In this day and age, most people are aware of the benefits that yoga offers. Physiologically, repeated practice of yoga poses improves blood flow and increases levels of hemoglobin and red blood cells in the body. This allows for more oxygen to reach the body cells and enhances their function.
Practicing yoga regularly will also increase your endurance, lower your resting heart rate, and thin your blood, decreasing your overall risk of heart attack and stroke. When you take a deeper look into how yoga improves health apart from the obvious physical benefits, you will find that practicing with a nurturing attitude toward your body will greatly benefit you spiritually and mentally.
It is important to know that yoga is a mind-body practice, meaning it combines physical poses with controlled breathing and meditation. Simply put, yoga helps you access your inner strength which helps you face the sometimes overwhelming challenges, fears, and frustrations of daily life.
Twists help open up the chest, shoulders, and back which helps decrease any feelings of anxiousness. Twists can also increase blood flow to your digestive organs while helping wring out venous blood from internal organs. For a treat, combine your twist with slow, rhythmic breathing.
Inversions can become a valuable part of your practice because they encourage venous blood from the legs and pelvis to move toward the heart and lungs where it becomes more efficiently oxygenated. Poses involve holding your head beneath your heart and include shoulder stands, headstands, and handstands.
**Please note: It is important to establish your practice before attempting inversions such as headstand and handstand (using a wall or having a spotter as support will help if you are just starting out). It is extremely important to learn from a qualified teacher who can teach you the safest way to enter, hold, and release an inversion without doing damage to your head, neck, shoulders, or back.
Downward Facing Dog
Downward facing dog is arguably one of the most difficult poses you learn when you are beginning your practice. Correct alignment of the body is key in this pose to avoid injury to wrists and your back. Downward dog calms you by stimulating the front of the head and helps alleviate depression. Practicing downward facing dog often will build your core and shoulder strength which improves your posture.
Child’s pose is calming for the mind. While you are in child’s pose, try relaxing your neck, putting your forehead on your mat, and rolling it from side to side. This will have an instant soothing and calming effect on the brain. Child’s pose reminds you that resting on the mat is beneficial and allows you to slow down in life when you need to. Child’s pose also opens up the hips, which brings us to the benefits of releasing tension in your hips.
Hips Don’t Lie
We store a lot of tension, trauma, stress, and anxiety in our hips. When we are put under stress, our bodies respond by tightening and clenching. Trauma causes a huge compression or tightening of your hips. As you build up this stress over time, it can take a toll on your hips if you don’t work it out. During your practice, it is important to remember that releasing the tension in your hips can open up unhealed wounds and strong emotions brought to the surface. It can be hard and can make you cry, but if you acknowledge your emotions, it will allow you to work through them, move forward, and open up space for love, compassion, and positivity in your life!
Shoulderstand is a very calming pose because it activates the back brain. It also stimulates the thyroid, so it could help improve hyperthyroidism with repeated practice. Another benefit of shoulder stand is that it increases the circulation and bathes the lymph nodes with fresh lymph. It also strengthens the spinal nerves which relieve tension in the head, neck, and shoulders, and improves anxiety.
Bridge pose is a pose that strengthens the legs and opens up the chest. This pose also stimulates abdominal organs, lungs, thyroid, and helps alleviate stress and mild depression. Another restorative variation for bridge pose can be done by placing a block under the lower back and tractioning out the spine with your bodyweight.
Low cobra expands the chest and gives elasticity to the lungs, strengthens the back and stomach muscles. Practicing this pose often can also help soothe sciatica, improve digestion and elevate mood when you practice relaxing your shoulders towards your spine.
Savasana, a.k.a. Corpse Pose
Corpse pose is done by lying flat on your back with your arms relaxed by your sides. At the end of every practice, you take savasana and pay attention to your breath for one to ten minutes as you wind down. This pose is especially enjoyable after a hot or vinyasa class because it gives you a chance to tie together your whole practice and rest after working hard.