I recently had a phone interview with Koya Webb, International Holistic Health Coach & Certified Yoga and Aero Yoga Instructor, to go over the health benefits of yoga. I took yoga classes at my local gym here and there a few years back, but never made it part of my daily routine. When I experienced taking yoga classes I knew I felt good after, but never understood the benefits. I was reintroduced to yoga a few months ago after my friend Diana invited me to attend Core Yoga, which was a great experience along with getting my butt whooped. That’s another story that I will share with you at a later time! Now that I’m extremely into health and fitness I’m always trying to find ways to stay healthy mentally and physically. After learning about the health benefits of yoga, I did some research and found an expert that can validate and share the benefits with Bloom.
Meet beautiful Koya Webb!
What brought you to Yoga?
Yoga came to me as a gift, a painful gift that I didn’t want to open. I remember my first class…I cried. I was a track and field athlete in college who put my body through everything it could handle until one day I dropped to my knees from a striking bolt of pain that I later found out was a stress fracture in my 4th lumbar vertebrae. My season was over…my full scholarship threatened, and all I had to offer the world at that point was an overflow of tears.
A concerned counselor suggested I try yoga. I’d never really heard about it before and remember my first class being full of pain and tears. Somehow I found myself halfway on my head and I thought it was going to explode. I think if I had a way out I wouldn’t have returned for a second class but I signed up for the semester, so I was stuck.
Day after day, inch after inch, I saw myself improving. After a week I’d cried all the tears my body was capable of and my teacher suggested I focus on my breath. I stopped thinking about the poses and only thought about fully breathing the entire class. After a month my spirit was lifted and I added swimming and biking to my routine to heal my body. I forgave myself for being so hard on my body and after a year of therapy and self-love I returned to the track to win 3 Championship titles in the High Jump, Heptathlon and Mile Relay and lead my team to Wichita State’s first Women’s Track and Field Championship title. I continued practicing yoga and became an instructor to help others strengthen their mind, body and spirit as well.
What are some health benefits of yoga?
Even beginners tend to feel less stressed and more relaxed after their first class. Some yoga styles use specific meditation techniques to quiet the constant “mind chatter” that often underlies stress. Other yoga styles depend on deep breathing techniques to focus your mind on the breath. When this happens, your mind becomes calm.
Among yoga’s anti-stress benefits are a host of biochemical responses. For example, there is a decrease in catecholamines, the hormones produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress. Lowering levels of hormone neurotransmitters — dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine — creates a feeling of calm. Some research points to a boost in the hormone oxytocin. This is the so-called “trust” and “bonding” hormone that’s associated with feeling relaxed and connected to others. That may be why so many romances start in the yoga studio.
Because of the deep, mindful breathing that yoga involves, lung capacity often improves. This in turn can improve sports performance and endurance. But yoga typically isn’t focused on aerobic fitness the way running or cycling are. Taking an intense power yoga class that gets you breathing hard in a heated room, however, can provide an aerobic benefit.
Perhaps one of the most studied areas of the health benefits of yoga is its effect on heart disease. Yoga has long been known to lower blood pressure and slow the heart rate. A slower heart rate can benefit people with hypertension, heart disease, and stroke. Yoga was a key component to the heart disease program designed by Dean Ornish, MD. This was the first program to partly reverse heart disease through lifestyle and diet rather than surgery. On a biochemical level, studies point to a possible anti-oxidant effect of yoga. And yoga has been associated with decreased cholesterol and triglyceride levels as well as a boost in immune system function.
Concentration and mood
Harder to pin down and research scientifically, concentration and the ability to focus mentally are common benefits you’ll hear yoga students talk about. The same is true with mood. Nearly every yoga student will tell you they feel happier and more contented after class. Recently, researchers have begun exploring the effects of yoga on depression, a benefit that may result from yoga’s boosting oxygen levels to the brain. Yoga is even being studied as an adjunct therapy to relieve symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
With increased flexibility and strength comes better posture. Most standing and sitting poses develop core strength. That’s because you’re counting on your deep abdominals to support and maintain each pose. With a stronger core, you’re more likely to sit and stand “tall.” Another benefit of yoga is the increased body awareness. This heightened awareness tells you more quickly when you’re slouching or slumping so you can adjust your posture.
Thank you Koya for sharing your beautiful story and expanding our knowledge about yoga!