Yoga practice consists (at least) of 3 stages: physical exercises (asanas), breathing exercises (pranayama), and observation exercises (pratyahara).

Physical exercises: Strength – flexibility = HEALTH

Asanas help the body in that some muscles tighten and some muscles stretch.
Flexibility of the joints is closely related to our health, as it is related to the blood circulation of the limbs, keeping them healthy.
Stretching improves our health because it helps with blood circulation within the muscles, hence «cleaning» them and improving their function.
Asanas strengthen the muscles because they work isometric. We hold a pose requiring, on one hand, some muscles to stay still, in a steady contraction. On the other hand, we assist at the same time other muscles to stretch and relax, improving our flexibility.
Each one of us can start a program fitted to one’s personal needs as well as one’s time dedicated to yoga, age, sex, and body structure, and with practice, one can drastically improve his strength and flexibility.

Breathing exercises: oxygenation – calmness = HEALTH

Breath keeps us alive. Breath however does much more than just providing our body with oxygen. When it is complete it gives us energy; when it is rhythmic it relaxes us.
There are exercises that teach us how to breathe. In our modern society people got used to breathe using the upper respiratory system, which is a sign of stress. The more the stress, the shorter the breath and vice versa. The more shallow we breathe, the more we disturb our body and soul.
An inadequate breath has a domino effect in our whole system: Our internal organs do not oxygenate sufficiently, they hypo-function requiring from the heart to over-function and beat faster, putting stress on it, consequently we feel tired, panic, our glands don’t work well, we fall sick easy… and so much more…
Breathing exercises have so many benefits for our health. On one hand, they wake our inactive muscles up, strengthen them, and consequently we can breathe deeper, filling our body with oxygen and supplying energy to every part of it. Our heart relaxes, as there is no need to beat faster to supply oxygen, oxygen is already there in the blood through deep breathing!

On the other hand, a full, rhythmical breath relaxes our nervous system and teaches us to remain calm but also alert! Calm nervous system equals good health since all the organs work at their best. And let’s not forget that when we are calm we are much more effective in whatever we do, even in our interpersonal relationships.

Observation exercises: I recognise – I protect – I prevent = HEALTH

Observing is so important that we will later dedicate a sole article to it.
For now, let’s say that it is important for our health to learn how to observe our body, how it feels, where its limits are, learn to listen and respect it, in order to prevent injuries.
Injury is not only a bleeding wound or a bruise. Injuries can be caused by overworked muscles or joints. A housewife can injure her shoulders or waist when she dusts a heavy rug, a student can injure his neck or waist when he studies for many long hours or while he is playing with his cellphone, and so on. Our body signals us and raises red flags but we do not listen to it, until a more permanent pain comes and affects our whole life. But that is too late.
Shall we not study then, not dust our rugs or drive our cars? Of course we have to, but when we know how to observe our body, we will recognize the signals it sends to us when it protests, and we will do something to protect it. This can be as simple as change in posture, change of the activity, a break, or a simple relaxing exercise.

Yoga is a multi-tool. Each one of us, according to one’s needs, can use yoga to improve health, mood, and life in general!

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