by Tara Beaulieu
The practice of yoga is thousands of years old. It is a holistic journey of self discovery; entwining the physical body with the energetic, the mental and the spiritual. Sound like a lot of mumbo jumbo? One of the greatest things yoga offers to its practitioners is the understanding that everything is connected. On the most superficial layer, a basic yoga class can teach you that connective tissues within the body (fascia) run from point A to point B. This helps to explains why pain in the foot, for example, can be traced to a root cause in the low back. The human body is a tensegrity structure—if you put strain on the structure, the effect is distributed throughout the rest of the model. Plainly, point A affects point B.
Now take this concept and expand it. Make adjustments to your posture and you make space for deepening your breath. Deepen your breathing and begin to enjoy a more relaxed nervous system. The rewards of a calm nervous system include an increased ability to focus and an enhanced overall sense of well being. Circling back to the physical body, the benefits of a nervous system at ease also include decreased blood pressure, a strengthened immune system and mood elevation.
Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of a regular yoga practice that includes asana (postures), pranayama (breath work) and savasana (relaxation):
Yoga improves both flexibility and strength. Weight bearing postures (asana), such as a standing warrior pose, strengthen bones and can help to increase bone density without heavy impact to the joints. Yoga poses stretch the muscles and increase range of motion which, over time, can lead to greater flexibility. Exploring range of motion, like circling the arms, sends revitalizing nutrients to the cartilage in the joints, protecting them from wear and tear.
Yoga increases blood flow. Controlled breathing techniques (pranayama) in a yoga practice increase the flow of oxygen rich blood to the tissues. Increasing blood flow to the muscles relaxes them leading to improved performance. Oxygenating the blood can also help to decrease the risk of heart attack and stroke, as well as boost cognitive functions.
Yoga offers “downtime” for the nervous system. When the physical exertions of yoga have come to an end, the yogi enters the final posture. Savasana (relaxation pose) is a time for taking rest, but it also allows the body to process the vast amounts of new neuromuscular information it received throughout the asana portion of the practice. Think of it as one last moment to hit the pause button on the demands of life. During this time the heart and breath rates decrease, muscular tensions release, and the brain can find a balance in serotonin and melatonin levels.
The practice of yoga encourages shifting focus to the present moment. It invites you to detach from the hustle and bustle of life and turn inward to reconnect with your truest self. The yogi who can turn down the volume on the chattering mind is free to place their attention where it is most needed. Quieting the stories of frustration, doubt and fear that we create helps to break patterns of stress development. Since stress is such a factor in many health problems today—from migraines to high blood pressure, heart attacks, chronic pain, sleep disorders and depression—it stands to reason that making time for yoga in your life will leave you feeling stronger, with more vitality and better adept to navigate through daily challenges with a bit more grace and ease.
About Tara Beaulieu
Tara Beaulieu, a yoga teacher at All That Matters, received her 200-hour yoga teacher certification from Pranotthan Yoga School through All That Matters. A lifelong student of music and art, Tara’s practice is guided by her creative process: finding a balance between intuitive living and mindful action. Making the choice to step out of the workforce and stay home with her three boys and pursue her art, she learned that the secret to living a consciously happy life is to practice listening to one’s self. All That Matters yoga + holistic health centers can be found in South Kingstown, Providence and East Greenwich—offering more than 130 weekly yoga classes, yoga teacher trainings, free meditation classes and inspiring workshops. Learn more at allthatmatters.com. Connect with Tara and All That Matters on Instagram, @beaulieu_yoga and @allthatmattersyoga.