WHY does yoga help you feel good? If you are like me, you wish to understand the science behind how yoga works to improve physical and mental health, heal aches and pains, and keep sickness at bay.
An understanding of WHY yoga helps you feel so good can be that motivational kick to step onto the mat with regularity.
There are MANY ways you will improve your wellness with yoga. Improved flexibility and bone health are just two of those. This is the first in a series of blog posts to present the many benefits of yoga.
Improves Your Flexibility – one of the first benefits of yoga that you will notice.
The first time you came to yoga class you may not have been able to touch your toes, never mind do a back-bend! With continued practice, you noticed a gradual loosening. Eventually seemingly impossible poses become possible. That accomplishment alone makes you feel good!
You’ll also notice that aches and pains start to lessen or disappear. That’s no coincidence.
Tight hips can strain knee joints due to improper alignments of the thigh and shinbones. Tight hamstrings can lead to a flattening of the lumbar spine, which can cause back pain. Tight calves can cause heel and/or foot pain. Tight neck muscles can cause upper back pain, shoulder pain, headache, neck-stiffness. OK – enough! You get it.
Simply put, muscle imbalances occur when one muscle is stronger than its opposing muscle. For example, if you sit all day at a computer, your shoulders are likely pulled forward creating a strength imbalance between the front of your body and the back. While these muscle imbalances may not be a problem at first, the real issues occur over time. Unless you find ways to fix whatever imbalances exist, you could be headed for injury and pain.
Increasing your flexibility with a regular yoga practice develops an equal load throughout your body from your feet all the way up to your head, thereby relieving an imbalance of muscular tension.
Betters your bone health – Many yoga poses require that you lift your own weight, known as a weight-bearing exercise, which is well documented to strengthen bones.
Bone is a living tissue with two types of cells. There are osteoblasts that build bone and osteoclasts that destroy bone. As we get older, particularly for women, there is a decrease in bone mineral density. Some are prescribed medications to block the osteoclasts, but those medications can have side effects and don’t build new bone cells. In contrast, weight-bearing exercise stimulates the osteoblasts and the building of new bone.
Yoga poses such as down dog help strengthen the arm bones, which are particularly vulnerable to osteoporotic fractures. Regular practice of our typical yoga poses has been shown to increase bone density in the vertebrae, femur and hip bones.
The practice of yoga poses also tends to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which has been shown to extract calcium and other minerals from bones and interferes with laying down of new bone.
Doing just a dozen basic yoga poses taking only 12 minutes a day, has been shown to prevent osteoporosis, develop better balance and coordination, and protect against falling, a major cause of osteoporotic fractures. Yoga, Another Way to Prevent Osteoporosis by Harvard Health Publishing
And YES, Savasana is included in those 12 poses.