Yoga is not just abut losing weight. It is a kind of exercise that is not only beneficial for your physical body but for your mental and spiritual well-being as well.
I, myself have reaped the benefits of yoga. I have a condition called hypokalemia. Hypokalemia is a metabolic imbalance wherein potassium levels in the body are very low. Potassium is an electrolyte in charge of nerve and muscle functioning including the heart. A very low potassium level can lead to muscle weakness, cramps or worse, it can even lead to paralysis.
Because of my condition, it is imperative that I eat the right kinds of food to make sure that I have enough potassium in my body. Aside from my food intake, I also need to be extra careful with my physical activities. Sweating can result to a lost of electrolytes including potassium. Since I needed to do some exercise to improve my health, I was advised to choose a low-impact exercise that’s why I chose yoga.
Today, ten years later, I have gained a lot from being a yoga practitioner. Here is a list of what yoga did for me:
1. Aids Weight Loss
While yoga may not be the perfect choice if you want to lose weight immediately, yoga is an extremely effective way in shedding pounds when it comes to lasting weight loss. There are many kinds of diets and exercise available out there that gives immediate results but the weight comes right back afterwards once you stop. That is not the case with yoga. Although weight loss is gradual in yoga, it is sustainable and lasting.
I was 42 lbs. overweight when I started. No significant change in weight happened in the first few weeks and even months. However, continuous practice helped me achieved my ideal weight. Even better is the fact that there is no weight loss rebound even if I stop practicing for a month or two.
2. Boosts the Immune System
In a study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine, it indicates that yoga boosts the immune system and decrease inflammation in the body. The yoga poses stimulates the body organs including the lymphatic system that removes toxins from the body. The breathing conditions the lungs and the respiratory tract. The movement and the flow brings oxygenated blood and energy into the whole body. And the meditation de-stresses both the body and the mind.
Thanks to yoga, I am healthier now and I no longer get easily infected by bacterias, viruses and other infections.
3. Develops Mindful Eating Habits
A mindful eater is someone who pays attention to the food they are eating – the look, smell, taste and feel of the food. They choose the food that they eat. They eat slowly. They chew thoroughly. And more importantly, they stop eating when they are full.
In a study done in the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, a strong association between yoga and mindful eating was found compared to other types of physical activity.
I used to love eating fatty and oily foods. After doing yoga for some time, I now prefer eating healthy foods. Although I still indulge in junk foods once in awhile, I no longer crave for these kinds of foods. I found healthy foods to be more appetizing and fulfilling.
4. Gives Inner Peace
In yoga practice, the mind and the body are treated as one. When the mind is aligned with the body, the mind becomes clear and inner peace is achieved. Inner peace removes anxieties and worries. It removes negative thoughts.
Finding my inner peace through yoga helped me see the beauty in small things. As a result, I began to live not just a healthier life but a happier one as well.
5. Helps Achieve Balance
Do you live a balanced life? Yoga will help you achieve balance both in mind and body. Regular practice of yoga improves flexibility, stability and balance. Physical balance helps us from daily falls or mishaps especially for children and elderly. Mental balance on the other hand, helps our mind to be more focused and our emotions to be more stable.
Finding balance is a day-to-day process. I try to achieve balance on everything – from the food that I eat to how I managed my time. Yoga made it easier. It is all about learning how to achieve one’s goals yet be happy and contented at the same time. When obstacles come my way, I’ve learned when to endure and when to let go.
6. Improves Intuition
You have probably heard how highly successful people always talk about following your intuition. Intuition is your inner voice, your gut feel. It is different from your conscious mind. Unfortunately, many people have forgotten to listen to their intuition.
The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift. – Albert Einstein
A key component of yoga is meditation. When you meditate, you free your mind of logic, biases and opinions of other people. Instead, you focus on the voice inside yourself. Just like Santiago from the The Alchemist, I’ve become aware of my environment and learned to follow the signs around me instead of being influenced of what society dictates.
7. Increases Self-Esteem
If you have noticed, most yoga studios don’t have mirrors on them. This is because yoga is not about physical appearances but rather it is all about looking inwards. Rather than being conscious of the standards set by society on body image, yogis are more aware and satisfied of their own bodies. Instead of being critical with one’s body, they learn to embrace its beauty as is. Thus, yoga practitioners are confident with their own bodies. In fact, yoga has been used as part of treatment of some eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia and binge eating.
In my case, I have a larger than average frame and bones. I am not fat but I had a hard time choosing the right kind of clothes because people think I am fat. I’ve resorted to wearing jeans and t-shirt pretty much my whole life to hide my body. Today, I feel confident about my body. I’ve learned to embrace it as what it is. This in turn boosted my self-esteem.
8. Lowers Blood Pressure
A quite number of published studies proved yoga as a highly effective treatment of high blood pressure. Certain yoga poses turn on the parasympathetic nervous system, which is in charge of rest and repair of the body. It slows the heart and allows the nervous system to be more balanced.
I used to have two maintenance drugs for hypertension, one of which has a dosage of 200 mg that I was supposed to take twice daily. Today, I still take maintenance drugs but the quantity and dosage were lowered several times already in the course of 10 years. From 200 mg, that dosage had been lowered to 10 mg twice daily. My blood pressure is now under observation to see whether or not, I can remove the medication altogether.
9. Reduces Stress
Yoga is a mind-body practice. It is not just simply doing the physical poses, it is also a mindfulness practice. You have to learn to control your breathing, quieting the mind in the process. Deep concentration on the present moment is important until you achieve a certain level of peacefulness in your practice.
The mental clarity and calmness achieved during constant practice helped me relaxed. It greatly reduced my stress and anxiety levels. It is also effective in lifting my mood. When I am stressed, a few breathing exercises are enough to make a difference.
10. Tones the Muscle
Yoga tones the muscles all over the body. When you do the poses, the body is positioned in such a way that it supports the muscles. As a result, the body weight acts as weights.
I am not the athletic type so I managed to harbor all those baby fats even as an adult. Now, I’m in my forties but people have been noticing how toned my muscles have become. My body is now in perfect shape. I can now wear any kinds of clothes and look good in them.
Just look at the bodies of famous Hollywood celebrities who do yoga like David Beckham, Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, Justin Timberlake, Madonna, Gisele Bundchen, Lady Gaga, Robert Downey Jr., Beyonce, Miley Cyrus and Kim Kardasian.
Doing yoga has done wonders in my life. But then again, to each his own. What worked for me may not work for you. It all depends on your lifestyle and your preference. If you want to try if yoga is for you, try Yoga with Adriene. There is a bunch of free yoga videos available on Youtube that you can try before you decide to enroll on a yoga class.