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The Health Benefits of Yoga

If you ever wondered whether yoga is really exercise – try doing it after an injury or an extended lay-off – and you will know for sure. Every time that I do yoga, I know that I am both stretching and strengthening my muscles. But when I haven’t done it for a while, I feel it even more in my achy muscles.

Last night was my first day back at yoga class since I fell on the ice and bruised my ribs. I had stopped most forms of exercise other than walking and regular daily chores for almost six weeks because it hurt to move and to breathe deeply. But finally it was time to get back to some sort of regular exercise before my body began to look like a bowl of jelly dropped on the couch. I tested my readiness for returning to the gym with a yoga class.

Yoga is a gentle re-entry to exercise

I knew that I had taken enough time to rest the injury and that it would be the perfect time to use the  breathing and the extensive stretches of yoga to help the healing of the bruised muscles under my ribs.

Every stretch provided me evidence that I had made the right decision. I tried not to moan too loudly as I took pigeon position and stretched my muscles out of hibernation. I found the breathing exercises expanding  the muscles in the rib cage even though they were still very tight. And I found great relief in child’s pose – hesitant to come out once I got in the zone.

I came home from class calmer and ready to return to my regular physical activity. I will take my full recovery slowly, but I know that the yoga poses will improve my flexibility and get me there faster.

This episode reminded me of how I had also used yoga to accelerate my recovery after back surgery twenty years ago. When I had a disk in my lower back repaired, I was on bed-rest for about a month. Then I had to build the muscles again slowly. A combination of yoga classes and massage helped to speed up that healing. With each week, came increasing strength and flexibility. But the ultimate achievement came when I could once again do a shoulder stand, something I thought I would never do again. That was the day when I became a true believer in the benefits of yoga.

Other Health Benefits of Yoga

The Mayo Clinic agrees that yoga provides three key benefits of yoga: stress reduction, improved fitness, and management of chronic conditions (such as depression, pain, anxiety, and insomnia).

This article in the Huffington Post offers these five surprising health benefits, including boosting immunity, improving sexual performance, and fighting food cravings.

If you are still reluctant to try yoga – check out the Yoga Journal for 38 health benefits of Yoga. That’s a lot of benefits!

How do you use yoga to improve your life?

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