Yoga – More Than Just Stretching and Flexibility

Wednesday, October 17, 2012 4:57 PM comments (0)

Do Downward-Facing Dog, Plank, Warrior I and Child’s Pose sound familiar? While you’ve probably heard of at least one of these popular yoga poses, maybe you’ve even done a few of them yourself.

Yoga—originating in India—is a practice that has been around for centuries. Yoga is a vast body of knowledge which includes physical exercise done through the practice of yoga poses, breathing exercises to calm the nervous system, meditation practices to focus the mind, dietary practices to detoxify the body, herbal oil massages to nourish the skin, philosophy for living a peaceful life and the Science of Ayurveda (The Indian Medical System which includes Ayurvedic Acupuncture, Ayurvedic Herbs and Ayurvedic Massage Therapies). Yoga is an entire system of self-care and self-realization which was one of the first paradigms of Energy Medicine known to man.

Hatha Yoga is a type of exercise, that when done correctly, can be good for people of all ages and physical abilities. Polly Liontis, Yoga Instructor (Certified by the Himalayan Institute and a Licensed Massage Therapist/LMT), identifies some of the health benefits of practicing yoga:

  • Helps balance the nervous system. Something which distinguishes yoga from any other form of physical exercise is that the movement is always coordinated with the breath. Moving the body through yoga poses while practicing deep diaphragmatic breathing allows the body to oxygenate the blood and muscles and keeps the mind focused on the coordination of the movement with the breath. This calms the mind and moves the body out of the stress response.
  • Builds strength and increases flexibility. Many yoga poses require you to bear your own body weight in different positions for various periods of time which builds bone and muscle strength. Also, many poses focus on developing and using core muscle groups and enhancing your range of motion. These poses increase both strength and flexibility within and around the spine and improve your posture.
  • Alleviates stress and relaxes the body.  An entire branch of yoga is dedicated to breathing exercises, many of which engage the parasympathetic nervous system and naturally slow the heart rate, lower the blood pressure and bring the entire nervous system to a deep state of relaxation by inducing a profound relaxation response in the body. This enables us to take the body out of the “fight or flight” response.
  • Calms the mind. Meditation is another branch of yoga that teaches many different ways to focus the mind, calm the breath and systematically relax the body. This induces a deep state of relaxation and takes the body out of the “stress response.”
  • Improves the quality of your sleep. The regular practice of yoga has also been shown to help you sleep better and reduce insomnia by calming the nervous system.


Have you ever practiced yoga? What are some of your favorite poses?

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