The science behind yoga and how It can improve well-being

Cross-legged hippies on tie-dyed mats – something a lot of people may associate with the word yoga, but dig a little deeper and the many proven health advantages for the body and mind become apparent.

With International day of Yoga approaching (21st June) we wanted to share some yoga insights and benefits from MBST founder Elisabeth Clare.

Here are the key takeaways on the science behind yoga and its health benefits:

  • Yoga originated in India, the name meaning “to unite”. It joins body poses with controlled breathing to benefit mind and body.
  • Regular yoga practice enhances flexibility, strength, cardiovascular health and overall physical wellbeing in a less stressful way than intense gym workouts.
  • Holding calm, steady breaths has scientifically-backed positive impacts on the nervous system and anxiety levels.
  • Yoga requires accepting your own limitations without judgment and learning at your own pace – a mindset that transfers off the mat too.
  • Inversions and balance poses build great strength for beginners as much as bending and twisting works flexibility for the less mobile.
  • Mindfulness, meditation and emotional releases are huge overlooked parts of a yoga practice – not just the physical.
  • The sense of community, relationships built and self-acceptance are additional but significant wellness benefits of yoga.
  • Online classes help start out but in-person sessions are best for proper alignment, environment and social wellbeing boosts.

What is yoga?

Yoga originated in India and comes from the Sanskrit meaning ‘to join’ or ‘to unite’. It’s a form of exercise where you create poses with your body in order to achieve improved control of your body and mind simultaneously.

Elisabeth, why are you such a fan of yoga – why do you rate it so much?

I love yoga as it makes me feel good and look good. The figure you get from it is very flattering but my body does need it as I am hyper mobile and it helps manage my hips and shoulders.

I also love the people you meet and the fact there are different yoga styles and teachers to suit you. Yin I love on a Sunday evening. But on a morning a good Vinyassa flow or power yoga truly gets the heart rate up.

Yoga does have cardio vascular benefits but not in the same way as going to the gym or running. You don’t need to eat as much after and I don’t get the tiredness like I would from the gym or running.

Why did you start yoga in the first place?

In 2015 I was training for the London marathon. I thought yoga would help me to stretch properly to prevent injury and learn to control my breath. Yoga gave me more than that. I continue to do yoga but I do not run long distances

What does it mean to you – why is it so important to you?

Yoga to me is finding stillness within myself and learning to let go. On the mat one of the most important things a teacher ever told me was that if something ever feels uncomfortable or hard that it is only temporary and will not last forever. This you can take into day to day life when things get tough.

What are the impacts and benefits?

Learning to hold a calm breath is fantastic for the nervous system. Increased flexibility, suppleness and strength is great for musculoskeletal health. What I find with yoga a lot of the movements are childlike and it naturally gives you a good feeling.

Have you got any tips for anyone who is new to yoga? What can they do to get started?

When you look at others who can touch the floor and you can’t, the flexibility will soon come and if you can’t get down there you will be better at other things that others can’t do. Yoga is for everyone and improvements happen quickly if you practice regularly. I am extremely flexible so my back bends and twists come naturally. Where my real focus is and where I feel most accomplished is in inversions and strength work.

Yoga should not be about accomplishment but inversions were a slow journey for me and still are. But when you finally nail that pincha you can’t help but feel good. Many that are not flexible can get head stands straight away. I am still not consistent in headstands but you learn to know that that’s ok. Again, you take off the mat into every day life a sense of acceptance.

It always makes me laugh when people say how they can’t do yoga because they are not flexible. That is exactly why you need to do yoga! Try out a few different teachers and styles of yoga first. What is great at the moment that you can try a few sessions online to see what you like. Although for a beginner I would say in person classes are imperative as alignment is important.

My good friend and yoga teacher Cat Meffan has a you tube channel with a variety of styles. But as soon as you can get to a class, I would recommend going in person because the people you meet through yoga and being in the environment is as great as what benefits you get of doing yoga. Oh and don’t worry, everyone giggles during their first om!

Does mindfulness play a part in yoga?

In a massive way! If you do not absorb the mindful side of yoga – you are missing out. It’s incredible how some yoga flows or positions can make you much more emotional but the real sense of calmness that you can take away from your practice is worth itself alone.

I was not at all spiritual before I did yoga but it has helped me to manage my anxieties and way of thinking.

Written by

MBST UK

A community of dedicated healthcare professionals who incorporate MBST therapy into our clinical practices. We are comprised of the most qualified practitioners in musculoskeletal health, including Chiropractors, Osteopaths, Physiotherapists and Surgeons, and we always do what is best for each patient.

June 9, 2021

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