Brussels yoga and fitness instructor Karen Northshield explains why yoga is the root of health.
As a hatha yoga instructor I am often asked the question whether yoga is only for flexible people? It is true that we often see flexible bodies in classes but I want to say that physical yoga was invented to make all bodies (and minds) more flexible. The supple bodies we see (other than being naturally flexible) are shaped with practice and dedication over time.
Why is yoga so highly spoken of? Quite simply because, according to ancient wisdom and practice, it is the root of all physical and mental health. Yoga is much more than pretzel poses and gymnastics. It is also meditation, awareness, concentration, consciousness, wholeness and oneness. Yoga is for everyone, for all ages and physical abilities. There are no requirements or prerequisites other than being physically present during the practice. It is known that regular practice provides overall benefits such as enhanced suppleness, relaxation and concentration. Over the long term yoga also reduces stress, facilitates sleep, enhances balance, strength, stamina and improves the cardio-respiratory and cardiovascular systems – it supports health overall.
Brussels yoga experts recommend three types of exercise: cardio, strength and flexibility. Yoga in itself combines strength, balance and flexibility. So when you practice yoga, you are actually getting more of your time and money’s worth. Like a pie cut in three equal segments, we should ideally engage in just as much vascular cardio and strength as yoga in order to maintain overall health. Many athletes, clubs and leagues turn to yoga to complement their training. The more flexible you are, the faster muscles recover, and you become less prone to injury and achieve better fitness results.
How does yoga complement exercise? Overall health is enhanced when yoga is incorporated in a fitness routine. It not only keeps the body and mind young, fit and strong, but it also reduces stress, acid and toxins in the muscles which naturally build up when under physical exertion. Yoga is as much a therapy as a prevention aimed at staying young and fit. Furthermore, the rate of injury is equal to none as the practitioner works with their own body weight.
Breathing is essential to yoga practice. As you focus on your breathing, it becomes deeper and more complete, fully oxygenating the bloodstream and regulating the metabolism. When engaging in certain asanas (postures) such as adho mukha svanasana (downward facing dog), the rib cage naturally expands, allowing breath to flow in and out of the lungs and into the individual ribs. Oxygen flows to the brain and evenly throughout the body. As breathing leads to body awareness, practitioners tunes into their body and coordinate their actions in taking deeper and more conscious breaths, which slows heart pace. In the long haul, yoga can lower the risk of mild illnesses and diseases such as diabetes or cancer.
Yoga is 1% theory and 99% practice, so off you go on your mats! The more you practice the more of a difference you will notice overall.
Karen Northshield is a Brussels yoga and fitness instructor at Aspria, massage therapist and Personal Trainer.