Yoga and How it Can Help You

Yoga connects your body, breath, and mind

Asanas, or poses, move you through both full body range of motion and exercises for specific areas of the body.

Pranayama, or breath, helps your mind and muscles relax during the exercise.

Meditation, or concentration, helps you stay in the present, able to focus on the poses and breathing. 

The combination of the 3 components is what separates yoga from regular stretching. 

There are many different types of yoga

Power yoga is geared towards achieving an intense workout, while restorative yoga focuses on gentle, passive stretching and meditative breathing. It is common for people to practice more than one type of yoga, and like other workouts, you can choose which yoga type fits your current needs.

Yoga is for everyone

Yoga can be adapted to anyone’s needs. The use of props such as blocks, straps, blankets, walls, and chairs can assist with modifying poses to meet any unique needs. Yoga can even be done while you are sitting at your desk (or anywhere for that matter, including a wheelchair). 

Yoga can be done anywhere

Before the internet, yoga was typically done in-person in yoga studios, gyms, community centers, or other businesses. Now, there are thousands of free online sources that offer yoga virtually, through both live and pre-recorded classes. There are many benefits of virtual yoga such as: free, or lower, cost, working through the practice on your own time including pausing the video and resuming when they want, and the removal of social pressures, like comparing your flexibility or strength to that of a classmate.

Yoga provides many benefits

According to research from John Hopkins Medicine, practicing yoga has been shown to:

  • Improve strength, balance, and flexibility
  • Relieve back pain
  • Ease arthritis symptoms
  • Benefit heart health
  • Improve relaxation and sleep
  • Increase energy and brighten your mood
  • Reduce stress
  • Provide a connection with a supportive community
  • Promote self-care

Putting it All Together: How Does Yoga Actually Work?

Although there is plenty of scientific, evidence-based research recommending yoga, it can be hard to conceptualize how yoga can help you.

Yoga provides deep proprioceptive input, or sensations that increase body awareness, control, and relaxation.

Proprioception is your body’s awareness of its location in relation to your own body. For example, someone with intact proprioception can reach behind their back and touch the tips of their thumbs together without looking. This is because there are special receptors in your tendons, joints, and muscles that send messages to your brain, connecting your mind and body. When practicing yoga, your attention is focused on your body’s position, increasing your proprioceptive awareness, resulting in deep relaxation and muscle control.

Yoga helps you focus on the present moment.

When practicing yoga, you focus on your body, breath, and mind all at once, distracting you from any racing thoughts, stress, and anxiety. When trying to maintain a balance pose, for example, your brain involuntarily shifts to whatever your body needs to do to keep balance, so you don’t fall! With practice, you will gently rewire your brain, allowing you to take the relaxation you attain during yoga “off the mat”, and use the techniques from yoga in your daily life. For example, if you feel stressed at work, you may naturally gravitate towards taking deep breaths and checking in with your body instead of allowing yourself to spiral.

Yoga helps you in everyday life

Building a frequent, or daily, yoga practice makes it possible to slowly “rewire” your brain to cease racing thoughts and reduce stress and anxiety by naturally bringing your mind back to the present moment. While doing yoga, you will naturally get distracted, and the actual practice is bringing your awareness back to the pose and your breath, instead of allowing your mind to wander into stressful thoughts. With practice, you may find that your mind will naturally refocus on your breath or a calming thought instead of focusing on the stress or anxiety in your daily life. This is called taking your yoga practice “off the mat” and into your real world, which is truly the most rewarding part of the practice.