Guest Blogger: Daina Kenins
Daina is a health and wellness expert and self-proclaimed nutrition and fitness nut! As a competitive athlete growing up, exercise has always been an important part of her life, which lead her to earn her Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Kinesiology. She is an avid marathon runner, hiker, cyclist and certified Vinyasa Yoga Teacher. An ambassador for the paleo diet, she creates and shares recipes as well as blogs about the hottest trends in nutrition and fitness on her blog, ‘The Paleo Bean’ www.thepaleobean.com. Check it out for delicious recipes and health & wellness tips!
Below are Daina’s ‘Top 5 Benefits of Yoga’
The term yoga comes from the literal meaning of ‘yolking together’. In Sanskrit, it translates to ‘union’ and refers to the notion of uniting our mental, physical and spiritual parts. This concept as well as the idea being ‘present’ is the basis of yogic philosophy. It is widely felt that we can only truly experience happiness when we are living in the moment. Through asana (postures/poses), dhyana (meditation) and pranayama (breathing techniques), yoga permits us to do just that. Connecting our minds with our body’s movements and breath allows us to become more aware and mindful. In the Western world, multi-tasking has become the gold standard for our methods of operation. Though this ability may be advantageous in certain situations, it can hinder us from truly experiencing the moment in others. When is the last time you had a meal and focused on the smells, colours and flavours of every bite? Watching TV, listening to music, or chatting with a friend can inhibit our ability to be mindful and enjoy our food. This phenomenon can lead to overeating as you chew and swallow mindlessly, unaware that you may be satiated. Yoga can provide you with the tools you need to be more mindful, which can have a very powerful impact on how you experience each day and moment, both on and off your mat.
Modern day life wreaks absolute havoc on our bodies. From sitting at a desk, slumped over our computer by day, to lounging on a sofa with minimal (if any) lumbar support by night – it’s all bad news for our spines. Posture is directly related to the alignment of our spines, which is home to our central nervous system. Therefore the conclusion can be drawn that a healthy spine is a healthy body. Through proper alignment and strengthening of key muscles, yoga can drastically improve your posture. This comes with an array of not only physical, but psychological benefits too. When we stand tall we are reported to have improved self-confidence, more energy, and be happier. Incorporate heart openers, backbends, and core strengthening poses into your practice and notice how this affects both your posture and your health.
3) Weight Control
Though practicing yoga isn’t about obtaining any type of external benefit, when practiced with intention, one will enjoy improved strength and fat loss. Performing a sequence of asanas (postures) requires the activation multiple muscle groups, which over time will build lean muscle. Muscle is far more metabolically active than adipose or fat tissue, meaning it uses more energy. Why is that significant? It means your body will torch more calories, even at rest.
Yoga practice involves a great deal of stretching, which can in turn lead to increased flexibility. The most obvious benefit of improved flexibility is that it allows you to move deeper into a pose to get more out of the posture. For example, in a twist, a larger range of motion will have a greater detoxing effect on your internal organs. Think of your organs as as a wet t-shirt, and the twisting motion of your body as a way of wringing them out. Greater flexibility also reduces your risk for injury and improves the flow of blood to your muscles. In the event you do sustain an injury, movement will allow you to recover more quickly by moving fresh blood and oxygen to the location of the injury.
5) Stress Relief
This is perhaps my favourite benefit of all. I am a firm believer that stress is the root cause of the majority of preventable illnesses. On a personal level, stress has affected my sleep, given me digestive issues, caused back pain and headaches, compromised my immune system, and at times made me a rather unpleasant person to be around. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Stress can also affect fertility, blood pressure, body weight, and breakouts among a plethora of other things. Returning to our first benefit, the ability to be in the present prevents you from thinking about anything else that may be causing you anxiety. Yoga has been recognised as a very powerful tool, as movement, meditation and breathing have all been proven to reduce stress levels and improve your mood. The great thing about yoga is that everyone can practice it and realise these benefits. Poses can be tailored to suit each individual based on experience, injury, pain, body shape, age and flexibility.