Although some may not consider yoga as an exercise, hatha yoga (the physical aspect) definitely meets the definition of exercise as set by the medical dictionary: ‘exercise is a physical activity that is planned, structured and repetitive for the purpose of conditioning any part of the body. Exercise is utilised to improve health, maintain fitness and is important as a means of physical rehabilitation’.
Among a myriad of benefits yoga improves flexibility, strengthens, tones and builds muscles, boots the immune system, eases back pain, decrease cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
Unlike conventional exercise, yoga is not goal oriented and non-competitive. It is not about how many reps, how much weight you can lift or duration of the exercise. Yoga stresses quality of movement over quantity. No rapid forceful movements are involved. Competing and the saying ‘no pain no gain’ does not apply to yoga. Emphasis is on how you end up feeling after the session and not on how you look or how far you can stretch. Although, yoga can be quite challenging, during a typical class of yoga students are encouraged to stay with their own physical abilities and limitations.
The most predominant factor that differentiates yoga from other forms of exercise is the effect that it has on a glandular level. Specific yoga movements stimulate and balance the endocrine system. An improved circulation in the endocrine glands facilitates a better function of the hormones, resulting in an improved overall mood. Yoga improves the functioning of the parasympathetic nervous system that activates the relaxation response. Through it, tension and anxiety is evidently reduced.
What makes a regular practice of yoga so special is its ability to make a person feels more centred and balanced through achievable yoga postures and controlled breathing. A sense of inner wellbeing and peace is attained. One can deal more effectively with daily pressures and problems in an effective way. Life is viewed in a positive perspective and the awareness of living the present moment is increased.