Photo above has been extracted from @flowofeden instagram page
As someone who is a complete newbie to Yoga and having only recently started the journey, I quickly fell in love with the way in which my body and mind felt during the yoga flow as well as the after effects of the flow. My mind was quiet and clear, my problems seemed less problematic and my confidence in myself started to flourish. I really wanted to understand the benefits of yoga, does it really have benefits or is it all hocus pocus as they say! I also wondered whether reduced stress can also help with keeping your skin free from breakouts and acne and whether doing some yoga can help lower your stress and in turn keep your skin clear?
So I thought the best person to ask is my amazing Yoga Instructor May from www.flowofeden.com who has inspired my yoga journey, I have asked her questions that I thought we are all wondering but don't know who to ask and guess what May from @flowofeden delivered!
1. What are the benefits of yoga (physically, mentally and emotionally)?
The Physical: The benefits of yoga for the physical body include improved balance, strength and flexibility. Stretching out the myofascia, joints and ligaments of the body through dynamic movement has been proven to alleviate back pain, joint pain and inflammation. During a hour session you can expect to burn anywhere between 300-600 calories depending on the individuals BMI and the intensity of the session.
The Mental: The stretching of the diaphragm allows for deeper breaths during the session and throughout the rest of the day. This focus and recalibration of breath is taken into the day and soothes the nervous system. In a yoga practice the body is put into unfamiliar shapes that result in an increased heart rate and activation of the sympathetic nervous system. Through controlled breathing in a safe environment we are able to switch on the parasympathetic nervous system and find some calm and relaxation. Switching between sympathetic and parasympathetic system improves our vagal tone. Vagal tone is a measure of vagus nerve activity. Breathing, digestion and heart rate are all directly connected to the vagus nerve. A low vagal tone indicates stress and is characterised by anxiety, negativity, weak digestion, depression and inflammation. A higher vagal tone means that the body can relax faster after stress. Less stress and higher vagal tone achieved through a regular yoga routine can result in reduced anxiety, positivity, improved digestion, improved wellbeing and less inflammation.
The Emotional: In regards to the emotional benefits, the physical focus helps bring to surface your subconscious emotions. Humans have been known to store unresolved problems and past traumas in the body. Yoga poses release this tension and remove stagnant emotions from the body. Our chakras are 7 energy channels that run along the centre of the body. Each chakra corresponds to one or more emotions – we can strengthen that emotion by practicing poses that correspond to that chakra. In addition yoga is a natural way to increase serotonin production. Serotonin is the key hormone that stabilises our mood, feelings of wellbeing, and happiness
2. How can I get started?
Starting is easy because yoga is for everyone. Yoga does not discriminate. Whether you are young or old, overweight or fit, flexible or not, chair bound, pregnant, a MS warrior or a first timer – know that yoga might just be for you. Don’t be intimidated by yoga terminology, fancy studios or complicated poses. Yoga instructors will make you feel right at home with their casual cueing, praise and constant reminders to be kind to yourself. Book into a local studio, join a class at a gym or live stream a session today. All you need is a mat and an open mind. Begin with a goal of attending one class per week and slowly increase this as required. You will know when you are ready to add more classes to your schedule. This will happen naturally as the body and mind will crave the benefits.
3. How does yoga help me relax and stay focused throughout the rest of the day?
Yoga is very grounding and relaxing. You are given the opportunity to strengthen that mind body connection with every movement made in the hour. The instructor will keep bringing you back into your body and out of your mind away from you’re to dos and worries. The balance postures improve the focus and concentration of the mind as well as strength the entire physical body in the process. The deep breaths taken in the hour leave you feeling rejuvenated and relaxed. This feeling continues throughout the day and potentially into your sleep improving your quality of sleep. By increasing the vagal tone in the session we have better control as to how we respond to external stimuli since now we are better able to control the heart rate and breathe. This can explain why many committed yogis are very mellow and undisturbed by things they cannot control. Since yoga is a moving meditation you can expect to receive similar outcomes to what you would gain in a seated meditation.
4. How is yoga different from stretching or other kinds of fitness?
Many believe yoga is a physical practice that strengthens and lengthens the physical body. However yoga is so much more then the physical sequencing that balances the body, burns calories, pumps the heart and increases flexibility. It is essentially a moving meditation that tethers movement to breath. Breath is emphasised so much more then with any other kind of fitness. The aim is to maintain an easy and consistent breath – breathing through the nostrils only unless told to exhale from the mouth. Yoga is best described as an inward journey. You move through the hour following cues and suggestions from the instructor. Whilst being encouraged to listen to your bodies wants, needs and maintaining that easy breathe. It is a very compassionate and egoless practice. The time on the mat transforms into a time of self care – one where you can de-clutter the mind, filter through emotions and rid yourself of unwanted tension that sits deep within the fascia of the body. Postures such as heart and hip openers release stored emotions from past trauma and unresolved issues. It is one thing to read about this phenomena and another to experience this release. Students look forward to a release and continue to come back to the mat naturally. Motivation to maintain a yoga practice is not necessary once you fully experience the benefits to the mind, body and spirit.
I am so blown away by the plethora of knowledge that May from www.flowofeden.com shared, mind blown. I really can understand now the connection of physical activity and emotional activity and how both intertwine and benefit each other, with yoga your not only achieving the physical benefits but an incredible amount of mental and emotional strength and stability. I do believe that incorporating yoga into your daily routine can help lower stress and keep you feeling more at peace which in-turn reduces stress-related breakouts. I cannot wait to do more yoga and incorporate more throughout my routine, If your stuck at home and cannot visit a yoga studio May is offering Yoga livestream sessions while we are in lockdown visit www.flowofeden.com or her instagram page @flowofeden to book your session today!