(Article by Rachel first published in Algarve Resident October 2011)
The benefits of a regular yoga practice are wide ranging and extensive and are not limited to the purely physical advantages. In a nutshell, the practice of yoga works on all levels of the body and mind to bring about overall good health. Yoga helps everyone in so many ways, from those who need to manage their stress levels or cope with depression, those who are preparing for childbirth or want to improve fertility, to those who are recovering from injuries or illness or who simply want to improve their overall fitness and mobility.
The focus on postures or exercises helps to keep the joints strong and flexible, muscles toned and stretched and bring poise and balance to the body. This is important at any age but particularly as we get older, we need to keep moving, keep active to improve our chances of a happy and healthy old age. Breathing techniques helps one to harness quietness and stability of mind as well as helping with a wide range of physical ailments such as asthma, bronchitis and circulatory problems. Yoga also helps with our concentration and memory and gives one a sense of stability of the mind as well as the physical steadiness and strength of the body.
Because yoga works also on the organs of the body, not just the musculo-skeletal system, it also serves as a detox system helping to keep all the processes of the body, digestion, circulation, hormonal balance, liver function etc, healthy and functioning normally.
When you begin yoga, you may experience it as merely a physical exercise as you stretch your body and learn the yoga postures. As you continue with your practice (a regular class once or twice a week is recommended), you will find that you also start to experience a greater sense of well being as your whole body, inner and outer, is toned and nourished. Each yoga posture has a particular emphasis and effect on the body and an experienced and trained teacher will be able to advise you on specific programmes to help with ailments such as neck or back problems, sports injuries, insomnia, hormonal or digestive disorders and many other issues. Under the guidance of an experienced teacher, those with drug or alcohol problems, depression or anxiety can also be helped by regular yoga practice.
“Yoga is like music. The rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind, and the harmony of the soul, create the symphony of life.” BKS Iyengar