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Why Yoga Offers So Many Benefits

Are you thinking of taking up a new activity in 2014?

If you are, then look no further than the ancient art of yoga. If you are looking to increase your health and wellbeing and decrease your stress levels, then a regular yoga class could be the answer. Yoga has been around for thousands of years and with so many benefits, both physically and mentally, it’s easy to see why so many people are taking it up.

Yoga is not just about being flexible, we often hear people say, ‘I’m not bendy enough’, and other reasons why they feel yoga isn’t for them. But yoga is for all of us, and can be adapted to benefit everyone. The reasons for taking up yoga extend far beyond just the physical side into our mental health, as a powerful tool to help manage stress. Yoga brings together both physical and mental disciplines to achieve peacefulness in the body and mind, helping you relax and manage stress in a holistic way.

In Wildflower Yoga classes we often use the saying, ‘Let breath be your guide’, why do we say this? Because there is a direct link between breathing and our state of mind. Often when we are stressed our breathing changes and this affects us physically and mentally. When you breathe deeply it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax, and the brain then sends this message to your body. The things that happen when we are stressed, such as increased heart rate, fast breathing, and high blood pressure, all decrease as we breathe deeply to relax. The way we breathe affects the whole body, so combining breath awareness and physical movement is a great way to relax, reduce tension and relieve stress. One of the main ways that yoga can manage stress is by learning to control the breath. When we practice yoga, we first become more aware of the breath, then learn to coordinate it with movement, and ultimately learn how to use the breath to help find a sense of stillness and wellbeing. When we move and breathe with awareness in a yoga class, it calms our nervous system and can quiet down an overactive stress-response system.

Regular yoga practice can improve our wellbeing and also change the way that we interact with life and cope with what it throws at us, helping us be more balanced. The physical practice combined with conscious breathing is one well recognised way of practicing ‘mindfulness’. It is through the ability to be mindful that we see life more objectively and thus develop insight, which allows us to deal with stress more objectively.

So if you feel like you could use a little more peacefulness and a little less stress in your life - then yoga is the new activity for you in 2014.

Jacquie Chalmers is a teacher at Wildflower Yoga in Earlsfield

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