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Yay for Yoga!

Find out why everyone is joining the “pose posse”

DSC_9930In the search for fitness, health, wellness and happiness, many people have come to yoga. Yoga’s popularity is evident in the burgeoning yoga studios, classes and trainings available at almost every corner of the world. Those who embark on a regular yoga practice speak favourably of its benefits and share impressive stories of transformation. So, what exactly is this thing called yoga?

From Zen to Now

Yoga is an ancient Indian body of knowledge with a history of more than 5000 years. The word “yoga” came from the Sanskrit word “yuj” which means “to unite or integrate”. Yoga was originally developed to achieve union of a person’s consciousness and the universal consciousness. In order for us to be in harmony with ourselves and the environment, we have to integrate the body, the mind and the spirit. The Yogis formulated a way to achieve and maintain this balance and it is done through physical postures, breathing and meditation.

For the modern practitioner, yoga refers to the practice of physical postures or poses called “asana”. Asana is only one type of yoga. However, the words “asana” and “yoga” have become almost synonymous in our modern context. When you attend a yoga class in a studio, you will most likely be taught specific asanas and a few breathing techniques.

Each asana has specific physical benefits. The asanas can be done quickly and continuously, creating heat in the body through movement or more slowly to increase stamina and achieve good alignment of the pose. Many people think that yoga is stretching. But while swoman exercising yoga  Adho Mukha Svanasanatretching is certainly involved, yoga is really about creating balance in the body through developing both strength and flexibility.

Bountiful Benefits

Strength, Flexibility and Healthy Bones

The body attains flexibility and strength through regular practice of asanas. In eight weeks, your flexibility can improve by 30% to 35%. You can then move around better, and feel less stiff and tired. Certain yoga styles such as Power yoga and Ashtanga yoga can also enhance your strength and endurance. Some poses require you to bear weight on your upper body (e.g. push-up plank, downward facing dog), while standing poses strengthen the muscles in the legs.

Weight bearing exercises also tone your bones and stimulate the bones to retain calcium and produce more bone mass, reducing your risk of osteoporosis. Compared to other weight bearing exercises like walking and running, yoga asanas involve the whole spine, arms, shoulders, elbows, legs, knees, ankles, and feet, while encouraging a full range of motion. Yoga involves standing poses as well as arm balances and inversions, hence it is more efficient in enhancing overall bone health.

Yoga poses also help to cultivate core awareness and strength, so that your posture naturally improves. You will be able to sit and stand tall, and you are more likely to correct your own posture when you catch yourself slouching.

Better Circulation and Nutrient Absorption

The benefits of yoga reach beyond your muscular and skeletal systems. B. K. S. Iyengar, master of yoga’s therapeutic applications, explains the benefits of yoga by means of its “squeezing and soaking” actions. In yoga, we practice poses that involve deep twisting, compression and then release. Through the process of squeezing out the old, stale blood or lymphatic fluids and soaking the area with fresh, oxygenated blood or fluids, yoga helps the body to utilise the nutrients it needs. This promotes better circulation and efficient absorption of nutrients in our cells.

Mental Health

Proper breathing helps in calming the mind and reducing harmful effects of stress on your mind and body. Mindful breathing is the essence of yoga practice and you will learn to make use of breathing to calm yourself in times of stress or anger. This helps to lower your blood pressure, reduce the stress hormones in your body and prevent many diseases and conditions induced by chronic anxiety and stress.

Yoga’s deep breathing and meditation practices also help to unclutter the mind. You learn to calm the mind and body and keep distracting thoughts away while you focus on your body, posture or breath. Even off the yoga mat, you are able to keep distractions away and handle your tasks with improved focus and concentration.woman exercising yoga meditating

Quality Sleep

During sleep, our body repairs on a cellular level and removes toxins. So if you have problems getting a good night’s sleep, chances are that you may be ageing faster than you should be. Regular yoga practice is known to cure insomnia or abnormal sleeping habits. The practice of certain yoga postures will increase the blood circulation to the sleep centre in the brain, normalising the sleep cycle.

As a result, the quality of your sleep improves as yoga increases the elimination of toxins from the body and rejuvenates the entire body right down to the cellular level. Yoga will help you fall asleep sooner and improve the quality of your sleep so that you need less. You will have a more restful sleep because of the relaxing aspect of yoga and the subsequent relieving of stress, tension and fatigue, and you’ll wake up every morning ready to go.

Yoga for Everyone

Not everyone can run or lift weights, but everyone can practice yoga. Start by looking for a yoga class that suits your health condition and needs. If you are looking for relaxation and a gentle workout, join a restorative or gentle yoga class for beginners. If movement, building strength and flexibility is right up your alley, sign up for a dynamic power yoga or flow yoga class. The good news is that with the great number of yoga studios and classes available, it is easy to find a class just right for you. There are also many online classes that you can watch and follow in the comfort of your own home. Start today to see the transformation in your mind and body!

Wendy Chan is a certified yoga instructor and the founder and director of Yoga Seeds Pte Ltd, a yoga events, retreats and training company based in Singapore. Wendy hosts regular yoga retreats and trainings all over Asia. Her style of yoga is a unique blend of Classical, Vinyasa and Yin Yoga, with emphasis on the breath in both movement and stillness. Find out more at
Posted by ezyhealth on Dec 5 2014. Filed under Fitness, Wellness. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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