11 Benefits of Yoga

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You’ve probably heard by now that yoga is good for your health. Maybe you’ve even tried it yourself and found that it makes you feel better. The consistent¬†practice provides numerous physical and mental health benefits. Some, like increased flexibility, are obvious.

Other methods, including mental clarity and stress reduction, may be more subtle, but just as powerful. When put together, these benefits of yoga can help increase feelings of well-being, which helps explain why so many people find yoga so addictive. Here are the main benefits of yoga and some poses to help you get the most out of your practice.

Benefits of Yoga

  • increase flexibility
  • increase strength
  • improve balance
  • Supports joint health
  • Alleviate and prevent back pain
  • teach better breathing
  • develop mental peace
  • relieve pressure
  • increase self-confidence
  • promote heart health
  • improve sleeping

increase flexibility

Moving your body and stretching in new ways will help you become more flexible, bringing a greater range of motion to tight areas. Over time, you can expect to gain mobility in your hamstrings, back, shoulders, and hips.

A 2016 study published in the International Journal of Yoga evaluated the effects of yoga practice on male college athletes. Over the course of the 10-week study, the researchers observed significant improvements in flexibility and balance in the group that practiced yoga compared to the group that did not practice yoga. The study’s authors concluded that yoga practice could potentially improve athletic performance and increase flexibility in athletes.

As you age, your flexibility often decreases, especially if you sit for long periods of time, which can lead to pain and immobility. Yoga can help reverse this process. A 2015 study in China found that 12 weeks of hatha yoga improved flexibility in adults with a median age of 50. This practice also increases cardiorespiratory and muscular endurance as well as physical strength.

increase strength

Many yoga poses require you to bear your weight in new and often challenging ways, including balancing on one leg or propping yourself up on your arms. Holding these poses for several breaths helps build muscle strength and endurance.

As a by-product of getting stronger, you can expect to see an increase in muscle tone. Yoga helps to build long, lean muscles in the legs, arms, back, and abdomen.

improve balance

Balance training is important at any age. Athletes find it makes them stronger, while those who are active find it improves their workouts and fitness levels. Balance training improves posture and function, helping you move more effectively in everyday life.

Exercises that strengthen and stabilize the core can improve agility and prevent accidental trips or falls. Improving balance is one of the most important benefits of yoga, especially as we age. A pose that requires you to stand on one leg, and for more advanced practitioners, turning you upside down in an inversion, can be a great way to build core strength to stay upright.

Supports joint health

The movements required for yoga are low-impact, allowing you to use your joints without injuring them. Yoga also helps strengthen the muscles around the joints, reducing the load on the joints. People with arthritis often see significant improvements in their pain and mobility with regular gentle yoga practice.

Alleviate and prevent back pain

Increasing flexibility and strength can help prevent the causes of some types of back pain. Many people with back pain spend a lot of time sitting at a computer or driving, which can lead to tightness throughout the body and compression of the spine. Yoga can counteract these conditions, as research shows the practice can help relieve common symptoms of back pain.

teach better breathing

Most of us breathe shallowly and give little thought to how we breathe. Yoga breathing exercises, called pranayama, focus our attention on the breath and teach us how to breathe deeply, which benefits the entire body.

Breathwork in yoga can have physical and mental benefits both on and off the mat. Certain types of pranayama, such as Kapalabhati Pranayama, can also help clear nasal passages (helpful for people with allergies), while Ujjayi Breath can help calm the nervous system.

develop mental peace

Yoga asana practice is intensely physical. Focusing on what your body is doing has a calming effect on your mind. Yoga also introduces you to meditation techniques, such as how to focus on your breath and detach from your thoughts.

The spiritual benefits of yoga are well supported by scientific research. For example, a 2018 study published in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine found that 12 weeks of hatha yoga significantly reduced stress, anxiety, and depression in the 52 women who participated in the study.

Additionally, there is growing evidence that yoga practice can be beneficial for people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A 2014 study determined that yoga can help traumatized people endure any physical and sensory experiences associated with fear and helplessness. Researchers determined that yoga helps increase emotional awareness, which is linked to their ability to manage symptoms.

These skills are extremely valuable in stressful situations, such as childbirth, insomnia, or anxiety attacks.

relieve pressure

Physical activity is good for relieving stress, especially yoga. Due to the need to focus, your daily worries, no matter how big or small, seem to disappear while you lie on the mat. This provides you with much-needed breaks from stressors and helps put your problems in perspective.

Yoga’s emphasis on being present can also help, as you learn not to dwell on past events or predict the future. You will leave your yoga class feeling less stressed than when you started because yoga lowers your cortisol levels.

increase self-confidence

Doing yoga can improve your mind-body connection and give you a better understanding of your body. During yoga, you’ll learn to make small, subtle movements that improve your alignment and allow you to be in better touch with your body. You also learn to accept your body without judgment. Over time, this will make you feel more comfortable with your body and boost your self-confidence.

promote heart health

Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, and research suggests yoga may help prevent it.

Yoga is good for your heart because it increases circulation and blood flow. For example, a 2015 study found that a year of yoga improved cardiovascular risk factors such as obesity and high blood pressure in older adults with metabolic syndrome. The study authors concluded that yoga could be used as a complementary therapy to manage this condition.

improve sleeping

Many people who practice yoga report that it helps them sleep better, and plenty of scientific evidence supports this claim. In fact, a review of 500 studies involving more than 49,4 participants determined that mind-body practices such as meditation or yoga can be beneficial for people with insomnia and other sleep disorders.

Additionally, a 2020 review of 800 studies involving more than 19,1 women determined that those who practiced yoga had fewer sleep disturbances than those who did not. The researchers noted that the more yoga subjects practiced, the more more benefits.

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