Yoga, which means ‘union’, promotes a healthy mind, body and breath and is something that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities especially with the stresses and strains of our lives today.
Yoga works in a holistic way, that is, it works on the whole body. Yoga can improve the physical structure of our bodies and can increase our breathing capacity. Yoga can also bring us a sense of calm and relaxation.
By working with physical movements, known as postures or ‘asana’, we can improve the range of movements within our joints increasing both suppleness and strength. Tight muscles can restrict our movements and can cause us structural strain; for example tight hips can strain our knees and tight hamstrings can cause us lower back pain. Strong muscles help to support and bring stability to our joints especially the spine which is a common site of strain. Yoga postures take the spine through it’s full range of movements in a precise controlled way which can be extremely beneficial in releasing postural back pain.
Taking joints through their full range of movement keeps them healthy and can even help to prevent against degenerative arthritis.
Yoga focuses on the breath by encouraging a relaxed ‘steady’ breathing during the physical postures and in particular during relaxation at the end of the class. There are also dedicated breathing exercises that may be taught during the yoga class. All of these techniques help to improve lung function and reduce stress.
Yoga can help to reduce stress by influencing our nervous system shifting the balance from the sympathetic nervous system that is responsible for the ‘fight or flight’ response to the parasympathetic nervous system that brings the body back to balance. By staying focused on our breath and our physical movements we can also switch off from the constant fluctuations of the mind.
This is why yoga is a holistic practice; integrating improved physical well-being with improved breathing and encouraging a quieter, peaceful mind.
Member of the British Wheel of Yoga www.bwy.org.uk