Yoga is considered, both in the East and the West, as one of the best exercises for physical fitness, and emotional and spiritual well-being. Its benefits are numerous, and it can be practised by anyone, the young and old alike, besides the fact that it is useful in preventing and even curing many minor and major diseases. Yoga is perhaps the best known way to bust stress, which is the root cause of chronic diseases such as reproductive problems, heart problems, immune system problems, arthritis, depression, and anxiety. Because yoga also helps in healing the mind, the healthy mind can lead to greater physical fitness, and a fit body leads to a healthy life.
The effects of yoga on the mind and body’s fitness are amazing. The muscles are exercised by stretching and relaxing. Breathing and blood circulation also improve. One develops stronger muscles, and consequently a stronger body, which makes it more resistant to illnesses, whether viral or related to stress.
Relaxation of the body and its fitness are achieved by yoga through breathing techniques known as pranayam, and strong but gentle asanas (poses). The exercises target the parasympathetic nervous system, a component of the autonomic nervous system that deals with the rest-and-repose mechanism of the body. Therefore, optimal function of this component would ensure that the damage sustained from too much stress is kept under control. Stress can show up through a sudden increase in heart rate, shallow breathing, excessive sweating, and affect physical fitness as well. Though these are normal body reactions, when an excess of these are triggered by stress it can be a sign of trouble and can upset one’s physical and mental fitness. Yoga is an effective insurance against stress-causing work overload. It restores the body to its natural balance and fitness.
Stress also causes increased cortisol levels in the body, which lead to suppression of the immune system, which in turn lead to chronic diseases and also sleep disturbances, loss of appetite, and loss of sex drive. Besides, wear and tear of our organs leading to loss of physical fitness can also be attributed to stress.
This is where the amazing benefits of yoga can be tapped. Its relaxation techniques can counteract the stress, and improve the performance of the circulatory, digestive, reproductive, immune, and glandular systems, boosting overall fitness.
The asanas, or physical poses, enhance the circulation of blood and fluids to different parts of the body. Its breathing exercises improve the function of the lungs, and it also calms the mind. People who practice it regularly become less dependent on medication for their fitness. Though all this may sound very appealing, one must remember that yogs’s positive effects do star to show overnight. They are felt in the long run, and even patients can start feeling healthier than ever before.
It is arguable whether the many practitioners of yoga caused scientists to research its health benefits, or the positive results of these studies influenced more people to adopt this ancient art of fitness. Either way, the studies have shown that it really can cause improvement in terms of the physical and biochemical fitness of the body.
The asanas of yoga contribute to fitness of the body by improving the flexibility, lubrication, and strength of the joints, tendons, and ligaments. Another interesting, and no doubt beneficial, aspect is its capability to massage the glands and internal organs, including those which receive little or no stimulation such as the prostate gland. This improves the fitness of the organs and their systems. It also helps in the detoxification of the body and thus increases longevity.
As for mental fitness, it enhances awareness of the self and the environment, improves self-esteem, affords the opportunity for self-realisation, improves social skills, concentration, memory and attention.
At yoga’s core is the concept of union. The practice aims to unify the spirit, mind, and body through regular physical and breathing exercises. It is debatable whether yoga practitioners actually achieve this state of union because it is not something that science can test.
Yoga has been in existence for thousands of years, mainly in India and Asia and, more recently, in western countries. Many people have experienced its benefits which include self-healing, serenity, and harmony with all living things.