What Yoga Is Good For: The Advantages of Practicing Yoga

Anyone can practice yoga at a suitable level and enjoy the effects of yoga. No matter how fit, strong, or flexible you are, independent of your age or your sports background! Yoga is a work that balances and strengthens us, increases the quality of daily life, and awakens the body; When applied regularly, a sense of unity in the physical, mental and spiritual sense begins to wake up. While there are many-layered changes with long-term practice, the advantages of practicing yoga are beginning to be noticed in the first lesson! So what yoga is good for exactly?

With the yoga working intensely on the muscles surrounding the spine, the spine lengthens, stretches, and strengthens; the strength of the center of the trunk increases, which affects the entire body and posture. With regular yoga, muscle tone and strength increase, and muscles that are weakened by sitting in a chair and armchair start to wake up. As the back and root muscles strengthen, both the alignment in yoga poses, and the posture in daily life begin to transform. Yoga poses, namely Asanas, flex the muscles safely, lactic acid, which causes stiffness, pain, and fatigue in the muscles, is released. The mobility of the joints and muscles increases, the connective tissue that keeps the body together strengthens. Chronic pain and muscle tension are reduced.

With the practice of yoga, the respiratory system improves; the muscles surrounding the rib cage strengthen and flex, the breathing capacity of the lungs increases. With the effect of different poses and transitions, the heart and blood circulation is supported, hormones are balanced and an intense toxin is released from the body. Yoga massages the internal glands and organs deeply, these tissues are stimulated and balanced. In yoga, attention and focus increase over time in balance poses and bodily alignment practice. In yoga practice, cortisol, which is a stress hormone, and hormones that respond to stress in the adrenal glands are reduced, the parasympathetic nervous system is activated and the feeling of rest in the body awakens. Regular yoga practice reduces stress and brings calmness and clarity to the mind. The person starts to manage the situations in life more easily and becomes more aware of his thoughts, reactions, and feelings.

Sleep problems and stress-related troubles can relax. Emotional awareness that increases with the practice of breathing in yoga and practice also begins to balance the person emotionally. With the awakened feeling of unity, and the person feels more central, a way of relaxation opens in his relationship with himself and life. During the practice of yoga, we begin to monitor, realize the breath, movement, feelings, and tendencies within us and perceive the nature of the body and mind. Being able to take a closer look at ourselves allows us to see our own reality. Every awareness and relaxation we experience on the yoga mat also affects our attitudes and reactions in daily life.

What Are the Medical Advantages of Yoga?

It is observed that modern medicine is insufficient in the treatments for the cause of these diseases today when cancers and autoimmune diseases multiply rapidly. Despite advances in the field of oncology and autoimmunity, treatments are generally directed towards suppressing signs and symptoms. Many chemotherapy drugs can be used limited in the cancer area due to their intense side effects. Radiotherapy approaches are also subject to various restrictions as they damage normal tissues. In autoimmune diseases, the immune system of the patient is usually suppressed with cortisone or other immunosuppressive drugs, and the attacks of the disease can be prevented or stopped in this way. In summary; Modern medicine is insufficient in cause-oriented treatments. However, yoga and meditation can help you to overcome such kind of diseases.

In both cancer and autoimmune diseases, there are many internal factors besides external factors in the cause of the disease. Although the genetic structure of the body is one of the internal factors, the immune system of the person also plays a very important role. The external factors that make up the disease are various chemical and biological causes such as polluted air, dirty water, and dirty food consumption, with the simplest examples that disrupt the functioning of the immune system, which serves as the body’s defense system. Therefore, despite all the medical advances today, instead of being sick and receiving treatment, “how can we not be sick?”, “How should we protect our health?” thinking and acting in this way will be more beneficial for both the individual and society. And for this, you may want to think starting yoga practices.

For yoga, we can call it ancient Indian teaching that is known to date back to 2000 BC. Most people can perceive yoga as a form of exercise. In fact, with the fitness brought by the yoga movements, it is said that “one tries to reach mental comfort and spiritual peace”. Spiritual yoga is the path to a higher level of consciousness beyond sensory perceptions and knowledge that we perceive in material dimensions. It is a guide for one’s physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. Sacred texts on this subject go back to the end of the Gregorian. These are called “Veda”. Yoga Sutras of the yoga wise Patanjali in 900 BC are among the best known. It consists of 196 short quotations. Patanjali defines yoga as an application for the control of the mind in these sutras. It is said that yoga practices are actually done to prepare the body for a long time in the “meditation (mind control)” pose.

Yoga and meditation is a practice that has been included in the agenda of the Western world as a “mindfulness” in recent years and it is recommended to do it for a healthy and successful life. The Eastern world has been practicing and recommending this for centuries. In meditation, a comfortable leg is usually established, hands are placed on the knees, the spine is made upright, and it is seated motionlessly with the eyes closed while breathing freely. The mind focuses on one thing. This can be the person’s breathing, following the breath by counting it, repeating certain or several words, also called a mantra, constantly repeating. When the mind focuses on something, it gradually begins to move away from the thoughts of everyday and material life. The aim of meditation is to try to reach the essence by moving away from this material physical dimension mentally and going to a deeper and supreme dimension.

This is not an easy task and requires long practices. No matter how much the mind focuses during meditation, it certainly escapes or captures thoughts, and forgets to focus. In principle, when this is realized, it is necessary to purify the mind from these thoughts or bypass it and invite it to focus on a particular object. Usually, 20-60 minutes of meditations are recommended. In order to sit in this way without moving, the body, especially the joints and muscles, must be ready. For this reason, yoga movements and poses have been made for meditation preparation for centuries. But today it is a question mark whether every yoga practitioner is meditating.

Does Yoga Have Side Effects or Disadvantages?

In healthy people, as in all sports, extreme movements can cause problems such as injury and sprain. In patients, patients with a poor general condition, who have undergone bone tissue due to various reasons, and who have bone metastases should consult their physicians before doing yoga. It may not be possible to apply breathing techniques in patients with fluid in the lung or abdomen. However, when viewed generally, yoga increases the physical and emotional well-being of patients.

When these scientifically conducted studies are examined, it can be seen that most of the studies especially on patients with cancer are performed on cases with breast cancer. Large-scale, controlled studies are also needed in other types of cancer. Almost all of the studies on yoga are poorly designed exercises. Patients can usually be selected from groups that are likely to benefit. While attempting to investigate the effect of yoga, there may be other attempts to understand the effect of pure yoga. Again, the small number of patients studied, the losses, and insufficient statistical methods overshadow the credibility of the results.

Complementary or health-protecting approaches such as acupuncture, aromatherapy, yoga, meditation, qigong, and taichi are becoming increasingly popular today. Studies in the literature suggest that yoga is one of the most important in improving the quality of life. The studies we reviewed show that yoga can be effective in correcting some symptoms of patients with cancer and can improve the quality of life to a certain level. As a result, yoga and meditation practices are very useful for physical, mental, social, and spiritual health, and are also a method that supports nature and environmental harmony. Therefore, it should be recommended not only to those who lose their health but also to those who want to protect their health.

What are the Positive Impacts of Yoga Practices on Our Body?

The more awareness you have when practicing yoga poses, the more they benefit. When attention is paid to movement, alignment of the movement, the posture of all limbs, activation of muscles, the body benefits more and systems work. When done regularly, its benefit is definitely felt. The musculoskeletal system is one of the most benefitted parts of the body. Muscles are strengthened, joints are opened, if any, back, waist, and joint pain is reduced. The flexibility of the body increases. There are also improvements in the cerebellum that provides our balance, a more comfortable balance is provided on one leg. In addition, many poses allow the balance between the right and left brain to develop. As acupuncture points and meridians in the body, which is one of the foundations of Chinese medicine, are stimulated, the functions related to circulation, digestion, and urinary tract are improved. Various effects on the mind are observed in those who practice regular yoga and meditation.

Those who adopt the philosophy of yoga as a lifestyle are primarily those who have adopted principles such as not harming any living things, not lying, stealing, and nonviolence. Also included are principles such as being aware of the fact that the world is temporary and no happiness or unhappiness is endless, that everything will change and will not remain the same, and that death is accepted as a normal situation such as birth. Such universal values ​​have a strong impact on the inner world of people and make them more resistant to the unhappiness and suffering of life. Those who practice yoga and meditation may be more focused and calm than those who do not. Thanks to meditation, those who are closer to universal consciousness tend to be calmer and peaceful with their inner worlds.

There are a growing number of studies in the medical literature on the possible benefits of yoga. There are various studies especially on the cardiovascular system, mental diseases, and patients with cancer. For example, studies in patients with depression have reported that yoga has beneficial effects on patients. In one study, patients who did not respond fully to antidepressant drugs were shown to have reduced anger, anxiety, and neurotic symptoms, and the complementary role of yoga in the treatment of depression was emphasized. In another study, it was shown that saliva cortisol levels, plasma renin, and 24-hour urine epinephrine norepinephrine levels decreased and anxiety and stress decreased in those who performed yoga.

After a year of practice in patients with coronary artery practicing yoga, a decrease in chest pain, increased exercise capacity, and weakness was observed. It has been reported that there is less need for revascularization in yoga groups. It was emphasized that one hour of yoga practice is effective in controlling blood pressure in patients with hypertension, and relaxation, meditation, and psychotherapy have antihypertensive effects along with yoga. Patients with diabetes improved their hunger and postprandial sugar levels and acetylated hemoglobin levels after one hour of yoga and breathing practice for 3 months.

Today, yoga can be applied as an option to sports such as aerobics and pilates in gyms. But it is the spiritual approach that distinguishes yoga from other sports. That is, it appeals not only to the body but also to the mind and soul. Yoga sages define man as a whole of the body, mind, and soul trilogy. Therefore, it is a basic aim to purify the mind and spirit and to bring peace to mind by starting from yoga movements. Isn’t there a nice statement that reminds us of this? “A healthy mind in a healthy body.”

When it comes to yoga movements, many people may think of some acrobatic movements and difficult poses. But this is not yoga. Since everyone’s anatomical structure, joints and bones are different, the limit to make these poses is also different. As the movements are made, the body opens and stretches. But not everyone can make the most extreme poses. Because the bone structure does not allow this. In fact, there is no need to make the most advanced poses. Therefore, when it comes to the yoga pose, it should not be thought of doing handstands, curling the legs in a bowtie or head postures. The important thing here is not to compete with others, to make comparisons, but to make progress with small movements step by step, day by day, by knowing your own body. Those who have never practiced yoga should start with the simplest level, practice regularly for days, months. If continued regularly, the person will notice the developments in his body and himself over time.

How Do Yoga Movements Affect the Body?

Yoga movements are exercises with isometric and isotonic contractions. The energy spent in yoga generally varies according to the level of the yoga practitioner, his movements, and the speed and intensity of the movements. Yoga has postures called body postures in certain positions. These postures are called poses (Asanas). Poses allow the body to remain in a certain posture. It is usually done standing, sitting, or on the floor. When you enter a pose, you remain immobile in that pose for a few breaths. Breathing adaptation of the pose reduces fatigue and burnout during poses and increases endurance. Then another pose is practiced. Usually, standing, sitting, and lying poses are done consecutively. Sometimes it can be started standing, ending lying, sometimes it can start and end in standing poses. Yoga teachers can determine the ordering of the poses according to the energy and need of the class or student at that moment. The sessions last about 60-90 minutes.

If the breath is used correctly, fatigue due to lactic acid accumulation seen in many exercises is not seen in yoga. Oxygen consumption decreases during application. Sympathetic activation decreases, there is a transition to parasympathetic activation. At the end of the poses, there is a long reclining pose called “savasana” which lasts at least 5-10 minutes. It is a kind of relaxation process. In the final rest, the body, which is animated with various poses, moving blood, and lymph circulation, the stimulated nerves are balanced. It is used as a transition for the mind and body to return to the living environment, to the current dimension. It is usually the favorite part of the practice.

What Are the Effects of Yoga Poses on the Immune System?

Yoga stimulates immunity by facilitating the activation of the parasympathetic system. It increases the production of white blood cells and red blood cells. It regulates the circulation of the lymphatic system, and its effect on circulation increases, especially in upside-down poses. Regulation of the lymphatic circulation accelerates the healing of infections. It is claimed that there is an increase in the number of T and B cells through positive thinking. In other words, yoga practices lead to positive thoughts by increasing awareness and it is thought that the immune system cells will work well as it makes the person feel good. There are studies showing psychoimmunologic connections in cancer patients.

In studies conducted in patients with cancer, it is stated that yoga is very effective in approaching findings such as fatigue, insomnia, loss of appetite, pain, and nausea related to chemotherapy. In particular, refreshing breathing techniques, pulling the knees into the abdomen and lifting the legs straight to the chest have been found useful for nausea where deep relaxation exercises and soft stretches were good for insomnia and fatigue. Yoga is known to regulate the Psychoneuroendocrine and Psychoneuroimmune axes, correcting homeostasis and reducing allostatic burden. These effects have been shown to be through the effects of yoga on patients such as reducing the cortisol level, decreasing inflamatuar cytokines, and increasing the number of natural killer cells. In studies in breast cancer patient groups, it was stated that yoga and aerobic exercise improved the functional capacity and quality of life and body-mind techniques such as yoga have a supporting role in the psychosocial and functional recovery of patients.

The Benefits of Practicing Yoga Regularly

Weight loss, strong and flexible body, shining beautiful skin, peaceful mind, good health. Whatever you are looking for, yoga has it all. However, very often, yoga is only understood to be limited to asanas (yoga poses). Since the benefits are perceived as just at the body level, it can be neglected that they have serious benefits in combining body, mind, and breath. When we are in harmony, the journey of life becomes calmer, happier, and more satisfying. With all this and much more, the benefits of yoga are felt deeply and subtly. Here are 10 benefits of regular yoga:

  • Fitness

You are really healthy when you are not only physically but also mentally and emotionally balanced. Health is not the absolute absence of the disease. This is a dynamic expression of life in terms of how loving and enthusiastic, how cheerful you are. Here yoga is fully engaged here. Yoga postures are a holistic practice with pranayama (breathing techniques) and meditation.

  • Losing weight

What many people want! Yoga is also beneficial for weight loss. Salute to the sun and Kapal Bhati breath are just some ways to lose weight with yoga. Moreover, with regular yoga practice, we become more sensitive about what food our body wants and when. This also helps to maintain weight control.

  • Getting rid of stress

A few minutes of yoga during the day can be a great way to get rid of daily stress, both in body and mind. Yoga postures, pranayama, and meditation are effective techniques to relieve stress. With yoga practice, you can detox your body and de-stress your mind.

  • Inner peace

We all like to visit peaceful and calm places with rich natural beauties. But few of us realize that we can find peace in us and make a little journey to this experience at any time of the day. Go on a small vacation to your inner world every day with yoga and meditation. Yoga is also one of the best ways to calm an uncomfortable and very mobile mind.

  • Strong immune system

Our system is a perfect blend of body, mind, and soul. An irregularity in the body affects the mind. Likewise, it occurs as a disease in the body when the mind is unpleasant or restless. Yoga massages organs and strengthens the muscles; breathing techniques and meditation reduce stress while improving the immune system.

  • Living with high awareness

The mind is busy with constant activity, it alternates between the past and the future, but it can never stay in the present. In fact, only by being aware of this tendency of the mind, we can save ourselves from stress and relax our mind. Yoga and Pranayama help create this awareness, bring the mind to the present moment, where it will remain calmer and peaceful.

  • Better relationships

Yoga can help improve your relationships with your partner, parents, friends, or loved ones! A comfortable, happy, and satisfied mind can better deal with sensitive relationship issues. Yoga and meditation work on keeping the mind happy and peaceful; it creates a reinforced private bond that you share with people close to you.

  • Increased energy

Do you feel completely exhausted at the end of the day? It can sometimes be quite tiring to rush from pillar to post between many jobs during the day. Even a few minutes of yoga every day makes you feel fresh and energetic after a long day. A 10-minute meditation is a key to feeling refreshed in the middle of a busy day.

  • Flexibility and good posture

In order to have a strong, agile, and flexible body, you only need to add yoga to your daily routine. Regular yoga stretches the muscles and strengthens them. It also improves your body posture while sitting, standing, or sleeping. This relieves you if you have pain due to the wrong posture.

  • Better intuition

Yoga and meditation are quite powerful in developing your intuition. In this way, you effortlessly understand what, when, and how to get positive results. You may not believe it, but it works. You just have to experience it yourself.

Remember that yoga is constant. So keep practicing! The deeper you deepen in your yoga practice, the more you will see its benefits. While yoga practice improves the body and mind, it benefits many health aspects, but it is not a substitute for medicine. It is important to learn and practice yoga poses under the supervision of a certified yoga teacher. If you have any health problems, it is useful to consult a doctor first and then work with a yoga instructor.

F.A.Q About What Yoga Is Good For

An article published in the New York Times in the past years contained the idea that yoga could be harmful, and in some cases, even cause serious injury and death. However, people who saw the benefits of practicing yoga practice for thousands of years did not give up yoga, and these benefits continued to be confirmed by more and more scientific research. As recent studies show, the chances of getting hurt while doing yoga are no more than you are likely to get a serious injury while doing anything.

  • Is yoga harmful?

Since yoga is a physical activity as well as mental, there is of course a risk of injury as you do any exercise during yoga. However, in a study conducted by Holger Cramer in 2013, 76 accidents that occurred during yoga were examined and it turned out that only two of them caused very serious results. Often problems with muscle and skeleton can occur, which may be due to carelessness or insufficient safe materials such as mat-socks used. In short, if you are not careful, there is always the possibility of being hurt by yoga. To avoid this, it will be enough to work with a yoga instructor, attend yoga classes and learn how to protect yourself in poses by getting direct guidance and how you are careful against accidents at any time and show the same attention during yoga.

  • Yoga or exercise?

There are many different styles of yoga practiced today, and each one is practiced for a different purpose. For example, while Yin Yoga aims to stretch your muscles and tissues, strengthen your joints, and slow your mind, Bikram Yoga can help you get stronger as if you were working out with weights. A strong Vinyasa lesson can replace cardio training. For whatever purpose you are doing yoga, it will not be difficult to find a suitable yoga class. You need to do a little research and learn yoga styles and how they affect the body/mind.

  • Does yoga calm down?

There is no scientific data that yoga practice is a cure for problems such as depression and anxiety. However, in a study conducted at Westminister University, it was concluded that people practicing yoga show lesser signs of depression and anxiety after a while. Whether yoga itself, taking time for something regularly, or going out and socializing through yoga provides this effect, we don’t know yet. It is obvious that more scientific research should be done on this subject. However, if action will help you feel better psychologically, we also know that there will be no harm from trying yoga.

  • Can we recover with yoga?

Scientific studies prove that yoga can be good for various health problems in the long term. The body awareness that develops with yoga practice helps you take better care of yourself. Regular stretching and relaxation exercises protect heart health by regulating blood circulation. At the same time, thanks to regular yoga, the rate of inflammation in the body is reduced, so you are protected from various immune system diseases.

  • Is it possible to stretch and strengthen with yoga?

According to a study published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research in 2008, people who regularly practice yoga can be physically more flexible and more balanced. A study on paralyzed patients also reveals that yoga may have positive physical effects in the long term. So yes, if you do yoga regularly, it is possible to strengthen and stretch your muscles in your body and feel more balanced and strong.

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Savaş Ateş

I like meditation and yoga. I read a lot of books about them. I applied them in my daily life. I want to write about my experiences.

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