Although yoga has been around for thousands of years, it has become increasingly popular in modern culture.
As a form of exercise, yoga is a great way to get your body moving, but the practice also provides plenty of mental and physical benefits.
Speaking with yoga enthusiast Angie Yeo, Mashable discovered how yoga can enhance our everyday life. Yeo started doing yoga during her first year of university, when she was looking for a way to cope with her stressful days and long hours in school. She started yoga after getting a deal on a class and, as she says, “the rest was history!”
While yoga has helped Yeo manage her stress, it has also helped her manage her struggle with astigmatism—an imperfection in the curvature of your eye that causes objects to appear blurry or distorted. As someone whose eyesight troubles can cause headaches and make it difficult to concentrate, Yeo benefits from yoga’s ability to help sharpen her focus.
“Yoga poses get a lot more unstable whenever our gaze wanders without a fixed gazing point. Therefore, this has not only helped to sharpen my visual focus, but also my mental focus as well,” Yeo explained.
For Yeo, yoga is more than just a stress management tactic — it has helped her manage her eyesight troubles and bring balance to her life in many ways. Here are just a few of its benefits, paired with some simple beginners’ poses to try out at home:
1. It allows you to practice mindfulness
Caring for our mental wellbeing is just as essential as making sure we’re physically well. In tandem with its stress-reducing benefit, yoga can also help you practice mindfulness. By focusing on your breath and your body in the moment and quieting the distractions of daily life, you can find a mindset that’s more keenly attuned to the present. Speaking to Mashable, Yeo explained that the lessons you learn about being mindful in yoga can instill that same mindfulness in your daily life.
Trataka — a pose traditionally performed with a candle where you concentrate your gaze on a single point — can help settle your thoughts. The exercise helps develop the skill of internal visualization.
2. It increases flexibility
Those who practice yoga tend to be more supple, flexible, and physically able. Even if you don’t consider yourself a flexible person, yoga poses and stretches help to gradually loosen and strengthen the body. Regular yoga practice can even improve your posture, as you strengthen your core and become increasingly flexible.
You’ve probably heard of the Downward Dog pose – it’s one of the most famous yoga poses. For those who haven’t: Both hands and feet are on the mat, with your toes tucked under and your hips lifted to the sky. While helping to stretch your body and increase flexibility, Downward Dog also stimulates your circulatory system — energizing your neck, head, and shoulders.
3. It improves cardiovascular health
Yoga is also great for your overall cardiovascular fitness. As part of a healthy lifestyle, yoga can help lower blood pressure, increase lung capacity, improve respiratory function, and boost your heart rate and circulation, according to the American Heart Association.
A review of yoga and cardiovascular disease also found that the practice may even help lower your risk of heart disease, much like regular exercise. Yoga poses that stretch and exercise your muscles also help them become more sensitive to insulin, which is key for controlling blood sugar. When combined with deep breathing—which can help lower blood pressure—and stress-reducing meditation, these elements of yoga can aid in cardiovascular disease prevention.
A pose that is great for stimulating blood circulation in the brain and optic nerve is a Shoulder Stand. Lie down on the mat and extend your legs up to the ceiling, feeling the blood flow from your toes towards your heart.
4. It’s great for stress management
As mentioned, the key benefit of yoga really lies in its ability to reduce stress. Stress can manifest in both physical pain and the inability to focus, and has even been found to contribute to musculoskeletal disorders. Thanks to the combination of meditation and breathing practices, yoga is thought to calm the body and mind, and allow you to re-center your attention and awareness. With the practice of yoga, Yeo has experienced a reduction in stress, which allows her to better manage her eyesight.
It’s important to take time each morning to de-stress and focus your energy on the day ahead, and one of the best ways to do this is with the yoga practice of Palming. This involves placing your hands over your eyes, breathing deeply, and relaxing your mind. Yeo also massages around her eyes each morning to help improve blood circulation, which is a simple addition to your morning routine that can go a long way. Yeo believes this helps her eyesight.
Thanks to its many physical and mental benefits, yoga is a great addition to your daily routine. Regular yoga practice can improve your focus — both mentally and visually — and prepare you for whatever your day may bring. As a seasoned yogi, Yeo utilizes yoga for its stress-relieving benefits as well as its ability to help her vision.