As a practitioner, teacher and therapist I have been asked this question innumerable times and each time I have found new reasons as to why people should get on their mats. Yoga has physical, mental, emotional and spiritual benefits. Physically, especially for fitness enthusiasts, yoga gives you all that a gym can, but in a peaceful, safe and more holistic way. It stretches out the muscles in your body, gives you strong abdominal muscles, arms, toned buttocks, a strong and mobile spine, legs and a great posture. What more could you ask for?The best part about the practice is that it can be done at one’s own pace; cardio, functional and strength training all in one. Even on a physical level, yoga doesn’t only work on muscles and joints but the entire internal physiology of the body; detoxifying the internal organs, boosting the immune system, balancing the endocrine system, the cardiovascular system and calming the nervous system.Mentally, what makes yogic exercise different from other exercises is the breathing. These movements are done in conjunction with the breath which not only provides oxygen to the muscles and organs but also calms the mind by making it one pointed and focused. It is therefore a preventive science that helps fight off lifestyle diseases caused by stress, like high blood pressure, diabetes, migraines and gynaecological problems, to name a few.On an emotional and more subtle level, practices like Pranayama (breath control), Dharana (concentration) and Dhyana (meditation), coupled with life style related changes like sleeping early and eating healthy, balance one’s outlook to life and help combat stress better. They also help replace negative emotions like anger, anxiety and irritation with positive ones like better self-esteem, confidence, calmness, patience and healthier relationships with others. What’s more, meditation has also been scientifically proven to slow down the catabolic/ decaying processes in our bodies. To be more specific, studies have shown that just 12 minutes of meditation increase “telomerase” activity, which is the immortality enzyme that slows down the cellular aging process.The long and short of it is that the biggest benefit, according to me, is that Yoga can be practiced anywhere: you don’t need props, machines, teachers and DVDs (once you know the practice and your own body) – it’s just you and your mat!
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