Yes, it is true. For almost 5,000 years yoga practitioners reap the benefits of this ancient Hindu discipline. Name for this spiritual and ascetic practice comes from Sanskrit, in which the word ‘yoga’ literally translates to union. Namely, union of mind and body.
A part of yoga that we will talk about includes bodily postures, breath control and simple meditation. A very slight change in your daily routine, that would include yoga practice would help your health in many unforeseen ways.
In this text, you will read about 12 health benefits that are commonly connected to yoga, both mental and physical. Some of those benefits are scientifically proven, some are still in research or based on the experiences of people practising yoga.
So if you’re looking for the reason to roll out the mat, read on to find out what yoga can do for your strength, muscles, flexibility, posture and much, much more.
1. Yoga to Ease Chronic Pains
There is a growing body of studies that show that yoga can help relieve chronic pains. Yoga can help people with conditions like lower back pains, fibromyalgia, arthritis, migraine and carpal tunnel syndrome.
In 2005, a study was conducted on yoga for treating symptoms of osteoarthritis of the knees. It came to the conclusion that yoga offers reductions in pain and disability caused by knee osteoarthritis.
The meta-analysis from 2011, and 2013 found out that yoga is beneficial for those suffering from short- and long-term low back pain.
In a study on the effect of yoga on carpal tunnel syndrome, yoga was found more effective in improving grip strength and reducing pain than wrist splinting.
So to conclude, yoga can be beneficial to those suffering from chronic pain.
2. Yoga to Build Muscles and Increase Strength
There are some specific postures in yoga that are designed for building muscles and increasing your strength.
According to the Yoga Journal, those are Boat, Chair, Dolphin, Peacock and Downward-Facing Dog among other numerous poses.
In this study from 2011., researchers came to the conclusion that the sun salutation can be an ideal exercise to keep oneself at an optimum level of fitness. This exercise increases muscle strength in male and female subjects. Both men and women had an increase in weight loss, women also on body fat percentage.
Use yoga in addition to your regular exercise routine, cause the strength gained from yoga practice is combined with flexibility and endurance.
3. Yoga for Perfect Posture
It is true that improving your posture can improve your long-term health conditions.
It is also true that bad body posture could lead to various conditions such as the neck, back and other muscle and joints problems.
Pressure on your spine caused by bad posture could lead to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, nerve constriction, back pains and poor digestion.
In this study, on the benefits of Iyengar yoga practice for improving balance and postural stability, participants showed improvements in increased flexibility in the lower part of the body, walked faster with longer stride lengths and improved foot biomechanics.
Best yoga poses for posture are Heart Bench, Cow Face Arms, Plank Pose, Camel Pose, Cobra Pose, Wide Leg Forward Fold, Downward Facing Dog and Bridge Pose.
So, yoga can affect your overall health condition also by improving your postural stability.
4. Yoga Drops Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is known as the ‘Silent Killer’. It can do numerous damages to your heart, brain, arteries, kidneys and eyes.
In this study, participants with little or no prior experience with yoga performed Iyengar yoga for 12 weeks. The authors concluded that Lyengar yoga made improvements that were clinically measurable to both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
If you already have high blood pressure, avoid Shoulderstand and Headstand positions. Both of these positions increase blood pressure in the head because the head is as far below the heart as possible. Generally avoid any kind of inversions, even the gentle ones.
Good poses for this condition are Calming restorative yoga asanas and poses that put the spine in a horizontal position. Also, seated poses, leg stretches and gentle hip openers are very good for people with HBP.
5. Yoga Improves Flexibility and Balance
Yoga practice improves your flexibility because yoga poses stretch your muscles and your range of motion.
If you are a regular practitioner yoga will surely have an unthinkable effect on your flexibility and balance. It is one of the first and most obvious benefits of yoga.
There were several scientific studies performed that came to the same conclusion. This one in 2013 with older adults, or this one with young male college athletes, or the one on yoga vs callisthenics performed on 66 older people (please follow the links for further reading). The conclusion was that yoga has a great effect on improving your balance and flexibility.
For the elderly, it also means fewer falls that can be very dangerous at that age.
Best poses for flexibility are Big Toe Pose, Bound Angle Pose, Child’s Pose, Cow Face Pose, Extended Puppy Pose, Extended Triangle Pose and Fire Log Pose.
For balance, the best poses would be Mountain Pose, Tree Pose, Dancer Pose, Warrior III and Half Moon Pose.
6. Yoga to Reduce Inflammations
Inflammation is considered a normal immune system response, but chronic inflammation can contribute to the development of diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Although more research is needed to be conclusive of the beneficial effects of yoga on inflammation, findings of several studies indicate that it may lower inflammatory markers in the body. That can help in protection against certain diseases caused by chronic inflammation.
Best poses are Child’s Pose, Supine Twist, Half Lord of the Fishes Pose, Triangle Pose and Bridge Pose.
7. Yoga Improves Heart Health
Yoga poses that are aerobic get your heart rate in the aerobic range and thus lower your risk of heart attack. Even the non-aerobic poses can improve your heart conditioning by increasing endurance, lowering the resting heart rate and improve your maximum intake of oxygen when exercising. So, any form of yoga that includes breathing exercises and meditation can help reduce your level of stress, that also helps in reducing your resting heart rate.
The cardiovascular benefits also help reduce arterial plaque.
Best yoga poses for heart health are Easy Pose, Mountain Pose, Standing Forward Bend, Big-Toe Pose, Downward Dog and Bridge Pose.
8. Yoga Relieves Anxiety
Anxiety can create feelings of low self-esteem, limited control, panic, fear, anger and defeat.
Yoga involves a link of the body, mind, and spirit. Through movements, relaxation, breath work and meditation yoga can help you restore a sense of personal balance. Therefore, it may help alleviate many of the symptoms of anxiety.
Best yoga poses to help you alleviate anxiety are Child’s Pose, Tree Pose, Warrior III, Headstand and Legs Up The Wall Pose.
9. Yoga Decreases Stress
Short-term stress can be helpful for you cause it helps the body prepare to face danger, but long-term stress is linked to various health conditions.
If the stress is getting the best of you maybe it’s time to hit the mat. In one national survey, over 85% of people who practiced yoga said that it helped them relieve stress.
Yoga can enhance your mood and overall sense of mindfulness and well-being so it has the ability to ease your stress.
A number of studies have shown that yoga may help decrease the secretion of the primary stress hormone, cortisol.
Best poses to help reduce stress are Eagle Pose, Standing Forward Fold, Child’s Pose, Thunderbolt Pose and Reclined Bound Angle Pose.
10. Yoga Increases Your Blood Flow
Poor blood flow manifests in a lot of ways. Cold hands and feet, numbness, muscle cramps, dark circles around your eyes and swelling.
Yoga helps get your blood flowing. Circulation in your hands and feet is improved by the relaxation exercises you perform. It also gets more oxygen to your cells, which boosts their functions.
Yoga improves levels of haemoglobin and RBC that carry oxygens to the tissues. It also thins the blood by cutting its levels of clot-promoting proteins. This is important for the prevention of strokes and heart attacks.
Poses that bring the best results are Mountain Pose, Warrior II, Chair Pose, Downward Dog, Yoga Lunge, Pigeon, Triangle and Shoulder Stand.
11. Yoga Drains Your Lymph and Boosts Immune System
By contracting and stretching your muscles and moving your organs around you increase drainage of lymph. Lymph is an immune-cells rich viscous fluid. This drainage helps our immune system battle infections and dispose of toxic products.
Yoga also helps lower stress hormone (cortisol) that compromises our immunity and brings oxygenated blood to various organs to improve their functioning.
Best poses: Legs Up The Wall, Cobra Pose, Supported Fish Pose and Downward Dog With Block.
12. Yoga Improves Your Bone and Joints Health
Joint cartilage is sponge-like. It receives nutrients when you take joints through their full range of movements when practising.
A number of studies show that yoga can improve joint function, reduce arthritis-related pain, may increase bone density and in some cases prevent osteoporosis.
Iyengar yoga helped 8 people with rheumatoid arthritis in a pilot study conducted as a six-week yoga program.
Some yoga styles like Bikram yoga can be beneficial for arthritis.
You should avoid some asanas if you have a low bone density or an increased risk of fracture. Always practice with a neutral or straight spine – extreme twisting of the spine should be avoided.
Yoga Health Benefits List Illustration
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