Yoga isn’t always taken seriously as a way to exercise, but it should be! You don’t have to be on a treadmill or the weight bench to get in a good workout, and yoga has many benefits besides just helping you to tone your muscles. Increased flexibility, increased muscle strength and toning, metabolism, weight loss or maintenance, injury prevention, circulatory and cardiovascular health, improved performance in other sports and exercises, and improved breathing are some of the numerous benefits, just on the health side. There are more benefits than these, however, for one’s mental well-being. It can help to reduce stress.
It is believed that yoga found its origins over 5,000 years ago in Northern India by the Indus-Sarasvati civilization. It was refined over time by ensuing civilizations, but the original purpose was to teach its followers the sacrifice of ego through action and self-knowledge, known as karma yoga, as well as wisdom, known as jnana yoga. Later on, Patanjali’s “Yoga Sutras” defined an eight-tiered ladder of sorts that one was supposed to climb to reach enlightenment. This belief defines the “classical period” of yoga. Post-classical yoga brought about Tantra Yoga, which focused more on the physical aspect of yoga to reach enlightenment, rather than through the mind. They employed radical techniques to cleanse the body, intending to break through the barriers they believed were created by our physical bodies, preventing us from reaching nirvana. This later developed into Western “Hatha yoga,” which is the yoga that most of us are most familiar with in the United States. The late 1800s and early 1900s were when yoga really kicked off in the United States though, when Eastern yoga instructors began traveling to the West to spread their practice. Yoga has been increasing in popularity in the states ever since, in a variety of forms.
By interweaving the focus on the physical and the mental, yoga’s benefits are extremely potent for those who practice it. One of the reasons for this is the fact that yoga does so much to increase self-awareness, both of one’s mental and emotional states, as well as attention to how one’s body feels. Creating a connection between body and mind is huge, and becoming aware of how much this connection has an impact on your daily life can vastly improve your life in a variety of ways. Yoga makes you aware of just how much your physical well-being affects your emotional health, and vice versa. By working on how to improve your posture, you can vastly improve how you feel at work and how productive you are. You can decrease headaches and the typical aches and pains, allowing you to focus on the project at hand, rather than feeling miserable hunched over your computer. You can improve your athletic performance by realizing how tight you are in certain areas, or how your mental state may be proving to be a block to your body and its ability to perform to its best capabilities.
Another great thing about yoga is that it’s great for any age and any skill level. You can practice it wherever you wish as well…whether that be in a studio, on a beach, in your dorm room or wherever you wish. It doesn’t have to cost anything, either. No expensive equipment required. There are free videos on YouTube or pictures of moves online. Classes are also an option, and Dubuque has a wide array of studios to choose from. Some even offer discounts for students.
So, wherever you practice and for however long, yoga can be a great addition to your daily routine. If you practice in the night or in the morning, with others or alone, there will inevitably be benefits that you are receiving from practicing, both mental and physical.