Yoga has entered the life of a person quite tightly; the opportunities for practice have expanded with the popularization of online classes. The benefits of yoga are multifaceted, as yoga is a set of practices aimed at self-development of a person on all levels: physical, mental, emotional, psychic, energetic, spiritual 1.

Meditation in lotus pose

When people hear the word yoga or hatha yoga, they associate it with a set of asanas on a mat. The importance of asanas is hard to dispute, but the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the fundamental text on yoga, also describes shatkarmas, pranayamas, mudras, bandhas, and contraindications to performing certain practices. These techniques are essential for the practitioner to maximize the benefits of practicing yoga.

Purpose of Yoga

The word “yoga” comes fr om the Sanskrit root yuj, which translates to ‘bind,’ ‘connect,’ ‘center.’ Hence, several goals of yoga are formulated 23:

  • Harmonious connection (unity) of body, mind and spirit 12:

    Yoga is the integration and balance of thoughts, feelings and actions.

    Swami Sivananda Saraswati
  • Self-realization, unity with the Supreme Consciousness:

    The purpose of Yoga is to teach the means by which the human soul can be fully reunited with the Supreme Spirit that pervades the universe, and so free itself from imperfection 4.

    B. K. S. Iyengar
  • Concentration, mind control5:

    atha yogānuśāsanam
    Now concentration is explained.
    Yoga is restraining the mind-stuff (Chitta) from taking various forms (Vrittis).

    The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Chapter 1, Sutras 1-2, Vivekananda (new translation)

Regular practice of hatha yoga brings into balance the energy flows that go through the ida (lunar) and pingala (solar) nadis (channels), which are associated with the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system on a physical level. To achieve this balance, the body is purified with shatkarmas, asanas, pranayamas, mudras, bandhas6789101112. Establishing balance in the channels and controlling the mind is an important part of preparing for successful meditation.

In yoga, practitioners strive not so much to improve the physical condition of the body, but to expand the horizons of consciousness, to overcome limitations, to become a better version of themselves with each practice, to show more awareness, to know this universe as it is.

Yoga asanas

Benefits of Practicing Yoga

The benefits of practicing yoga for the physical and mental health of people, described in ancient yogic texts, are also confirmed by numerous scientific studies. Yoga, with safety precautions and adequate initial assessment, is accessible to all ages. Regular exercise is an essential preventive measure as well as an important auxiliary tool in the treatment of already acquired diseases.

Yoga is not an ancient myth buried in oblivion. It is the most valuable inheritance of the present. It is the essential need of today and the culture of tomorrow.

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Depending on the task, yoga complexes:

  • help keep your body toned;
  • strengthen muscles;
  • improve flexibility, stretching;
  • improve posture, maintain spinal health;
  • improve health of the skeletal system7;
  • support the correct functioning of the musculoskeletal system and joints 789;
  • improve digestion, metabolism 10;
  • normalize weight 11;
  • improves the cardiovascular system 121314;
  • help normalize blood pressure 121314;
  • improve blood circulation and lymphatic flow 15161721;
  • strengthen the immune system;
  • improve lung function 18192021;
  • increase energy levels and cheerfulness 22;
  • reduce stress levels, increase stress tolerance 22232425;
  • improve mental balance, emotional well-being 222526;
  • help with depression 2224;
  • improve sleep quality 222728;
  • help with insomnia 2228;
  • improve performance, concentration 29.

Practices improve concentration and increase awareness, and by living our lives consciously, we can make informed decisions, respond to situations in a timely manner, and live life with quality and sanity.

Benefits for women

Yoga classes are good for women’s health, they normalize the work of the endocrine system. And since many unhealthy conditions of the female body are associated with an imbalance of hormones, regular practice contributes to the relief of menstrual pain, manifestations of PMS, normalization of the cycle 303132. Yoga classes provide quality blood supply to the pelvic organs, proper lymph flow. Perinatal yoga is a great tool for a healthy pregnancy and postpartum recovery 3033. Classes are beneficial for menopausal and postmenopausal women 34.

Benefits for men’s health

Positive effects of yoga for men include:

  • development of strength, endurance;
  • prevention of stress injuries;
  • rapid recovery from injuries;
  • increase in stress resistance, efficiency;
  • reduction in stress and anxiety levels;
  • normalization of cortisol, adrenaline, testosterone indices35;
  • positive effect on the reproductive system35;
  • prostate function improvement35;
  • prevention of inguinal hernia formation 35;
  • correction of posture disorders;
  • reduction of back pain.

Men experience earlier and die more often from cardiovascular diseases, a complication of which is excess weight. Yoga classes can benefit men for these conditions 3536.


Contraindications and Restrictions for Yoga Classes

Although sources indicate that yoga is safe for a variety of health conditions, there are contraindications to the practice:

  • serious mental illness, as well as periods of treatment with psychotropic drugs;
  • epilepsy;
  • acute stages of infectious and viral diseases;
  • serious injuries to the spine, limbs, hernia;
  • complicated arterial hypertension;
  • other acute conditions requiring hospitalization.

Start classes with caution if you have cardiovascular diseases, blood pressure, chronic lung diseases, during pregnancy and postpartum recovery.

Recommendations for Beginners

Traditionally, an introduction to yoga begins with taking care of the physical body. The benefits of yoga for the body cannot be overemphasized. In the beginning, you can find a nearby yoga studio or online classes to build a regular practice, because in yoga, regularity is the key to success. When choosing a yoga instructor, his qualifications are important, as well as how comfortable and interesting it is to work with him.

It is important to make an honest and objective assessment of your health and mental health prior to starting classes. You can write out on paper the inquiry that prompted the yoga practice, the limitations, and the questions, doubts. This will allow you to adequately assess your capabilities and starting positions. And later it will also become a kind of motivation, as it is a solid starting point, with which you can compare new results, track dynamics. It is important to inform the instructor of illnesses and current limitations so that he or she can adjust the complex or give personalized facilitation. It is recommended that you consult your physician before starting classes.

The sequential mastery of asanas, from simple to complex, will prepare the body and mind for practices such as pranayama and meditation. Yoga involves mindfulness to the body and mind, on the mat the practitioner learns how to be gentle:

  • to the body, sensibly assessing its capabilities in the process of class;
  • to the psyche, without overstraining it with the desire to be better, stronger than the neighbour on the mat, or by overzealousness so as not to show weakness.

Ancient yoga texts and experienced practitioners recommend mastering yoga techniques gradually, sequentially, under the guidance of a qualified teacher to minimize possible negative effects.

An important aspect of the practice is also the circle of like-minded people – the very place wh ere you can exchange experiences, ask for advice, share achievements.

Yoga is a light, which once lit, will never dim. The better your practice, the brighter the flame.

B. K. S. Iyengar