As my Yoga asana practice has moved away from thinking of it as an exercise, I’ve been trying to find a good answer for what value asana practice has.
There are a few good answers for that. My traditional answer had always been that it helps prepare the body to sit in stillness for meditation. I still believe this, even though I have long since given up the goal of trying to sit in lotus. I do think being able to be comfortable in a sitting pose aids my concentration meditation.
Another good answer is that it helps find and adjust the physical imbalances in the body. This is yoga as therapy. I am still learning about this process, and how yoga asana can do this.
For me, then, the most relevant and meaningful answer is that yoga asana acts as a nadi shuddhi, an opening, purifying (or cleansing) of the life force channels and the nervous system. Thus, it was with no surprise, that I found research confirming that a “way to combat inflammation is by engaging the vagus nerve and improving “vagal tone.” This can be achieved through daily habits such as yoga and meditation”