When we talk about yoga, it is natural to first have in mind a series of more or less complex postures. However, this age-old practice, which appeared in India and in present-day Pakistan, is much more than just physical training. It is a philosophy of life dedicated to the health of the whole being, in its physical and subtle aspects. No wonder, moreover, in the original meaning of the word: in Sanskrit, “yoga” can indeed be translated as “union” or “unity”.
By practising yoga regularly, we develop the connection and balance between body, mind and soul, for optimal and lasting health. You might even be surprised by the extent of its virtues, which are not limited to physical health… Read on to find out more about the multiple benefits of yoga, and why not, immerse yourself in this practice accessible to all!
The Many Physical Benefits of Yoga
Strength and flexibility
One of the first benefits of yoga on the physical body is the development of strength and flexibility.
The special feature of asanas is that they work for certain muscle groups by precisely balancing comfort and discomfort. Besides, “asana” can be translated from Sanskrit as “comfortable position”! The muscles are pushed to their limit without damage. By the alternation of states of contraction and relaxation created by the different postures, the elastic muscle fibres (regaining their shape after a movement) are gradually strengthened. The muscles are thus worked in-depth and become more powerful.
The fascias or connective tissues present between the muscles, stretch and soften from one asana to another. Plastic, their shape adapts to the work of the muscles and gradually allows a better range of motion. At the same time, yoga postures help maintain joints by making them make gentle and repetitive movements. This simultaneous effect on the fascias and the joints guarantees better physical flexibility.
Yoga, beneficial for the whole organism
If the “visible” effect of flexibility and muscle strengthening of yoga is the most obvious, its physical benefits on other systems of the body are multiple!
The nervous system is the primary beneficiary of regular yoga practice. The great importance given to relaxation and breathing, in fact, allows appeasement of the sympathetic nervous system, responsible for the transmission of stress signals in the event of danger (real or perceived). At the same time, it gently stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, dedicated to relaxation. The result is a balanced nervous system, and therefore a decrease in stress in the body. But that’s not all! Yoga also has benefits on:
- The endocrine system, by balancing the production of different hormones (wakefulness/sleep cycles; growth; immune system, etc.) and thanks to an influx of blood, renewed in oxygen,
- The cardiovascular and respiratory systems, by gently stimulating the heart and lungs, especially by concentrating on deep breathing
- The digestive system, by mobilizing the abdominal muscles and “massaging” the digestive organs,
- The cell regeneration eta tissue healing, enhanced through the development of a state of general relaxation and reducing stress in the body.
You now understand better why a yogi or a yogini seems to radiate health and energy, and this, whatever its age. Yes, yoga seems to contribute to a long and happy life.
A calm mind and regulated emotions
Develop inner peace
Thanks to its regulating effect on the nervous system mentioned above, yoga therefore also has benefits on the mental and psychology of the practitioner. The interconnection between the physical and the subtle described by yoga is at work: the relaxed physical body, the mind can also relax.
In addition, focusing on physical sensations during a session encourages the yogini or yogi to return fully to their body. The deep breathing, in particular, used to “dive” into a posture also helps to let go of the mind. By focusing on inspiration and expiration, one subtly pushes the “little monkey” of the mind to calm down and distance themselves from daily concerns.
Very quickly, with regular practice, a feeling of inner peace develops, as well as an increased capacity to approach the challenges of life with confidence. With better anchoring, the perception of the world and of oneself becomes more flexible, more compassionate, as if to mirror the physical flexibility acquired thanks to asanas.
It is one of the effects of yoga that continues to impress me, as much as a teacher as in my personal practice, to this day: a feeling of peace that gradually spreads throughout the being.
Make room for emotions
Emotions also play a key role in overall well-being. Proper regulation of these is essential to maintain equanimity, vitality and confidence. More specifically, emotions are, in essence, made to circulate in the body. Thanks to yoga, the practitioner develops an interior space and a sufficient distance to not ignore them, but on the contrary to welcome them and allow them this circulation. The soothed and relaxed mind makes it easier not to identify with them, and to take them for what they are: waves on the surface of the ocean of consciousness, whose nature is to cross the ocean. ‘to be.
The benefits of yoga on a mental level are therefore essentially based on a fluid circulation of thoughts and emotions, guaranteeing the psychological well-being of the practitioner.
Yoga, good for body, mind… and soul
Purify the subtle bodies
In the yogic tradition, especially in hatha yoga, the subtle bodies have energy channels or “nadis”, like the blood and capillary vessels which irrigate the physical body. Still, in its holistic approach (that is to say, understanding the human being as a whole, physical, mental/emotional and spiritual/energetic), yoga works to also purify the subtle bodies by “cleaning” these energy channels. Asanas and breathing exercises facilitate the circulation of “prana” or vital energy and rid the nadis of their energy residues. It is, therefore, a great cleaning that takes place on all levels, guaranteeing improved energy!
Likewise, yoga stimulates the chakras or energy centres, responsible for the circulation of prana through these channels. Stimulated by breathing exercises and postures, each chakra functions more optimally and can, therefore, better fulfil its unique role. So, for example, the heart chakra, associated with unconditional love, stimulated by yoga, helps develop greater compassion for self and others.