Updated: Aug 5, 2019
What is Yoga and what can it do for you?
Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years by millions of people. It is a time honored Eastern system of self care that stems from Ancient Khemet, Nubia and Asia. A major misconception about yoga is that it is just a workout like aerobics, Pilates or even Zoomba.
It is a workout, however, Yoga in and of itself is not just about physical posturing or flexibility. Its purpose has nothing to do with contortionism or building a sexy body (even though it can make you look hella sexy). Yoga practice can take many forms that don't necessarily involve poses. So practicing yoga does not always mean whipping out your yoga mat.
Yoga is actually a very general term. It's kinda like"Do" in Tae Kwan Do or in Jeet Kun Do. It deals with the way you achieve your goal. The methods or styles through which we realign ourselves with the divine - that's Yoga. To put it very simply.
Physical forms of Yoga that involve posturing your body are collectively called "Hatha Yoga" or simply hatha. Types of yoga like: Kemetic, Ashtanga, Bikram, Iyengar, etc.- All these fall in this general category.
For the sake of this article, we will be referring generally to the physical forms of Yoga. These forms involve systematic posturing sequences that flow with and incorporate the breath.
So- Now that we know what Yoga is- back to the original question:
What can Yoga do for you?
What can't it do for you?!?
1. Spinal realignment
Let's start with the centerpiece of it all, the backbone. If you think about the human body, the spine is at the center of it all- holding it all together. The rib cage that protects your vital organs is attached to the spine. Your entire nervous system communicates signals to the brain through the spine. The kundalini energy that generates when we have sex or meditate- rises up through the spine. All of the chakras are aligned along the spine. So its safe to say that along with your brain and heart, your spine is one of the most important parts of your body.
Yoga focuses very heavily on internal realignment, making it ideal for bringing an out of wack spine back into shape. Your spine supports your whole torso- where all your organs and guts are suspended in place. If your spine is out of place, then so are your guts.
A healthy backbone gives you that good- upright posture that exudes confidence and self esteem. Emotionally, having a hunched back is associated with grumpiness and bitterness. Conversely, having a nice tall posture is a associated with pride (the good kind) and awareness.
2. Improved respiration
Aaagh...breathing... What would we do without it? Well...we would die. Proper breathing is directly connected to vitality. Thats why its called the breath of life! Your breath is the spiritual fuel that ignites your body. Think about it - whenever your body becomes tired- you yawn to give yourself a quick burst of energy. Its because your breath is like gas in your car.
It is said that God breathed the breath of life into man and man became a living soul. According to this account- man was just a sack of meat before God blew the vital breath into him - animating his body. And when man's life ends- the breath leaves him. But you don't have to be religious to know that the breath is connected to the spirit and the soul. This is why Yoga focuses so heavily on the breath. Without the coordinated focused breathing - Yoga just becomes another physical workout.
Yoga teaches us to breathe properly again. Most of us are not taking full breaths on average. The only time most people breathe correctly is during sleep. The abdomen should expand on the inhale and collapse on the exhale. This is natural and is not normally something you have to consciously think about. BUT - we live in extreme times. People are generally out of tune with nature, so our breathing can sometimes be out of wack. Yoga will help you learn to make the most of your breathing.
3. More Thorough Digestion
You ever go 2 or more days without doing a number 2? We've all been there. But for some- this is just the way it is. They ALWAYS go 2 or more days without a bowel movement. This is not good! Queen Afua (Wholistic wellness expert and healer) says that you should have a crap within 3-4 hours after eating each a meal. So generally if you ate 3 meals a day - you should have 3 craps a day. Anything less is an indicator of an inefficient digestive system.
Yoga (along with drinking more water) goes a looong way when it comes to digestive regularity. In fact it is not uncommon for some to pass gas while doing some poses. Go ahead and laugh - but let that fart out too! Now - no one's saying it causes diarrhea- just that it will help you process your food more thoroughly- guaranteed. ( I personally don't poot during Yoga but i've heard tales...)
The reason Yoga helps you eliminate is because of all the bending, stretching, breathing, core conditioning and stress relieving poses it utilizes. When you do Yoga daily- over the course of a few months- you may end up doing hundreds, or even thousands of forward bends. Forward bends help soften hard impacted colonic waste that gets stuck in the system.
The Sun Salutation alone contains several movements to help awaken your digestive tract. So don't be surprised when you find yourself releasing all of that old backed up waste after a good practice. That just means the Yoga is doing its job. If you are in the middle of a colon cleansing regiment- add in some Yoga to boost your release.
4. Enhanced sexual performance.
Question: What do you need to be "good in bed"?
Answer: Energy, longevity, breath control, flexibility, a healthy back, and good circulation- just to name a few. Yoga gives you all of this and more! In fact, sex is actually its own form of Yoga- which can have a restorative effect when done properly.
The health of the spine, the circulatory system, the digestive system and respiratory system - all relate directly to our ability to perform sexually. A dude who can't breathe good or stand up straight- is gonna have a tough time "putting his thing down". A chick who isn't flexible might hurt herself trying to get into some of those poses.
Some people actually die during, or as a result of having sex (not to sound morbid). The point is that good sex is a physically demanding activity that requires some level of health to achieve. Yoga boosts your health, skill and confidence level in bed - because it makes your body look stunning and makes your breath control amaze-balls! You even begin to smell and taste better - cause your body is not housing as many stinky toxins. That's a nifty little perk.
There's a whole lot more that can be said about Yoga and sex - but let's save that for another article. It's deep.
5. Stress relief and prevention
A long day at work. Tight muscles. Sore feet. A bad argument with a loved one. Tight stomach. Tight back. A failing grade on a test. Poor posture. No rest. Do you see the relationship between stress- soreness and tightness? The connection between a bad day and a bad back? Not only are they related - they amplify each other!
Having an aching back lends itself toward a sour day. Or having messed up day might make your back hurt. It works both ways. Yoga is the guardian at the gates - that keeps that daily stress from ever embedding itself into your muscles and bones.
Think of stress like plaque build-up and Yoga is like brushing your teeth. We were all taught to brush our teeth each day and night - and to floss and all that. But no one taught us how to fight stress build-up. Yoga is how. A spiritual exercise that also exercises the body. It's like a fun tune-up that makes you feel so awesome afterwards!
6. Brings Balance to Whatever
Life is a constant balancing act- Juggling our budgets, our time and our relationships. Its not always easy and it never stops! But don't fret- Yoga is here. It quiets and levels the mind and body- making for an overall better usage of one's talents and time.
Most of us are polarized on either the right or left sides of ourselves. For instance: People are either left handed or right handed. Even an ambidextrous person (someone who uses both hands equally) has a stronger and a weaker hand (or foot).
Most martial artists can relate to this. You throw your left kick and its awesome, you throw the same kick with your right foot- and it looks like doo-doo. Yoga can help strengthen your weak side - but it will also help to soften your strong side.
Yoga brings unity and balance to your kicks and punches. It seeks to marry the hard and the soft. It ensures that you don't leave anything out. It rejuvenates muscles and tendons, even the ones in your face. It is all encompassing.
7. Extra flexibility
This is probably the most typical and universally understood benefit of Yoga practice. Everyone knows that people who regularly do Yoga are more flexible. This is a stereotype that is based in truth. If you do Yoga all of the time, chances are your body will be extra stretchy.
Yoga can even make you taller. Nice!
In addition to making you more physically flexible- it makes you more mentally and spiritually flexible. I found that it made me calmer and more open minded.
If you are looking to detoxify your system, this is a wonderful method that naturally supports detox. The sweating, the breathing, and all of the bending and folding and stretching causes your body to release all kinds of pent-up stress and carcinogens.
I spoke earlier about Yoga eventually making you have less stinky B.O. ; Well its because of the detox which is a form of internal cleansing. When you clean your home - doesn't it smell better? Well then it makes sense that detoxing your body makes you smell better.
9. Energy booster
After a good thorough yoga practice the body is charged. Unlike many other forms of working out it does not leave you tired and ready to lie down. It actually makes you want to do other productive stuff.
When your practice is complete you can feel your blood coursing through your veins. You can also feel the deepness of your breath, an overwhelming sense of calmness. It's an interesting feeling that seems to contradict itself. Because while you feel relaxed, also feel very amped up and ready to go. It's pretty sweet! It makes you feel so alive!
So whenever you have something about yourself that you'd like to improve - no matter what category it may fall in - chances are yoga can help you reach your goals. It's not just for girls, really flexible people, yogi's - it's for any and everyone anytime! Don't sleep!