The main reason why I started doing yoga was to do more stretching. Stretching before and after playing sports or fitness training sessions was sporadic and rarely lasted longer than a couple of minutes. Since doing yoga I have become more disciplined with my stretching. Yoga has also become much more than stretching for me and I understand my yoga practise has some many dimensions. 

Yoga is not just glorified stretching. In fact, the purpose of yoga is more about developing a connection with the mind, body, and spirit. This practice of postures, breathing techniques, and meditative elements through yoga can provide you with many mental and physical health benefits.

If you choose to practice yoga, you can be one of the many people who love the practice for the many benefits it provides. If you want to learn more about the practice of yoga, the benefits yoga provides and what yoga is used for, keep reading.

What Is Yoga?

When translated, the word yoga means "union". It is an ancient practice that is a part of Indian philosophy. At its beginning and for many, it still is a complex spiritual practice. Fundamentally it consists of movements intended to help connect the mind, body, and spirit.

stretching_Yoga Union

When the practice of yoga began nearly 2000 years ago, it was intended that the end goal of the practice was to reach enlightenment or liberation. This is referred to as reaching samadhi

Eight Limbs of Yoga

While you don't need to know any of the limbs to practice yoga, it may be something you come to learn more about. The eight limbs that yoga consists of are the following:

Currently, most people utilise the third limb, the postures, or asanas within their yoga practice. Through different postures, these movements are meant to purify the body and build strength and stamina as they are practised. 

Overall, yoga today is used a little differently than it may have intended to be used. However, it still consists of physical postures, specific breathing techniques, and meditation. The end goal of the practice to be either meditative, physical, or both.

What Are the Benefits of Yoga?

There are many different benefits to yoga, with the overarching benefit of it being a great way to get in some daily exercise. Contrary to how yoga may look on the outside, as it may seem to be simply stretching, it requires the use of almost all of the muscles in your body. Furthermore if done consistently, it can be a great way to lose weight and build strength.

stretching_wide leg forward fold

More specifically, yoga works the following parts of your body:

  • Core or Abdominal Muscles
  • Glutes
  • Hamstrings
  • Shoulders
  • Back
  • Arms
  • Chest

There are also plenty of other health benefits, both physical and mental that come with practising yoga. These include:

Relieve body aches or pains

The holding of different poses and the slight stretching it gives your muscles can help relieve lower back or neck pain when specific poses are practised.

Improves overall well-being

Through the meditative elements of yoga heightened through the relaxing practice, it can help you relieve stress and improve your mental and emotional health. As well as help you have a better sleep if practised regularly.

Instils good health habits

If you are not into intense exercising, yoga is a great alternative to keep you physically active and feeling healthier. 

Relieves menopause symptoms

Yoga can help you stay calm, maintain strength, and reduce any physical symptoms that occur during this time that many changes are happening in your body. 

Improves and can help with your mental health

Yoga can help people who experience depression or anxiety as a relaxing practice can help you relieve stress and remain present. 

Can help with other health issues

Practising yoga regularly can also help people who want to quit smoking, lose weight, or relieve stress or pain from a chronic disease. 

Helps promote a better night's sleep

Through the meditative and relaxing elements of yoga, it can be a great way to help quiet the mind and promote sleepiness. 

Improves balance

Balance is one of the biggest aspects of some specific yoga poses. By practising yoga, it can help people improve their overall centre of balance. In some cases, it can even be beneficial for people who experience vertigo.

stretching_yoga balance

Note: These benefits may not be true for everyone but have been proven for some people.

All in all, yoga is an amazing way for people to get in some quiet time while still being active. However, this all depends on the style of yoga you are doing and how often you are doing it. The more often you practice it, the more likely you will experience the benefits we have listed above.

What Is Yoga Used For?

While the answer to this may be different based on who you ask, the overarching answer is that yoga can be used for whatever purpose you wish to use it for. If you want to use yoga as a chance to stretch out your body, you can. If you would rather opt to make it the full mind-body-spirit practice it was intended to be, you can do that as well. Overall, the goal of yoga is to enjoy some peace and get in tune with your body.

Here are some of the most commons uses for yoga, apart from the very spiritual practice it was intended to be in Indian philosophy:

Form of Exercise

Through a series of complex movements, yoga can prove to be much more difficult than you would believe it to be. Especially if the styles that focus on strength and stamina building, such as Power Yoga. It also proves to be an efficient way to help turn body fat into muscle.

Form of Relaxation

Since yoga isn't a high-intensity form of exercise and gets easier, the more often you practice. It can also be a chance for many people to spend time in a quiet and calming space. Yoga is typically accompanied by soft music and a quiet, zen atmosphere. Ultimately it is a great way to help you relieve any mental or physical tension.

Form of Spiritual Connection

The chance to be completely present in yoga and the movement's connection to your breath allows you to direct your attention inward. Giving you a chance to quiet the mind and connect with your inner self, spirit, God, the Universe, or any other higher power you believe in. Even if you don't believe in anything, it can still help you become more in tune with who you are

stretching_spiritual connection

Not only can yoga be used for the above in solidarity, but it can also be used for all of the above. All in all, it is intended to be a way to provide you with physical, mental, and spiritual growth. In many cultures there is no pressure to have it mean anything serious if you don't want it to.

Final Thoughts

The practice of yoga is so much more than just being a glorified form of stretching. It is meant to mean more than the physical postures that you practice. It also asks you to focus on the connection of these poses with your breath. Giving you the chance to quiet your mind, be present, and look inward.

It also comes with plenty of mental and emotional benefits on top of being a great form of exercise. Overall making it an amazing practice that can help you improve your overall mental, physical, and spiritual well-being through a series of movements.

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