The benefits of doing yoga everyday

Learn why you need to do yoga everyday. (Istockphoto)
Learn why you need to do yoga everyday. (Istockphoto)


from weight management to better athletic performance, and from healthier joints to better stress relief, there are many reasons why you should practice yoga

Although there is a lot of discussion around yoga on the annual International day of Yoga (last Friday), there are clear reasons why yoga should be a part of our daily practice. Despite plenty of modern exercises, sports and new fads, this ancient form of exercise-cum-meditation remains relevant and is, in fact, growing in popularity the world over.

New yoga studios and schools are popping up everywhere from Tokyo to Toronto and from Sao Paulo to San Francisco. People from all walks of life, including C-suite leaders, actors, athletes andhomemakers, are increasingly incorporating yoga in their fitness and wellness routines because of the benefits such a practice offers.

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That yoga improves flexibility, mobility and joint health, is common knowledge. It does a lot more. Here are some of the top benefits of yoga.

Beat stress

Be it your daily commute, work, family and even social gatherings, stressorsare everywhere. Regular practice of yoga is extremely useful in stress management. Inverted postures such as sarvangasana and shavasana as well as pranayamaare helpful in tackling stress, says ManishPole, a Bengaluru-based yoga instructor.

A practice such as Yoga-nidra, a technique in which one progressively relaxes the body from toes to head, is a great way of beating stress. “You focus on one part of the body at a time and consciously relax it. By focusing on just one part of the body at a time, we reduce the speed at which the mind works. This conscious slowing down of the mind helps us handle stress better and thereby manage diabetes and hypertension," explains Karthik Kashyap, ayoga instructorin Bengaluru.

Improved health markers (BP, cholesterol)

Doctors often prescribe yoga practice, alongside medicine, for managing vital health markers such as blood pressure and cholesterol. A research paper titled Effectiveness Of Yoga For Hypertension: Systematic Review And Meta-analysis, published in 2013, found that“overall, yoga was associated with a modest but significant reduction in blood pressure… with larger, more clinically significant reductions in blood pressure for interventions incorporating 3 basic elements of yoga practice (postures, meditation, and breathing)."

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The paper concludes that yoga is an effective intervention for reducing blood pressure among people with pre-hypertension or hypertension. Yoga can be especially effective when combined with aerobic activities to manage your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, says Dr. Yogesh Shah, an internal medicine consultant at the Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, Indore.

Better balance, more strength

Research has shown that yoga is good for improving athletic performance by improving flexibility and balance, which helps prevent common injuries, and increasing mental concentration. Yoga practice also increases body awareness and strength and enhances stability and balance, saysRahul Huidrom,Cult.Fitfitness expert.

Yoga postures such as the triangle pose and tree pose not just help strengthen the leg muscles, but they also increase stability and improve balance, says Girish Bindra, a running coach in Mumbai. The form of yoga that especially tests your strength is Ashtanga Yoga. Yoga improves elasticity of muscles, says Mumbai-based yoga trainer Abhishek Sharma.

Pain management

Yoga is a useful strategy in pain management and rehabilitation in conjunction with other interventions, says Kashyap. While acute pain requires medical intervention, chronic (long-term) pain can be effectively managed with yoga. Sukshma vyayama (a relaxation technique involving tightening your muscles and letting go) is useful in managing pain caused by ligament tears and bone degeneration, he adds.

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“This must be supported by exercises that help strengthen the muscles around the affected area by moving them regularly to relax the injured spot. This process improves blood circulation and reduces muscular stress," adds Kashyap.

Also, yoga leads to a greater acceptance of chronic pain rather than the obsession with eliminating it, explains Sharma.“It is our reaction to the pain that causes us greater suffering. Yoga helps accept the pain, takes away our obsession with it. Yoga helps you disconnect from the negative emotions that come with pain and that helps people cope better with the perception of pain. That helps reduce the suffering."

Injury prevention

Yoga is preventive in nature, says Sharma. If you regularly and consistently do yoga the correct way, you are unlikely to experience minor niggles and pain in your day to day life, he argues. “Whatever little aches that surface can easily be fixed with even a gentle session of yoga," says Sharma. The increased flexibility, mobility, balance and elasticity in muscles makes our bodies more resistant to injuries when we push ourselves or carry out strenuous tasks and movements.

Weight management

While yoga on its own is not an effective way of losing weight, in conjunction with cardio and strength training, it is a very good weapon in your arsenal to manage your weight, say yoga teachers. The newer, more dynamic forms of hybrid yoga that are fast growing in popularity are more effective for weight loss than traditional yoga, says Srivalli Cherla, a yoga instructor and founder of Samsara Yoga in Bengaluru.“Cardio-intensive forms of yoga such as power or Vinyasa yoga are best suited to those who want to address their weight problems. Vinyasayoga is a combination of the dynamic and static forms where you hold asanas for a little longer before moving to the next while in power yoga you move through postures very quickly. Power yoga is a very dynamic practice," she explains Cherla. It is also important to eat healthier if weight management is your end goal, she adds.

Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and the co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness.

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