Yoga has been shown to provide a number of mental and physical health benefits, including reducing stress, improving flexibility and strength, and even helping to prevent chronic diseases.
The word “yoga” comes from the Sanskrit word “Yuj,” which loosely means to unite or join. Yoga is a discipline that combines physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation. It originated in India more than 5000 years ago and has since become popular all over the world.
There are many different types of yoga, each with its own health benefits and style. Some types of yoga are more intense than others, while some may be better for certain health conditions or age groups.
Health Benefits of Yoga
Yoga is known for improving strength and flexibility, but there are other physical health benefits that you can experience. One should always check in with their health practitioner before adding anything new to their routine. But many do find that yoga can be a helpful course of treatment alongside traditional medical practices.
Yoga May Reduce Inflammation
Although inflammation can cause a lot of pain, it is part of the body’s attempt at protecting itself. Studies show that regular yoga can help reduce stress hormones that promote inflammation, and yoga practices like Ashtanga yoga can reduce inflammatory markers.
Ashtanga yoga involves synchronizing the breath with a series of postures. This practice produces intense internal heat, purifying sweat that detoxifies muscles and organs and improves circulation.
Yoga Could Improve Cardiovascular Health
Yoga can also lower blood pressure and improve overall heart health. Stress releases hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, narrowing the arteries and can increase one’s blood pressure.
Incorporating yoga into your routine can improve cardiovascular risk factors such as obesity and high blood pressure, especially in middle-aged and older adults at high risk. Lowering your cardiovascular risk factors and improving your physical activity can also decrease the risk of heart disease.
Yoga Could Reduce Chronic Pain and Arthritis
Yoga can be a relatively low-impact workout, and this means that individuals with arthritis can still experience the benefits of exercise without injuring their joints. Gentle yoga can improve muscular strength, ease tenderness, lower back pain, and overall back pain in the long run, and it can also help ease swollen joints and increase mobility.
Yoga Can Help You Sleep Better
Certain yoga poses can aid in better sleep, but you’ll see the most benefits from the reflective properties of yoga. Choosing a yoga practice that focuses on meditation, calmness, breathing, and restorative poses can reduce sleep disturbances. It can also help individuals with insomnia and other sleep disorders. Individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) notice that incorporating yoga into their daily routine can be a complementary treatment for treating PTSD symptoms.
Yoga Improves Flexibility and Balance
Yoga classes improve strength, balance, and flexibility in older adults. Different yoga asanas (poses or postures of yoga) can strengthen the musculoskeletal system. Yoga can also train older individuals to balance better and reduce the fear of falling.
For example, Bikram yoga and Iyengar yoga can improve lower and upper body range of motion and balance. Bikram yoga consists of 26 poses and two breathing exercises, and individuals repeat these poses in the same order for 90 minutes in a heated room. Iyengar yoga is a form of exercise that focuses on detail, precision, and alignment while doing yoga poses.
Yoga May Relieve Migraines
It’s recommended that patients that suffer from severe headaches and migraines seek traditional medical care for treatment. But many have experienced extra relief when adding yoga into their routine, and yoga poses can relieve tension in the neck and spine and decrease physiological stress levels.
Yoga Can Increase Strength
Many yoga poses require you to hold your body weight in various poses for extended periods. The more you use your body weight, the stronger you’ll be. You’ll also notice an increase in muscle tone in your legs, arms, and core.
Studies show that participants in a control group who incorporated hatha yoga into their daily routine noticed improved overall endurance. Hatha yoga is a type of yoga that pairs physical poses with breathing techniques.
Yoga Promotes Healthy Eating Habits
The mind-body connection is a super important part of yoga. A positive effect of deepening the mind-body connection is that many experience an increased motivation to eat healthier. Not only do individuals notice a decrease in fast food cravings, but they also experience better management of emotional eating.
Yoga Improves Breathing & Asthma Symptoms
Although breathing is first nature, many of us are breathing shallowly. Yoga breathing exercises called pranayama can show us how to focus on breathing and breathe deeper. Incorporating pranayama into your daily routine can benefit your body physically and mentally. Slow breathing can shift the nervous system into a more relaxed state, and being in a more relaxed state can lower heart rate and blood pressure.
The Mental Health Benefits of Yoga
People are often surprised that they’re experiencing mental health and spiritual health benefits when they leave the yoga mat. Although the physical health benefits are significant, the basis of yoga is about self-reflection, kindness, compassion, overall growth, and self-awareness. Yoga can change your outward appearance for the better, but studies also show that yoga can strengthen the brain.
The practice of yoga can enhance the brain’s structures and functions. When searching for a yoga instructor, make sure that they discuss how yoga can boost your happiness. They should also help you foster a deeper connection to spirituality.
Yoga Can Decrease Stress
Yoga is known to reduce stress and increase relaxation. Studies show that yoga can significantly lower cortisol levels (the primary stress hormone). Yoga also encourages individuals to practice mindfulness to combat stress long-term.
Yoga May Fight Depression
Experiences with depression vary, and medicine is life-saving for many patients, but doctors often recommend additional treatments such as counseling or even yoga therapy. Yoga therapy can help people cope with their symptoms and even prevent symptoms from worsening with traditional treatment methods.
Yoga Relieves Anxiety
Yoga can help soothe anxiety because you are retraining your body and nervous system to be present and find peace. The combination of slow movement and intentional breathing can also help when your mind is racing and if you’re experiencing an elevated heart rate.
Yoga Improves Quality of Life
Yoga can also be used as an adjunct therapy to improve the quality of life in various ways. Yoga can increase mood, fatigue, anxiety, and depression, but doctors also say that yoga can improve quality of life and reduce symptoms in cancer patients. Studies show that individuals undergoing intense treatments like chemotherapy report decreased nausea and vomiting and increased relaxation.
Allanah Dykes is a freelance writer for Celebribody. Her work has been featured on Hunker, Matador Network, Elite Daily, and PopSugar, among others. Most of her day is spent writing, but she loves to garden and incorporate dance workouts into her weekly workout schedule when she has the chance.