coordination, reaction time, memory, and even IQ scores (probably because the mind is less busy and distracted by its constant chattering!).
Acquiring Higher Self-Esteem and Breaking Bad Habits
With regular Yoga practice, positive feelings, such as gratitude, forgiveness, and empathy emerge more frequently, replacing negative mental and emotional conditionings. Confidence and self-esteem then rise naturally as positive feelings and patterns replace the old negative ones.
It helps people break the cycle of destructive patterns and habits. It gives them the space to become more objective and take a step back from the dramas of their lives, allowing them the opportunity to respond, rather than to react, to unpleasant situations or unsettling news, thus helping to decrease the suffering generated both for themselves and for others.
Improved Relationships and an Empowered Outlook on Life
This then leads to improved relationships, as a regular practice helps develop compassion, patience, and kindness. For those who go deeper into yoga philosophy, karma yoga – serving others – is also a boon to their relationships; when life stops being only about what you can get, and starts being about what you can give, it becomes far more rewarding and satisfying for all involved.
Because of the myriad benefits which yoga brings, by practicing regularly people empower themselves to take control of their own lives.