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Why Yoga?

In the west we commonly refer to yoga as the physical postures (asana), but it also comprises: breathing (pranayama), relaxation (savasana) and meditation (dhyana).
 
The emphasis on the physical part has given rise to the perception that yoga consists only of asana practice. A more esoteric intention is to facilitate the flow of prana (vital energy; qi in Chinese; ki in Japanese) to aid in balancing the koshas (sheaths) of the physical and metaphysical body.
 
Yoga can be considered to be physical and mental therapy. The aging process, caused mainly by autointoxication, can be slowed down by practicing yoga.  By keeping the body clean, flexible and well lubricated, we can significantly reduce the catabolic process of cell deterioration.  To get the maximum benefits of yoga one has to combine the practices of asana, pranayama and meditation.
 
 
Regular practice of yoga can help such diverse ailments such as diabetes, blood pressure, digestive disorders, arthritis, arteriosclerosis, chronic fatigue, asthma, varicose veins and heart conditions. Laboratory tests have proved the yogi`s increased abilities of consciously controlling autonomic or involuntary functions, such as temperature, heartbeat and blood pressure. Research into the effects of yogic practices on HIV is currently underway with promising results.
 
According to medical scientists, yoga is successful because of the balance created in the nervous and endochrine systems which directly influences all the other systems and organs of the body. Yoga acts both as a curative and preventive therapy. The very essence of yoga lies in attaining mental peace, improved concentration powers, a relaxed state of living and harmony in relationships.
 
Through the practice of yoga, we become aware of the interconnectedness between our emotional, mental and physical levels. Gradually this awareness leads to an understanding of the more subtle areas of existence. The ultimate goal of
Physicians and scientists are discovering brand new health benefits of yoga everyday.  Studies show it can relieve the symptoms of several common and some potentially life-threatening illnesses such as arthritis, arteriosclerosis, chronic fatigue, diabetes, AIDS, asthma and obesity.
 
Asthma
Studies conducted at yoga institutions in India have reported impressive success in improving asthma. It has also been proved that asthma attacks can usually be prevented by yoga methods without resorting to drugs.
 
High Blood Pressure
The relaxation and exercise components of yoga have a major role to play in the treatment and prevention of high blood pressure (hypertension). A combination of biofeedback and yogic breathing and relaxation techniques has been found to lower blood pressure and reduce the need for high blood pressure medication in people suffering from it.
 
Pain Management
Yoga is believed to reduce pain by helping the brain`s pain centre regulate the gate-controlling mechanism located in the spinal cord and the secretion of natural painkillers in the body.  Breathing exercises used in yoga can also reduce pain.  Because muscles tend to relax when you exhale, lengthening the time of exhalation can help produce relaxation and reduce tension.  Awareness of breathing helps to achieve calmer, slower respiration and aid in relaxation and pain management.
 
Back Pain
Back pain is the most common reason to seek medical attention. Yoga has consistently been used to cure and prevent back pain by enhancing strength and flexibility.  Both acute and long-term stress can lead to muscle tension and exacerbate back problems.
 
Arthritis
Slow-motion movements and gentle pressures reach deep into troubled joints. In addition, the easy stretches in conjunction with deep breathing exercises relieve the tension that binds up the muscles and further tightens the joints. Yoga is exercise and relaxation rolled into one - the perfect anti-arthritis formula.
 
Weight Reduction
Regular yoga practice can help in weight management. Firstly, some of the asanas stimulate sluggish glands to increase their hormonal secretions. The thyroid gland, especially, has a big effect on our weight because it affects body metabolism. There are several asanas, such as the shoulder stand and the fish posture, which are specifically regulate the thryroid gland.  Fat metabolism is also increased, so well as losing fat, you will have better muscle tone and a higher vitality level.
 
Yogic practices that reduce anxiety tend to reduce anxious eating. In addition, yoga deep breathing increases the oxygen intake to the body cells, including the fat cells. This causes increased oxidation or burning up of fat cells. Yogic exercises induce more continuous and deeper breathing which gradually burns, sometimes forcefully, many of the calories already ingested.
 
Psychological Benefits
Regular yoga practice creates mental clarity and calmness, increases body awareness, relieves chronic stress patterns, relaxes the mind, centres attention and sharpens concentration.
 
Self-Awareness
Yoga strives to increase self-awareness on both a physical and psychological level. Patients who study yoga learn to induce relaxation and then use the technique whenever pain appears.  Practicing yoga can provide chronic pain sufferers with useful tools to actively cope with their pain and help counter feelings of helplessness and depression.
 
Mental Performance
A common technique used in yoga is breathing through one nostril at a time. Electroencephalogram (EEG) studies of the electrical impulses of the brain have shown that breathing through one nostril results in increased activity on the opposite side of the brain. Some experts suggest that the regular practice of breathing through one nostril may help improve communication between the right and left side of the brain. Studies have also shown that this increased brain activity is associated with better performance and doctors even suggest that yoga can enhance cognitive performance.
 
Mood Change And Vitality
Mental health and physical energy are difficult to quantify, but virtually everyone who participates in yoga over a period of time reports a positive effect on outlook and energy level. Yogic stretching and breathing exercises have been seen to result in an invigorating effect on both mental and physical energy and improved mood.
 
Spiritual Benefits
When you achieve the yogic spirit, you can begin knowing yourself at peace. The value of discovering one`s self and of enjoying one`s self as is, begins a journey into being rather than doing. Life can then be lived practicing "yoga off the mat".
 
"Health is wealth, peace of mind is happiness, yoga shows the way"   
Swami Vishnu-Devananda
 
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