Yoga: what does it mean to you? For most people who practice, yoga means having a healthier mind and body. It means less medication and an improved quality of life. Yoga does many things for the mind and body. It can decrease stress, depression, and anxiety. It can lead to increased self-love and self-esteem. Yoga can also help the physical body to be healthier as well.
Yoga benefits the mind in multiple ways. By transferring you from the sympathetic (fight or flight) to the parasympathetic (“rest and digest”) nervous system, it can reduce anxiety. Yoga does this by incorporating deep breathing and moving with your breath (Pranayama) into your practice. Deep breathing calms your nervous system and can be done without the movements of yoga to help alleviate the symptoms of an anxiety attack. In fact, yoga affects the brain in a manner similar to anti depression and anxiety medication without the side effects. It does this by raising the levels of dopamine, serotonin, and GABA (an amino acid that helps calm nervous activity). By reducing stress and anxiety, yoga also boosts the immune system and helps reduce inflammation.
Yoga also can help you build a healthier relationship with yourself. It causes people to take better care of themselves subconsciously because it instills feelings of worthiness into their thought process. This increases self-confidence, creating a healthier ego because you no longer feel you have anything to prove or to hide. Essentially you work to become the best version of yourself. When you are more comfortable with yourself, it causes you to be less reactive and more patient with others. The increase in mindfulness is very beneficial to you and those around you.
Physically, yoga increases flexibility and muscle strength. It also helps tone muscles and promote weight loss. This can help reduce the likelihood of injury while participating in other activities. By stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, yoga causes a few things to happen in the body. The direction of blood to the organs is more efficient, blood pressure and heart rate decrease, and the body is put into a state of healing. Deep breathing exercises improve respiratory health, and working the muscles improves blood flow and cardio health
Yoga had a huge positive impact on my life, from reduced anxiety and increased self-awareness to management of lower back pain and increased strength. Yoga is not a “magic cure” for anything, but it does have great potential to help.