For the millions of yogis who step onto their mats each day, there are countless unique and beautiful reasons to practice yoga. Perhaps you are one of those people who find yoga to be a mental release, or maybe you just like it for the workout. Regardless of your personal reasons for stepping onto the mat, there are thousands of unexpected and unforeseen benefits of your everyday yoga practice.
As if we needed more of a reason to do yoga!
Here are 7 popular yoga poses and some of their unexpected benefits:
1. Forward Fold
You probably already feel the stretch in the hamstrings and spine when you practice Forward Folds, but what you don’t feel happening is the flushing of the liver, spleen and kidneys. This is further proof that you don’t have to pretzel your way into the perfect twist to get some detoxifying benefits.
2. Downward Facing Dog
Down Dog is technically an inversion, since the heart is above the head. In addition to being a great hamstring stretch, this pose also decompresses the spine and sends fresh oxygen and blood to the brain. This pose also helps relieve back pain, headaches, and fatigue.
3. Warrior II
Besides causing you to feel the burn in your glutes and legs, holding yourself up in this pose contracts your abdominal organs. This contraction creates a cleansing effect and tones muscles in your abdomen, too. Warrior II, despite being a challenging and strengthening pose, can also be therapeutic for sciatica and backaches.
4. Child’s Pose
This restorative yoga pose relieves tension in the neck, back and hips. It also helps calm the mind and relieve stress. Child’s Pose is symbolic of surrender in the ancient yogic tradition, so this is a great place to come and surrender to the present moment and all things in life we can’t control.
5. Triangle Pose
This asana is known for improving concentration and balance, as well as opening the body, which allows blood and oxygen to flow freely to all the organs. Next time you practice Triangle, focus on keeping your side-body long and your chest open rather than collapsing downward. This keeps the energy flowing freely.
6. Happy Baby
This is one of the last poses you do in your practice, because it is a great stretch for the hips. There are pressure points just above your tailbone, so when you rock side to side, you are massaging this area which helps release the low back. Also, it’s called “happy baby” and not “sad baby,” so remember to smile while you practice. It can change your entire day!
This is often described as the most challenging pose in yoga because it requires you to simply be still – a challenge in our modern society of constant movement. What we might not realize is that during Savasana, we are also significantly reducing our stress and anxiety levels in addition to combatting insomnia. Savasana, like other kinds of meditation, has been known to increase grey matter in the brain, which is responsible for everything from muscle control to memory, emotions, speech and decision making.
The next time you hop on your mat, whether you practice a long and challenging flow, or a few short poses on the go, know that you’re benefiting your body, mind and spirit more than you previously thought possible. Practice for enjoyment, and practice for your health! Namaste.
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