I hope you have enjoyed this series on the benefits of yoga. The benefits of yoga are many and I have not even begun to scratch the surface here. I encourage you to dig deeper on your own. But there is one final thought I want to leave with you.
We do not practice yoga hoping to obtain a certain specific benefit from our practice. We practice yoga to come back home to who we were created to be. As we learn to practice the eight limbs of yoga our minds, our bodies, our spirits and our lives begin to come back into alignment. We can feel the sense of joining, union or coming together within ourselves as we progress.
If we are seeking certain specific changes however, we may be disappointed. Remember, yoga does not change us; rather, it allows the natural state of total health and integration already in each of us to become a reality.
I would love to hear about your yoga experiences in the comments below.
“Yoga is the unifying art of transforming dharma into action, be it through inspired thought, properly nurturing our children, a painting, a kindness or an act of peace that forever moves humanity forward. “
“Yoga is not a work-out, it is a work-in. And this is the point of spiritual practice; to make us teachable; to open up our hearts and focus our awareness so that we can know what we already know and be who we already are.”
“True yoga is not about the shape of your body, but the shape of your life. Yoga is not to be performed; yoga is to be lived. Yoga doesn’t care about what you have been; yoga cares about the person you are becoming. Yoga is designed for a vast and profound purpose, and for it to be truly called yoga, its essence must be embodied.” — Aadil Palkhivala
Seventeen years ago I had a conversation with my alternative medical doctor about tangible evidence that would be recognized by the medical community that alternative treatments and preventative measures actually do work. He said, “It is coming. I believe we will see it in our lifetime.” Unfortunately the doctor died unexpectedly a few short months after making that comment. However, I am beginning to see it come to pass. Last year I participated in an “evidence based” Tai Chi class to help prevent falls in seniors. I am reading increasing numbers of controlled medical studies that tend to support the effectiveness of alternative medical treatments and lifestyle practices.
While researching this series I have run across studies that suggest that in addition to the stretching that most people associate with yoga, there may also be heart health benefits to the practice. I am including links to summaries and literature reviews of some of these at the bottom of this post if you want to check these out. What they are finding in a nutshell is that:
The deep breathing and mental focus of yoga practice can help reduce stress and thereby reducing the accompanying physical effects of stress such as narrowing of arteries and elevated blood pressure.
Yoga may help lower blood pressure, blood cholesterol and blood glucose levels, as well as heart rate.
Yoga may help some people stop smoking which is a major risk factor for heart disease.
Yoga combines physical activity, breathing, and meditation, which have each been shown to positively affect cardiovascular risk factors.
Yoga however does not count toward the recommended amount of “moderate to vigorous exercise” for heart health. There are studies that are examining this, so we will see where they lead. I do both, practicing yoga as well as walking up and down the hills in my neighborhood.
Yoga is included in the Ornish program to reverse heart disease. It will be interesting to follow as medical science finally “discovers” what yogis have known all along.