Yoga is an ancient Indian discipline comprising various practices that help to strengthen the mind, body and spirit alike. Today, no place in the world remains untouched by the positive influence of yoga. The art and technique of yoga originated in the Eastern world in India many centuries ago.
Historians and scholars alike believe that yoga has been around since the era of civilization. People of spiritual and religious importance like sages, hermits, and scholars practiced yoga to strengthen their bodies, increase their mental focus, and cleanse their souls. The popularity of yoga has spread far and wide, and more and more people are embracing yoga as a part of their life.
What is it about yoga that is attracting so many people? What benefits can one seek with regular practice of yoga? Let us find out interesting facts and benefits of yoga in this blog.
The modern-day yoga practices shed light majorly on the physical benefits and peace of mind that it yields. While the beneficial effects of various asanas in developing optimum physical fitness are unquestionable, it is but a small part of yoga. Maharishi Patanjali, a sage who lived in the bygone era, described the eight limbs of yoga to describe its principles and utility.
Table of Contents
8 Limbs of Yoga By Maharishi Patanjali
- Yama: the first limb of yoga, focuses on important values and morals that pave the way for righteous behavior. A human being is nothing if there is no stability and power to the mind.
- Niyama: The second limb of yoga teaches acts of self-reflection that help us to improve our habits. Niyama advocates spiritual contentment and control.
- Asana: The third limb of yoga focuses on the physical postures that help stretch the muscles, strengthen the bones and increase physical flexibility.
- Pranayama: Pranayama, the fourth limb of yoga, sheds light on the various techniques of breathing and their importance in building a strong physique and mind.
- Pratyahara: Pratyahara is the practice of ‘withdrawing within’ to focus solely on the task at hand. The fifth limb of yoga is very useful while meditating and practicing Pranayama.
- Dharana: Dharana, the sixth limb of yoga, imparts the importance of focus and mental clarity to achieve a more significant state of mind.
- Dhyana: Dhyana, the seventh limb of yoga, and enlightens the student on the importance of complete absorption into the act of meditation.
- Samadhi: The ultimate aim of yoga is to enable students to detach from their physical selves and unite with the cosmic universe. Samadhi is the eighth limb of yoga that teaches reaching a state of complete spiritual enlightenment.
The teachings of the eight limbs of yoga lay the foundation for its role in the physical strengthening, mental elevation, and spiritual enlightenment of human beings.
Positive Effects Of Yoga On Physical Health
Name a system in the body and there is a Yoga posture that has positive effects on it. Yoga is one of the few ways of toning and strengthening your body from head to toe. Here is a system-wise break-up of the positive effects of yoga on one’s physique.
1. Brain And Nervous System
Yoga helps your body to warm up and to stretch and tone the nerves of the body. Yoga postures help enhance blood flow to the brain and rejuvenate the person’s cerebral functioning. Research has proved that the practice of some Yoga postures brings about a change in the levels of neuro-regulators. Therefore, yoga helps control and treat side effects of epilepsy, brain stroke, multiple sclerosis, and even Alzheimer’s disorder.
2. Hormonal System
Your hormones regulate the coordinated functioning of every other system in the body, including the hormonal system itself. Yoga helps control the hormones’ levels in the blood, thereby controlling their effects on other organs. Many hormonal disorders like hypothyroidism, PCOD, infertility in men and women respond well to a combination of yoga and mainstream medical treatment.
3. Cardiovascular System
The heart is a muscular organ that performs constant pumping to deliver fresh and oxygen-rich blood to all the body parts. Regular practice of yoga helps to maintain the excellent health of the cardiac muscles. Yoga helps control the blood cholesterol levels, which helps prevent clogging of the blood vessels that supply the heart muscles with oxygenated blood.
4. Respiratory System
Yoga is one of the tried and tested non-medical forms of therapy for various respiratory disorders. Patients who have asthma, chronic bronchitis, COPD, emphysema, and even those recovering from Tuberculosis may benefit by practicing yoga under professional guidance. Breathing exercises and several Yoga asanas, when performed correctly, can enhance lung capacity and improve the quality of respiratory functions.
5. Musculoskeletal System
Almost every muscle in the body benefits from the practice of yoga. Yoga postures help stretch and tone the muscles in the proper manner and even help in postural improvement. People who perform yoga regularly have greater body flexibility and physical agility. Doctors often recommend yoga to patients suffering from disorders of the joints or muscles. Patients can start yoga after orthopedic surgeries to regain the strength of their powers and bones.
6. Digestive System
Yoga plays a crucial role in improving digestive functions. Specific yoga poses help to enhance the tone of the intestinal and abdominal muscles, thereby keeping digestive disorders at bay. Yoga also helps to improve the release and circulation of digestive enzymes released by the liver and pancreas. Chronic digestive diseases respond well to the practice of yoga.
7. Blood Circulation
The beneficial action of Yoga postures on toning the body muscles extends to the blood vessels as well. Toned muscular walls of the blood vessels help to enhance blood circulation throughout the body. Healthy blood vessels maintain the ideal range of blood pressure and prevent it from rising or falling abnormally. Healthy blood circulation helps the human mind, body and Spirit to rejuvenate quickly while preventing the rapid onset of fatigue.
8. Immune System
Yoga helps build a robust immune system by improving the body’s capacity to withstand infections, allergies, and other harmful external influences. Yoga also plays a pivotal role in shaping a positive mindset (Read more about the benefits of yoga on mental health in the next section), which goes a long way in keeping one healthy and away from harm.
The beneficial effects of yoga on the digestive tract and blood circulation also affect metabolism. There are specific yoga postures that help to regulate the levels of bad cholesterol in your blood. By controlling the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins, yoga also helps to maintain an ideal weight range.
While the benefits of yoga in developing and maintaining a healthy physique are undoubtedly many, it is not advisable to begin yoga without the guidance of a professional teacher. People who want to experience the therapeutic benefits of yoga should consult with their doctor to check if practicing yoga is suitable for their health.
Let us now read about the fantastic health benefits that yoga has on one’s mental health.
Mental Health Benefits Of Yoga
The mind and the body are two sides of the same coin and cannot be separated. Mental and emotional health is as crucial as physical health, but it has been a neglected aspect of human life for a long time. The past few years have seen a rise in the awareness of the importance of mental health among people.
People have begun turning to yoga in a bid to maintain sound mental health. One of the health benefits of yoga is enhanced blood circulation to the brain and nerves. A steady supply of oxygenated blood soothes irritated nerves and helps in mental rejuvenation.
Yoga keeps a myriad of negative emotions like anger, sadness, irritation, and depression at bay.
Niyama and Dharana, the second and sixth limbs of yoga, respectively, shed light on the importance of controlling, focusing, and strengthening your mind, body and Spirit. Regular practice of yoga helps to gain more self-confidence and attract positive energy. Patients battling clinical depression, anxiety disorder, mood swings, memory disorders, and even anger disorders benefit from the regular practice of yoga.
Yoga has a profound effect on regulating the blood levels of serotonin, which is a ‘feel good’ chemical neurotransmitter. Serotonin is a natural mood enhancer that makes one feel positive and happy. Learning Yoga under professional guidance is a great way to rejuvenate your brain and mind.
Yoga For Spiritual Well-being
Yoga is an ancient discipline of life that originated in India in the era of civilization. People practiced yoga as a lifestyle and embraced all of its teachings and principles. The eight limbs of yoga were held in high regard by anyone who wished to make spiritual progress.
The principles of yoga preach the importance of mental focus, stability, and clarity, for these are essential to make your spiritual journey easy.
Ancient Hindu scriptures shed light on the concept that the mortal physique is the vehicle for the immortal soul to continue its journey in the world. The teachings of yoga help the immortal soul to develop detachment from the mortal physique. The eight limbs of yoga help you to reach an elevated plane of spiritual well-being. The Hindu ideology believes in the cycle of death and reincarnation as a constant journey for the immortal soul. Strict adherence to all principles of yoga helps to release the soul from this cycle by attaining Moksha (salvation). The ultimate aim of the soul that is no longer bound by the cycle of life and death is to unite with the cosmic universe. Yogic philosophy and principles hold the stage of the union of the soul with the divine universe in very high regard.
It took years of meditation, strict discipline, and ardent dedication to the teachings of yoga to reach the stages of salvation or union with the cosmic universe. While that may not be within everyone’s capacity, one can follow the practices of yoga and find themselves enjoying better spiritual health than they were previously doing.
Yoga is to your soul and spirit, what food is to your body. Yoga is the nutrition that you need to live a superior quality of life. Embracing yoga as a lifestyle will most certainly change your life for the better.