The Asanas, or the body postures Westerners normally associate with Yoga, were created by India’s wise men and gurus to better prepare the student for the intense meditation that awaited them. These postures helped the ancient Yogis assimilate into go forms that helped capture the essence of the divinities they worshiped, with Shiva, the Hindu destroyer god, often also considered as ruling over the practice of Yoga. However, since being imported to Europe and the United States, the practice has become long divorced from its initial concept of preparation for enlightenment. Instead, it is seen as an unorthodox means of physical exercise according to the average urbanite. Instead of this being a wholly tragic phenomenon, it does add a new dimension to the practice. It allows one to appreciate Yoga from a different perspective: that of its benefit to overall physical health.
The most apparent gain any beginner will notice in a short while is an increase in their overall flexibility. Should they consistently flow into each asana during any given sequence, they will find their body contorting in ways that their daily lives wouldn’t usually allow for. This means less overall discomfort in odd angles as well as the elimination of lower back pain that comes from being seated at an office chair for extended periods. For the elderly in particular, this can also increase overall mobility or the ability to move around with less effort.
It may be shocking, but one need not strain themselves lifting heavy weights as Yoga is technically a bodyweight exercise format. This means that you need no extra equipment to put pressure and tension on your muscles that, upon recovery, will grow as they repair themselves from the microtears at the heart of bodybuilding. The disclaimer being that this will only translate to visible musculature with a hefty diet of protein, something a traditional yogi diet can lack to strict vegetarianism, and some traditions frowning on the ingestion of beans and legumes.
Better Cardiovascular Health
Yoga is also considered a great form of cardio in that it exercises the heart. It puts the organ in a state of excess in that it pumps more oxygen into the bloodstream and burns off heart-damaging nutrients like carbohydrates and saturated fats. The same principle of exercise, making your muscles stronger, applies to the heart.
Less Stress And Better Sleep
Proving that it is not entirely disconnected from Eastern practice, Yoga has been recommended as proven sleep and stress aid due to its lowering of body-wide inflammation. Ancient Yogis definitely did not want to fall asleep when it was time to meditate, but they saw the benefit of being their calmest selves before meditating to avoid anxiety. Though your urban yogi probably wouldn’t mind either scenario.