Positive research findings of yoga coupled with its adoption and recommendations by medical professionals and even celebrities have created an upsurge of popularity of this practice in the recent years. Many people assert how amazing doing yoga feels but what they don’t realize is the many benefits it has for both their mind and body. But, before we get into the benefits of practicing yoga, let’s look at the first things first.

What is Yoga?

A lot of people refer to it as just an ancient method of training while others simply call it a set of difficult posses. The word “yoga” in fact means union or merge. Yoga is a practice that connects the mind, spirit and body through meditation, body postures and controlled breathing. Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, a renowned yogi, defines yoga as “a science to determine the nature of who you are and what you want to be”. Yoga is not all about twisting and bending your body and holding your breath; it is a natural or established process to bring you into a state where you experience and see reality the way it is.

Best Yoga Practices for Beginners

While there are over 100 forms of yoga, most of them typically include meditation, breathing exercises and assuming postures (sometimes referred to as poses or asana) which stretch and flex different muscle groups. The best yoga practices include;

Hatha - this form combines a succession of basic movements with breathing. It is best for beginners due to its slower pace.

Iyengar – this type of yoga uses props such as straps, chairs and blocks to help your body to move into the correct alignment. It is best for people who pay particular attention to detail, those with injuries (and given a thumbs-up by their doctors) and also for people of all ages.

Vinyasa – a succession of poses that flow smoothly into one another. Intense exercisers can enjoy this type of yoga as well as endurance athletes and runners due to its continuous movements.

Bikram – commonly referred to as hot yoga involves a succession of 26 demanding poses that are performed in a hot room usually heated to a high temperature. It is best for lovers of tough work outs with intense sweating.

Ashtanga – a succession of poses that are combined with a special breathing technique. This one will be loved mostly by perfectionists for its routine and strict guidelines.

Power – this form involves a much faster and higher-intensity practice that strengthens the muscles.

Kundalini – this type of yoga involves meditating, chanting and singing, while doing repetitive physical exercises and intense breathe work. Best for spiritual practice.

Yin yoga – this type is best for people looking to balance and calm their body and mind since it involves poses held for a number of minutes at a time.

Mental and Physical Health Benefits of yoga

Yoga has many benefits that affect you positively both physically and mentally. Below are the top and sciences proven things that yoga can do for you.

  • Boosts mental health

Mental health affects our way of thinking, feeling and acting. Feelings of stress, anxiety and depression are common things that impair our mental health. Among the best benefits of yoga is its ability to manage these disorders known to have damaging effects on our bodies and mind.  Multiple studies have shown that yoga reduces the secretion of cortisol which is the primary stress hormone. Yoga also emphasizes being in the present which helps you learn to avoid dwelling in the past or anticipating the future. This way, you can catch a break from your stresses and also put your problems into perspective.

Regular yoga practices build calmness and mental clarity, relaxes the mind, sharpens concentration, centers attention, relieves chronic stress practices and increases body awareness. Body, as well as self-awareness is especially helpful in detecting physical problems early and allowing early preventive action. Also, better mental health translates to better emotional health; therefore, as an added benefit of yoga, it also helps to improve emotional health as a result of good mental health.

  • Improves breathing

A lot of yoga practices incorporate the technique of controlling the breath through exercises. This greatly helps you improve your breathing and vital capacity. Vital capacity is the measure of the maximum amount of air you can expel from the lungs. Improved breathing is important for building endurance, optimizing performance as well as keeping the lungs and the heart healthy.

  • Lower blood pressure

High blood pressure sufferers can benefit greatly from regular yoga practice. Yoga improves blood circulation (another benefit of yoga) meaning there is better transportation of oxygen throughout the body. This causes a sufficiently great reduction in blood pressure as the body also calms down.

  • Boosts immunity

Immunity and yoga go in close association. Yoga works towards enhancing and healing every cell in the body which automatically makes the body to become more immune.

  • Supports joint health

Yoga incorporates slow movements that are low impact and allows you to use your joints without injuring them in the process. It also helps to strengthen the muscles surrounding the joints and in the process lessening their load. It is especially recommended for people suffering from arthritis who can witness a significant improvement in their mobility and pain with regular yoga.

  • Improves flexibility and balance

Stretching and moving in new ways helps to bring a greater range of movement to tight areas thus improving flexibility and balance. Flexibility reduces with age especially if more time is spent sitting which causes immobility and pain but yoga usually helps to reverse this process. Also, the yoga poses that requires standing on one leg or inversions (for more advanced students) helps to build the core strength that helps keep you upright.

  • Builds strength and increases muscle tone.

Many yoga poses such as supporting yourself with your arms or balancing on one leg, requires you to support the weight of your body in new ways. This helps to build strength by strengthening your muscles and in the process, you can expect to see an increase in your muscle tone. This is because yoga helps to shape long and lean muscles in the arms, back, abdomen and the legs.

  • Prevents back pain

Many people with back pain issues spend a considerable amount of time sitting which causes tightness to their entire body and also spinal compression. Yoga reverses these conditions through increasing flexibility and strength.

  • Improves the quality of sleep

Poor sleeping habits have been associated with poor mental health, obesity, high blood pressure, among other disorders. Since yoga usually helps in dealing with these disorders, it also promotes better sleep in the process. Yoga has also been shown to increase melatonin secretion which is a hormone that controls sleep and wakefulness.

  • Improves the quality of life

In general, through its benefits, yoga has been shown to improve the quality of life for many people who practice it. This also translates to good mood as well as reduced fatigue.