The benefits of yoga

Yoga is a practice that has multiple benefits: it connects the body, the breath and the mind. This practice uses physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation to improve overall health. Yoga developed as a spiritual practice thousands of years ago.

The physical dimension

As we have seen, then, the integral practice of Yoga helps to achieve high levels of physical health, mental clarity in its various levels and, therefore, spiritual awareness. This becomes evident if we understand how this progress is made from the physical to the non-material. In the physical dimension there is the asana which, as we have said, means comfortable, firm and stable posture. Its practice leads us to a first stop on the path of supreme self-knowledge – the destiny of Yoga -: what the body tells us gives us a deeper knowledge of its nature.

Emotional impressions and impacts are written on the physical body, which can be expressed as tensions and blocks. In practice, the body immediately tells us about them, in the form of sensation or pain, as well as the readjustment they require. Conscious, deep and complete breathing, with full attention, must be our fundamental tool to listen and respond to it; maintain a patient and harmonious conversation with the body, and thus progressively release those knots of tension. This is key to helping transform those impressions. Breathing and listening are also compasses; Through them each body, in its uniqueness, indicates how far it can go.

In asana practice we learn to cherish each breath, to cherish every cell in our bodies. The time we spend on the mat is love in action

Rolf Gates

More benefits: conscious asana alignment does not come from a mere physical / anatomical structure, nor is it tied to muscle strength. Through the conscious act of attending and listening (breathing) to the body to synchronize with its wise nature, the simple posture becomes asana and reveals its inherent awareness. This is how positive effects are produced in the muscular chains of the body, the fasciae, the glands, the organs.

The respiratory capacity, used to the maximum and with presence, expands; This expansion becomes natural: the lungs are strengthened, oxygenation to the blood improves, and therefore to the heart and brain. This also calms and cleanses the nervous system. We get more oxygen; we release more carbon dioxide – we receive more prana; we release more toxicity. The functions of the internal organs and the nervous, endocrine and circulatory systems are then harmonized. There is an internal and external massage effect throughout the body, which leads to drainage and cleansing.

The body regains mobility, which keeps the back and all joints and ligaments healthy. Fatigue is reduced, endurance increases. Throughout this concert, tensions and blocks are progressively released; the body gains flexibility, agility and vitality as a consequence of this balance. It recovers what is intrinsic to it. By aligning with its natural functions, it becomes healthy and therefore long-lived. “The Yogi makes the body fit for the spirit,” says the Iyengar master.

Here’s what the physical benefits of asana look like in more detail:

Muscular system

In the process of building, maintaining, and undoing postures, muscles stretch, and as they contract, they expel blood. When they return to their initial position they absorb new blood. This “sponge effect” nourishes and revitalizes all muscle tissues and tones and strengthens them.

Joints

The high degree of joint mobility prevents joint degeneration and increases blood flow, which favors bone mineralization.

Spine

The vertebral ligaments become toned. The front opening and posterior spine extension poses stretch the anterior vertebral ligament, and the back lengthening poses stretch the posterior ligament. The twisting postures of the spine affect the paravertebral muscles. The spine improves its flexibility and mobility.

Circulatory system

Heart functions are regulated and venous return to the heart muscle improves, especially in inverted postures. The continuous flow of clean (arterial) blood to muscles, joints, internal organs, skin is favored, so that the cells of these systems are nourished and purified.

Respiratory system

The functioning capacity is expanded and oxygenation is improved at the level of all the cells of the body.

Digestive system

The production of gastric juices is regulated. A massage is performed on the main organs of this system.

Endocrine system

Hormonal secretion of all glands is regulated.

Nervous system

The sympathetic and parasympathetic systems are balanced.

The body benefits from movement, and the mind benefits from stillness.

Sakyong Mipham

As we have seen, the world outside is dual. So is the composition of the asana, but from the perspective of Yoga it is on an energetic plane and, therefore, expansive. The asana is at the center of the various opposing forces that compose it (opposites: HA-THA). The lineup is more subtle but always broader. In conscious practice, these forces and counter forces (checks and balances) match, complement each other, and lead to equilibrium.

The asana finds its own divine architecture. It is built from the foundation or base, it grows on the beams and columns – in which the various joints of the body are synchronized (knees with ankles, shoulders with wrists, hips with shoulders, vertebrae) -. It takes root and expands.

In asana, a balance is also sought between two principles, varyagya and abyasa: it means being present with a will that transcends the physical and, at the same time, letting go of what does not serve the purpose of the practice. Commit and let go equally. We remember that the body is nature, that it follows its cycles and rhythms. The beat is the breath. Breathing guiding movement, movement subordinate to it.

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