Three intensive months spent studying and practicing yoga in Rishikesh in Northern India opened my eyes to the true potential yoga has to improve our lives. Yoga is much more than striking a nice pose, rather it is a vast subject which outlines methods that can help integrate the body and mind. Taken as a whole the subject can be quite intimidating as it seems to conflict with many aspects of our modern lives.
Fortunately, in the subject of yoga there are many aspects which can be practiced independently and will benefit our lives immensely. Most notably the breathing exercises (pranayama) and the physical postures (asanas). Health and wellbeing is at the forefront of most people’s minds nowadays and we have seen a massive increase in people running, cycling and participating in very physical exercises. Unfortunately, many people are putting their bodies under great physical stress and as a result they are causing themselves injuries. We are all aware of how important stretching, warming up and warming down is in whatever physical activity we undertake. This is where the practice of yoga asanas can be very beneficial. The asanas can be thought of as complementary to exercise.
The asanas are techniques which place the physical body in positions that cultivate awareness, relaxation and concentration. They stretch, massage and stimulate muscles, ligaments, tendons, fascia and even internal organs. However, many top athletes though they are very fit and strong may not have the flexibility to fully commit to some poses which is why yoga must be applied correctly. Teach what the person needs not what they want. Through regular practice of these asanas one can increase their flexibility while at the same time strengthens their muscles instead of building strength at the expense of flexibility which can occur through weightlifting alone.
During a sequenced class your joints will be taken through their full range of motion which helps prevent cartilage and joint breakdown. This is particularly helpful when a class is designed to target the more specific areas related to your chosen field of sport.
There are many other benefits of practicing yoga which will have an overall positive effect on your health and in turn improve your performance. It increases blood flow, drain lymph fluid, improves your balance, releases tension and cultivates more focus. With these benefits and many more I believe if you practice yoga once or twice a week the benefits to your body and performance will be immeasurable.
Yoga is about being in the present and being present is about living in the now. Whether you are considering running a marathon or just want to increase your flexibility there is no time like the present. It is a matter of do what you can and do it now.