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13 Very Real Mental and Physical Health Benefits of Yoga

13 Very Real Mental and Physical Health Benefits of Yoga

woman doing yoga with her dog

In our society, many of us have a go, go, go mentality when it comes to living our lives.

Taking time to slow down and foster a better mind-body connection can help us in the long run, though. That’s why many are starting to see exercise beyond just the way it can change our outward appearance. Exercises like yoga can improve our health and be used as stress management in a fast-paced world. 

When implementing a yoga practice into your everyday life, you’ll experience physical health benefits and mental and spiritual benefits. Being able to do handstands and demanding physical postures is just a bonus. 

The Physical 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. 

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 a regular yoga practice can help bring down the stress hormones that promote inflammation. Yoga practices like Ashtanga yoga can reduce inflammatory markers.

Ashtanga yoga involves synchronizing the breath with a series of postures. Doing this practice produces intense internal heat, purifying sweat that detoxifies muscles and organs and improves circulation. 

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

Could Reduce Chronic Pain and Arthritis

Yoga can be a relatively low-impact workout. This means that individuals with arthritis can still experience the benefits of exercise without injuring their joints. In the long run, gentle yoga can improve muscular strength, ease tenderness, lower back pain, and overall back pain. It can also help ease swollen joints and increase mobility. 

Can Help You Sleep Better

Certain yoga poses can aid in better sleep, but you’ll see the most benefits from the meditative 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.  

Improves Flexibility and Balance

Yoga classes not only improve strength but balance and flexibility in older adults as well. Different types of 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. 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. 

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. Yoga poses can relieve tension in the neck and spine and decrease levels of physiological stress.

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, you’ll become stronger. 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.

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.

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pregnant woman in black sports bra and leggings doing a yoga pose

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 how to breathe deeper. Incorporating pranayama into your daily routine can benefit your body both physically and mentally.  Slow breathing can shift the nervous system into a more relaxed state. Being in a more relaxed state can lower heart rate and blood pressure.

If you have asthma, yoga can also increase respiratory muscle strength and decrease day and night attacks

The Mental and Spiritual 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 be able to help you foster a deeper connection to spirituality.

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. 

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 in combination with traditional treatment methods.  

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

Improves Quality of Life 

Yoga can also be used as an adjunct therapy to improve 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

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