Although some may not consider yoga as exercise, hatha yoga (the physical aspect) 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 and maintain fitness and is important as a means of physical rehabilitation.
Among the many benefits, yoga improves flexibility, strengthens and tones muscles, boosts the immune system, eases back pain, and decreases cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
Unlike conventional exercise, yoga is non-competitive. It is not about how many reps, how much weight you can lift or the duration of the practice. Yoga stresses the 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 practice.
The most predominant factor that differentiates yoga from other forms of exercise is its effect on a glandular level. Specific yoga movements stimulate and balance the endocrine system. Improved circulation in the endocrine glands facilitates a better function of the hormones, resulting in an improved overall mood.
Yogic techniques improve the functioning of the parasympathetic nervous system, which activates the relaxation response, thus reducing stress and anxiety. Symptoms of depression are also decreased.
Regular yoga practice is unique because it can make a person feel more centred and balanced through achievable yoga postures and controlled breathing. One can deal more effectively with daily pressures effectively. Life is viewed more positively, and the awareness of living in the present moment will increase.