Adding yoga to your regular routine can have numerous physical and mental health benefits. The word ‘yoga’ originates from the Sanskrit word “yuji”, which means ‘to union’ or ‘to add.” The ultimate goal of yoga is to unite body and mind so that they are working in perfect, cohesive harmony. Having mastery over body and mind allows one to better adapt to life’s challenges.
There are different types of yoga, which include body postures, breathing exercises, and relaxation and meditation. Yoga does not require expensive or elaborate equipment to get started and can be done by children and adults.
Overview of Benefits
- Improves body posture and flexibility
- Improves muscle strength and tone
- Reduces body-wide inflammation
- Helps reduce chronic pain such as arthritis, lower back pain, and arthritis
- Improves quality of sleep
- Enhances respiration
- Improves heart health and the circulatory system
- Reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol
- Balances mood and reduces anxiety
- Improves focus and therefore academic and work performance
Yoga improves strength, flexibility and balance
There is numerous data that shows that specific yoga poses that target flexibility and balance are successful at optimizing body performance. A study of 26 college athletes found that 10 weeks of yoga improved various measures of flexibility and balance. Yoga’s benefits aren’t just limited to college-aged athletes though. A study of 66 elderly participants found that one year of yoga dramatically improved flexibility about four times more than the control group. Another study focused on balance in older adults and found that yoga increased benefits.
The power of yoga to enhance mental health
In addition to yoga’s physical health benefits, yoga has long been utilized to reduce stress and anxiety. Modern research is just beginning to confirm what ancient cultures have known for millennia.
In one study, 24 women who identified themselves as being overly stressed took part in a yoga schedule. After 3 months, the women had significantly lower levels of cortisol. The lower levels of cortisol in the test subjects was associated with less stress, anxiety, depression, and fatigue. Another larger study of 131 people showed similar results of reducing cortisol, stress and anxiety over 10 weeks.
Yoga may also alleviate symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD, which is an anxiety disorder brought upon by a traumatic event. In another study, 64 women with PTSD, practiced yoga once a week for 10 weeks. After 10 weeks, their symptoms of PTSD lessened significantly. In fact, over half of the women no longer had PTSD symptoms at the end of the study.
Yoga may reduce inflammation
Chronic inflammation is associated with diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. A study of 218 people found that those who took part in yoga had lower levels of inflammatory markers than those who did not perform yoga. Another study showed that 12 weeks of yoga in breast cancer survivors who have chronic fatigue reduced inflammatory markers.
Yoga may improve respiratory and heart hearth
A type of yoga called pranayama focuses specifically on controlling breath through breathing exercises. A larger study of 287 college students found that after 15 weeks the participants increased the amount of air that can be expelled by the lungs. This is an important ability in conditions like lung disease and asthma..
Additionally, the ability for the heart to pump blood throughout the circulatory system allows tissues to be supplied with nutrients. Research shows that yoga may improve heart health and reduce the risk for heart disease. One study of middle aged people over 40 found that those who did yoga for 5 years regularly had lower blood pressure and pulse rate that the control group. Another study of 113 people with heart disease found that a lifestyle change that included included yoga, diet change, and stress management found a 23% decrease in total cholesterol and a 26% reduction in LDL cholesterol. Remarkably, the progression of heart disease stopped in close to half of the participants.
Yoga could reduce chronic pain and migraines
In a study of 42 people with carpal tunnel syndrome, yoga was found to be more effective in reducing pain than wrist splinting. Additionally, a study of people who have osteoarthritis of the knees found that yoga decreased pain and improved function.
Migraines are severe recurring headaches that affect a handful of Americans. Yoga may be used as a therapy to reduce migraine symptoms. A study of 72 patients found that that yoga reduced headache frequency and intensity compared to the control group.
Yoga stimulates the vagus nerve which reduces migraine pain and frequency.
Yoga promotes positive lifestyle changes
Yoga is becoming more popular as an additional therapy to treat a variety of conditions and to improve quality of life. In a study of 135 seniors, yoga was found to be effective in improving mood, fatigue levels, and quality of life compared to the walking group or the control group. In a study of cancer patients yoga improved chemotherapy symptoms like nausea and vomiting as well as overall global changes in positive life changes.
Healthy eating habits
Yoga emphasizes mindfulness and being present in the moment. A similar concept is known as mindful eating in which participants focus on the taste and texture of the food. A study which incorporated yoga practice in patients suffering from an eating disorder found that yoga reduced eating disorder symptoms and disordered thinking about food.
Improved Sleep quality
A study of 69 elderly people found that yoga was effective at improving sleep than the other 2 study groups, one of which included patients taking a dietary supplement. Part of the reason why yoga improves sleep is through the promotion of the sleep hormone melatonin.
Yoga offers a variety of benefits that that support a healthy lifestyle. The ancient practices of yoga benefit the young and the old – those who are already considered healthy as well as those that have a preexisting condition. Just 15 minutes a day of yoga can improve your mental and physical health