Benefits of adding yoga into your life
In your activity plan, you are advised to do things every day that add more balance and joy to your life. Small actions every day will have a great impact on your long-term overall happiness. One thing that science proves has many benefits - both physical and mental - is having a consistent yoga practice. I know from personal experience what a positive impact yoga can have when dealing with depression and anxiety. I want to spread this knowledge and experience to help you bring more light to your life. That’s why we have added yoga videos as a part of your online therapy program - free of charge!
I have listed some of the many benefits of adding practicing yoga into your activity plan and into your daily life below.
Physical benefits of doing yoga
Strengthens and stretches your whole body
Yoga offers a wide variety of poses that strengthen and stretch your whole body. You can always find a yoga style and pose that suits your specific needs. Some people say “I’m not flexible enough to do yoga”. I would say that is one perfect reason for starting a yoga practice. I started my yoga journey many years ago being very stiff. I can now touch my toes and much more. By strengthening your physical body, you will also be strengthening your mind.
Improves your posture
During all yoga poses, the emphasis is on keeping a long, tall spine. This involves maintaining an optimal posture where your neck is an extension of your spine and your shoulders are pulled back instead of dropping forward and down. Your chin should be slightly tucked into your chest. It should almost feel like you have a string that goes through the whole midline of your body and pulls you upward. By practicing this on the mat, over time you will subconsciously have incorporated this into your day-to-day posture off the mat.
Increases your blood flow and circulation
During a yoga practice, you will do all kinds of poses including forward folds, backbends, twists and even inversions. This way of moving will get your blood flowing, by pumping freshly oxygenated blood into all parts of your body. For example, forward folds and inversions, where your head is lower than your heart (like in downward facing dog), encourages venous blood to flow more effortlessly from your feet and pelvis, through the heart and into your lungs, where it is filled with new oxygen.
Lowers your blood pressure
Feeling stressed and anxious activates the sympathetic responses of your nervous system. This is called the “fight-and-flight” mode. When the sympathetic system is up-regulated over longer periods of time, increased amounts of cortisol and adrenaline are released into the blood. This increases the heart rate and tightens the blood vessels, which, in turn, increases the blood pressure. Relaxing poses and slow conscious breathing has an important effect on your nervous system. It switches it to the parasympathetic mode. This is the “rest-and-digest” mode which has an calming effect on all parts of your body, including lowering your blood pressure.
Strengthens and calms down your heart
When doing faster flows, you can feel your heart beating faster. It can increase your heart rate into the aerobic range. However, studies show that even slower types of yoga lower the resting heart rate and increase endurance and the uptake of oxygen. These are all factors that are linked to an improved aerobic conditioning. As previously mentioned, doing relaxing poses activates the parasympathetic nervous system, letting your heart rest by slowing down.
Stimulates the lymphatic system
Lymph is a fluid in your body that picks up bacteria and viruses, which is then cleansed through your lymph nodes. Lymph moves when you contract your muscles (unlike blood which moves as a result of the heart pumping). However, it’s also affected by gravity when your head is below your heart. When you contract and stretch your muscles, invert and twist yourself, and come in and out of poses, you increase the lymph circulation. It helps your body to transport the good stuff and filter out the bad.
Improves your lung function capacity
During every yoga practice, the emphasis is on keeping a steady and conscious breath. You are trained to breath more efficiently, using your full lung capacity and taking fewer breaths of greater volume. The oxygen saturation of your blood is increased. When doing yoga, you are encouraged to breathe through your nose. The air that reaches the lungs is warmer, more humidified and cleaner than if you only breathe through your mouth. Over time you will notice that your yoga practice subconsciously has shifted your breathing pattern off the mat as well. This is a true gift, since being able to breathe slower and deeper in your daily life is one of the most important tools in your happiness-toolbox, since it immediately lowers your stress levels.
Helps your digestive function
One of the reasons for having digestive issues is stress. Incorporating a few minutes of yoga into your daily life, will lower your stress levels and keep your tummy happier. Specific poses like forward folds and twists (poses that put some kind of pressure on your bowels) are also great postures to help cleanse, stimulate, support and improve a good digestive function.
Boosts your immune system
Doing some type of yoga each day is a great way to automatically support your immune system. Yoga helps to lower stress hormones that weaken your immune system, it trains your lungs and respiratory system, stimulates the lymphatic system to remove toxins from your body and pumps oxygenated blood to your organs to ensure their optimal function. These are all functions that strengthen your immune system.
Mental benefits doing yoga - and why it’s such a great complement to therapy
Beyond the physical aspects, the mental improvements are what have the most positive impact in my life since starting a regular yoga practice. I have listed some of the areas below where I have seen huge improvements practicing yoga. This has been true for me personally and for the yogis around me. Note that these are from personal experience. It is not something that happens automatically but instead takes time. It is possible that you will experience other mental benefits from practicing yoga! Practice with an open heart and what you need, will eventually come.
Great tool for improving stress, anxiety and depression
Many of the physical benefits of doing yoga also have great positive mental effects. Practicing yoga increases your serotonin levels and decreases stress hormones. It trains you to relax, slows down your breath, gets you out of your head and into your body. Yoga is a great happiness-tool that can be used anytime or anywhere. You don’t need any prior knowledge or be physically active. You don’t need to have fancy yoga clothes to start doing yoga TODAY. You don’t even need a yoga mat. The only thing you need is you and your body.
Helps you find more balance in your life
When you start taking care of yourself on the mat, you will almost automatically start taking care of yourself off the mat. It will help you to make better choices. When you have a regular practice, you will notice that it’s much easier to stay away from alcohol, drugs and other self-destructive decisions. You will eat better, surround yourself with people that give you energy, accept what you can’t change and instead focus on the things that make you happy.
Improves your focus and calms down your mind
When you suffer from anxiety or depression, it is very common to have your mind filled with negative thought loops. This distracts you from the important things in life. On the yoga mat, you practice shifting this focus from your cluttered mind, into your body. It involves concentrating on your breath and the physical sensations in your body when doing certain poses. You will focus your drishti (your gaze) to one specific spot. By improving your ability to focus on the mat, it will over time improve your ability to focus off the mat. You will be less and less distracted by your (negative) thought loops.
Calms everything down
As mentioned many times, yoga and especially slow, conscious breaths activate the rest-and-digest part of your nervous system. This calms you and every part of your body down. Doing poses that activate this rest-and digest mode, helps you go to sleep and sleep deeper. By breathing slowly in and out through your nose on the mat, over time you will discover that this will happen subconsciously off the mat. This is one of the most important parts of my happiness tool-box. Breathing slower eases everything.
Increases your self-esteem
Practicing with an open, non-judgmental heart, has the potential over time to increase your self-esteem. You will realize that you are capable of much more than you once thought. It can also help you realize that you have your life and your well-being in your hands. Doing actions every day that make you feel good in the moment, will have fantastic positive effects off the mat. Understanding your value and realizing how important it is to regularly take time for yourself, is the first step in being able to be there for your family and friends. Taking time to improve your mental and physical health is not being egoistic. It is showing love to the people around you. Getting a physically stronger body, with a prouder posture, will make you feel stronger on the inside.
Helps you cope with the difficulties in life
Yoga doesn’t magically remove all obstacles and challenges in your life. However, it will help you cope with them better. Acceptance is a major part of this shift. By practicing being grateful for where your practice is today and what your body is capable of doing (not only striving for progress to more advanced poses) - you will be practicing this attitude of acceptance off the mat as well.
If you feel that yoga might be something that you would like to do, I recommend that you explore what type of practice is your fit. It might involve watching the videos that we have created for you and practicing at home. It could also include more physical classes at a yoga studio, or doing a few minutes of soft yoga in your PJs before going to bed. It could also include practicing on your mat at home accompanied by the loud tunes of your favorite music. Yoga has many things to offer. Find what type of practice makes YOU happy both in the moment and in the long-run!
These small moments of joy, stillness, gratitude, your heart beating slower or faster on your yoga mat will eventually make all the difference in your overall mood.
Check out all the yoga videos we have added to your program and please let us know what you think. We will add more videos over time!
Sending you love, happiness and ease!
Your yoga teacher at online-therapy·com
petra (at) online-therapy.com