About Yoga

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About Yoga | Lee Willocks

About Yoga | Lee Willocks

About Yoga

Yoga is a diverse system of physical, devotional, spiritual and practical exercises that have been employed for thousands of years.  Traditionally, the purpose of yoga was to achieve the union of mind and body with the divine.  In the modern world, our ambitions when we step onto the mat tend to be a little less lofty: achieving physical fitness, relief of stress and anxiety, and remedial exercise for injury are incentive enough for most of us!

What distinguishes yoga from many other forms of physical exercise, is its insistence on mindful movement.  The synchronicity of breath and movement removes us from the busyness of our minds and reintegrates us with our bodies.  This integration, even when accompanied by vigorous exercise, can have a profound effect on the nervous system and enable us to find rest, clarity and spaciousness in our lives.  That spaciousness can be truly transformative.  What you find within it only you can know – but it is likely to be something wonderful!

 

Benefits of Yoga

The benefits of yoga are still subject to intense debate, scrutiny and speculation.  However, thanks to the increasing popularity of yoga in the west, there have been a growing number of randomised controlled trials (the most robust standard for proving efficacy) designed to examine the impact on our health and wellbeing.

Current research suggests that an intelligent and careful yoga practice can help to reduce lower back pain, bone health, and improve overall fitness, strength and flexibility.  There are also a number of studies which demonstrate that yoga lowers some of the risk factors for heart disease, including high blood pressure and atherosclerosis.  This is of particular relevance given that the British Heart Foundation estimates that more than 25% of deaths in the UK are related in some way to heart disease.

The potential therapeutic benefits of yoga should also not be underestimated.  A range of studies over the past decade have demonstrated that yoga can help us to regulate our stress responses and can therefore play a part in helping to overcome conditions like anxiety and depression.  The general consensus on the calming neurological effect of yoga is heartening – stepping onto the mat can be a wonderful tonic for stressful 21st century lifestyles.

If you would like to read more on this subject, the NCCAMH (the US Government lead agency for scientific research on alternative health care systems) has plenty of interesting publications available on its website.  The Science of Yoga (Simon & Schuster, 2004) by science journalist and yogi, William Broad, also contains a fascinating examination of the benefits of yoga.