Yoga is a system of exercise or practice that energizes and balances the body via a combination of movement, mind, and breath.
The purpose of yoga is to build physical strength and wellness while providing harmony to the body and mind.
These factors integrate to improve your overall physical and emotional well-being.
Turns out, scientific research has been catching onto the amazing healing powers of a regular yoga practice.
Below, we have compiled a list of some of the MANY health benefits of yoga.
So if you haven’t yet given it a try, then the following 20 health benefits of yoga should most likely convince you to roll out the mat!
Let’s start with the obvious. Yoga will seriously improve your flexibility.
Develop a regular practice and before you know it, you’ll be striking poses that once seemed a mere ambitious goal.
This is especially important if you spend your days sitting at a desk, which, if left unattended, can leave your muscles tight and uncomfortable.
Decreased flexibility over time can cause general, full-body pain and a loss of mobility.
A regular yoga practice can help prevent and also reverse this process.
Protects and Strengthens the Spine
Spinal discs are the discs that encompass the space between each vertebrae in our spinal column. Their structure is similar to a jelly donut. Their purpose is to absorb shock as we move and also to prevent the vertebrae from rubbing together.
Over time, these discs can degenerate. This can cause discs to herniate and compress spinal nerves.
The blood supply in this area is limited, so one of the best ways to provide nutrients and to prevent and/or facilitate healing is to increase this blood supply through movement.
Studies show that those who practice yoga on a regular basis have significantly less disc degeneration.
So roll out the mat to help keep your spine healthy, strong and pain free!
Yoga can be very effective at alleviating the devastating effects of stress on the mind and body.
Cortisol is your body’s primary stress hormone. It’s job is to support the proper functioning of multiple body systems. For example, cortisol helps to maintain appropriate blood sugar and blood pressure control, circadian rhythm (sleep-wake-cycles), hormone regulation and macronutrient metabolism.
Cortisol is also notoriously popular for its roll in the “fight-or-flight” stress response, which is meant to activate a short-term response to imminent danger; think: arms flailing, running for dear life from a growling grizzly.
Although its not entirely impossible to find yourself running from a growling grizzly bear, these days a more likely scenario would include extended periods of high-stress (demanding job, jerk boss, financial stress, deadlines, single parenting, etc.)
Without release, again, remember we were supposed to be running from wild animals (and no, your boss does not count!)
Anyway, without this release, cortisol levels begin to build up in your blood.
This elevation in cortisol disrupts the body’s ability to effectively rest and repair itself. Elevated cortisol levels can put you at risk for health problems like digestive complications, weight gain, poor memory and sleep disturbance.
Practicing restorative yoga allows you to achieve a deep level of relaxation. This takes you out of that cortisol-inducing sympathetic “fight-or-flight” state. It activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which allows you to “rest and digest” and mitigates the damaging physiological effects of the stress-response system.
Most have heard that exercise is an excellent way to reduce stress. Yoga takes a slightly alternative approach with a non-judgmental, awareness of self.
Yoga helps you achieve peacefulness of mind and body through a powerful integration of physical fitness and self acceptance, so let that shiitake go and get down, dog!
In addition to cardio exercise, The Department of Health and Human Services recommends some form of resistance training at least twice a week.
Resistance training helps with optimal metabolic function and weight management, prevention and control of chronic disease states and is often recommended as the primary preventive measure against bone loss and osteoporosis.
Many variations of yoga build muscle through poses that require you to support your own body weight.
Strike (and hold!) that pose and now you’re not only using the primary muscle group you intend to work, but also recruiting muscles from throughout your entire body to help support that original group.
Gym machines are muscle-isolating, meaning they move in a one-directional motion and you must continue to add more weight with time (not to mention the “bonus” of the repeated, voluntary and brutal subjection of yourself to the testosterone-fueled, primal peacockings of Chief Big Feather.)
The practice of yoga, on the other hand, is more of a full-body, functional-fitness type approach to gaining strength.
What, exactly, IS functional fitness, you ask?
So simply put; functional fitness basically just conditions your body to better perform your everyday activities.
It improves your balance and coordination, stability, strength, range of motion, etc.
Yoga moves your body in multiple directions, just like it was meant to be moved. Think about your spine and how many different directions it is able to bend and how you move throughout your day.
Think contortionist. Seriously.
So when you do yoga, it also uses both large and small muscle groups at the same time. It incorporates your entire anatomy.
Pick poses to tailor a particular muscle group and you’re still going to feel (and see!) the effects elsewhere.
Our posture tends to suffer as we spend more and more time hunched over our desks or computers these days.
A regular yoga practice will develop your core strength and better body awareness and alignment, which will have you naturally standing taller in no time!
Relieves Chronic Pain
Yoga helps to reduce the symptoms of various types of chronic pain, including arthritis, migraines and low-back pain.
A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that as little as one yoga session per week results in greater improvements in low back function than standard exercise therapy.
Check out this article discussing in more detail yoga’s effectiveness in relieving chronic pain.
Insomnia is the most prevalent sleep disorder among American adults today. Quality, sufficient sleep is vital to allow both your mind and body the time it needs to restore and recover from the stress and activities of the day.
Poor sleep quality can wreak havoc on your health. It will eventually cause conditions such has decreased immune function, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Studies now show that a daily yoga practice can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
Psychological stress affects your body in many physiological ways, including causing chronic inflammation.
Inflammation is the body’s first line of defense in the immune response system. Chronic inflammation, however, can trigger some very less-than-desirable disease processes, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and even depression.
Research now shows that a regular yoga practice can induce an anti-inflammatory effect in the body. Check out this article from Psychology Today for more information on the immunoprotective properties of yoga.
Balance is actually a learned and complex skill. Any athlete knows that excellent balance and coordination is a non-negotiable for optimal performance.
The practice of yoga will train you to improve your balance physically through improving strength, proprioception (sensory awareness) and it improves agility through enhanced neuromuscular coordination.
As we age, excellent balance is of primary importance to our safety and fall prevention. As we move through daily life and even educate our loved ones, its important to remember that falls most often happen when we are on the move verses standing still. For example, walking stairs, tripping over rugs, even your own yoga mat, etc.
The takeaway: Maintenance of these motor-fitness components will be key to avoiding injury. You need to be quick enough and strong enough to break your fall. A regular yoga practice will help you accomplish this task.
Promotes Blood Flow
Yoga also helps to increase circulation, even in extreme cases, such as Raynaud’s Disease.
So, Raynaud’s Disease is a condition where your sympathetic nervous system just goes rogue and esstentially cuts off the circulation to your hands and sometimes feet in cold or even just cooler temperatures.
Restorative yoga postures can relax these constricted vessels and allow the blood to start moving freely and comfortably again.
Friends, I’ve actually been blessed with this vascular pleasantry (sigh…) for many years and I can tell you first hand that this does work.
Lowers Blood Sugar
Yoga lowers blood sugar through an overall, holistic improvement in quality of life. A regular yoga practice improves emotional well-being, increases physical activity, and lowers stress and anxiety levels. All of these factors contribute to better blood sugar control.
One study found that fasting blood glucose levels in diabetes improved with just ten minutes of daily, seated yoga.
Helps With Weight Loss
The weight loss you may experience with yoga is not simply reduced to the classic, calories in<calories out equation.
First, yoga makes you more mindful and aware of what you’re eating and how these foods affect your body. This means you’re more likely to avoid foods that don’t serve you, such as processed foods.
You will also likely feel much less stressed as your practice evolves. You will notice that you engage in significantly less emotional eating, if you tend to be be one who heads straight for the pantry in times of stress. You will also notice that you are more mindful of when you are actually hungry and eat in response to your body’s cues verses time of day.
Know there are many styles of yoga. If you’re looking to also get your heart rate pumping, try a little Vinyasa, Ashtanga, or Power Yoga for some additional caloric burn.
Improves Gut Health
Yoga improves gut heath through improving oxygen flow and decreasing bloating.
Twisting poses help detoxify through stimulation of accumulated toxins, which then moves them out of the body.
Multiple poses stretch and move the colon. This aids in digestion and alleviates constipation.
Improves Thyroid Function
Yoga can help to improve a hypoactive thyroid through the initial management and control of stress.
Certain yoga poses, such as supported shoulderstand and fish pose increase circulation to the thyroid gland, helping to balance its function.
Improves Lung Function
Yoga has been shown to increase lung capacity in those with asthma in as little as 8 weeks of regular practice.
The American College of Chest Physicians completed a study that found that COPD patients who practiced yoga just twice a week for 12 weeks had improved lung function and shortness of breath.
This is a tremendous, life-altering discovery in improving the symptoms and quality of life for those affected by this chronic disease, which, to date, has no cure. BIG WIN for yoga! YAY!!
Yoga Makes You A Happier Human
Fact: As little as one single yoga class can begin to change your brain chemistry.
Yoga increases GABA (gamma-amniobutyric-acid,) a neurotransmitter thought to enhance mood.
You creates a happier you through the serious of biochemical changes that occur as a result of decreased anxiety and fatigue, encouraging long-term physical and emotional health.
Helps Increase Concentration And Improves Memory
Regular yoga practice has been proven to increase concentration through the practice of focusing on your breath and present-moment awareness. Yoga facilitates intentional mindfulness, which leads to increased concentration.
Yoga allows your mind and body to relax. It allows you to identify yourself as separate from the powerful energy of your thoughts, decreasing emotional reaction and increasing your concentration power.
The negative toll stress takes on your body is too endless to list; however, it should come as no surprise that yoga improves the symptoms of memory loss secondary to the effects of a little blissful stress reduction.
Cardiovascular disease is linked to stroke, heart attack, memory loss, renal failure, diabetes, heart failure, cardiac arrhythmias, etc. The list is endless.
Several studies now show a regular yoga practice is an excellent non-invasive option for both the treatment and prevention of this horrible and unpredictable disease (especially for women!)
As a certified cardiovascular nurse, this subject is very dear to my heart. (pun intended!)
Cardiovascular disease kills more woman than all cancers combined! It is ruthless and more dangerous than I believe, not all, but a lot of women realize.
Please read this article from American Heart, detailing the benefits of yoga in relation to prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease.
Keeps Your Skin Looking Young And Healthy
Yoga has a miraculous ability to restore radiance and glow to a dull aesthetic.
It improves the flow of oxygen, detoxifies the body, promotes quality sleep, decreases cortisol, increases elasticity-producing collagen, promotes healthy hormone balance, mindfulness and simply makes you happier, among many other positive health effects.
Will all the positive side effects of yoga, the one major side effect responsible for that rejuvenated, youthful appearance is stress reduction.
Not only gorgeous skin, but a happier, healthier you begins from the inside, out.
Incorporating yoga into your daily self-care routine is a win-win, improving not only the quality and look of your skin and body, but the entire quality of your life in general!
Be Well! xoxo
Foam Roller – Release muscle tension and help increase flexibility with a foam roller. See the same benefits as a deep tissue massage – smoothing knots, removing adhesions and trigger points.
Yoga Mat – Yoga mats are an essential for comfort and safety on the floor in any yoga practice.
Yoga Block – Yoga blocks provide stability and alignment for deeper poses. They are also great for sitting poses and meditation!
Yoga Set– A complete beginner’s kit. Includes everything you need to get started!
Yoga Socks – The non-slip grip on these yoga socks will help prevent falls and make sure your bum only hits the mat when its supposed to!