Yoga, meaning union, is an ancient practice that harmonizes mind and body. The practice began over 3,000 years ago and is grounded in Indian philosophy. It incorporates breathing exercises, meditation, and poses known as asanas that encourage relaxation and stress reduction.
There are many benefits of practicing Yoga, like sleeping better, better flexibility, and just feeling relaxed. Let’s look at five of the most important benefits that Yoga offers.
Better mental health
A typical yoga session generally begins with breathing exercises to relax the body and help free the mind of worries and distractions. Yoga’s incorporation of meditation and breathing can help improve mental well-being. Research shows that regular yoga practice provides clarity, calmness, self-awareness and increases focus. Many research studies have shown that it can decrease the secretion of cortisol, the stress hormone. Yoga can also be a tool for reducing anxiety. In one study, 34 women diagnosed with an anxiety disorder participated in yoga classes for a couple of months. At the end of the study, the group that practiced Yoga had lower anxiety levels than the control group.
Improves Flexibility and Balance
One of the most well-recognized benefits of yoga practice is better flexibility and balance. There is significant research that backs this benefit. Research shows that people who practice Yoga can optimize performance with asanas that increase flexibility and improves balance. Research done on 26 male college athletes for 10 weeks found that practicing Yoga increased muscle elasticity and balance measures compared to the control group. Another study found that practicing Yoga could help improve mobility in older adults.
The older we get, the less flexibility our muscles have. With today’s digital jobs where we spend a lot of time sitting, our balance and flexibility can be compromised very quickly. Yoga can help us setback this process. Practicing just 15–30 minutes of Yoga each day could make a big difference in increasing flexibility and mobility.
Reduces Chronic Pain
Yoga is a great tool to reduce pain. Yoga can help people with arthritis, fibromyalgia, migraine, low back pain, and many other types of chronic pain conditions. A recent research study found that a weekly yoga class increased flexibility more than just medical care in 313 people diagnosed with chronic low back pain.
According to the Journal of Psychology, Yoga appears to bulk up gray matter through neurogenesis and strengthen white matter connectivity through neuroplasticity. Brain anatomy studies find that yogis have more gray matter. We lose gray matter as we age, but that decrease is absent in yogis. This finding suggests that Yoga has a neuroprotective effect, which can help reduce the perception of pain in adults.
Incorporating Yoga into the daily routine is an excellent way to keep pain at bay.
Yes, Yoga can help build strength in the muscles. Many Yoga poses support your body weight in new and often challenging ways. The upshot is that it can help you increase muscle tone and definition. Holding these poses can also build muscular endurance. Yoga helps shape long, lean muscles in your legs, arms, back, and abdomen. A research study found that sun salutations, a series of foundational poses yoga poses, led to a significant increase in upper body strength, endurance, and weight loss. Practicing Yoga can be an effective way to boost strength and endurance.
Promotes Sleep Quality
Let’s talk about those zzzzs. Don’t we all wish that we could have a few extra minutes of sleep? I know I do. Yoga might be the key to better sleep. According to sleep foundation, over 55% of yoga practitioners3 report improved sleep.
Moreover, many studies demonstrate that Yoga can improve sleep for any age group, yes that includes even kids. There are many ways that Yoga can help improve the quality of sleep; thru mindfulness — mindfulness can increase melatonin levels and reduce nighttime sleep disturbances, breathing awareness- deep breathing is a relaxation technique that can induce sleep, and regular exercise — movement is an important element of sleep hygiene. Poor sleep quality is associated with obesity, high blood pressure, and depression. If you want to improve your sleep, consider making Yoga a part of your routine schedule.
The bottom line is yoga practice has benefits beyond just the five discussed above. Incorporating it into your routine can help enhance your health, increase strength and flexibility and reduce symptoms of stress, depression, and anxiety.
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About the Author
Aesha Tahir is a health and wellness coach and a certified personal trainer. She holds a Master’s degree in Applied Exercise Science and is certified by the NASM as a Personal trainer. She is a certified USA Track and Field Running Coach and Road Runners of America Coach. She is a 200-HR Registered Yoga Teacher. She is also a group exercise instructor specializing in barre, spinning, strength training, boot camp, and yoga classes. She has over five years of experience in the fitness and wellness arena with focused expertise in coaching, corrective exercise and injury prevention, individualized fitness programs, and group fitness programs. She is also an aspiring public speaker in the fitness and wellness world who believes in this quote; “To be inspired is great, but to inspire is incredible.”