14 Health Benefits of Yoga
The term yoga comes from the Sanskrit word yuji, which means union. The goal of this practice is to improve strength, breathing, and flexibility. Those who practice it say that the benefits of yoga are incalculable: Stress reduction, better sleep quality, more balanced consumption of alcohol and cigarettes, a desire for a healthier diet, and more.
Perhaps there’s not yet scientific evidence for all these benefits. However, in many cases, research has shown that yoga exercises provide many health benefits, both physical and mental.
The daily benefits of yoga
Yoga has been an increasingly popular discipline and philosophy for a few decades. Far from going out of style, it seems to be gaining more and more followers. The reasons for its success are many, but today we’ll focus on fourteen of them.
1. Reduced stress levels
Yoga can have great potential for reducing stress, even more so when combined with meditation. According to research published in the Journal of the International Society of Preventive and Community Dentistry, yoga exercises reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
At the same time, a study of 24 women (who had complained of high levels of anxiety and stress) found that a yoga program of only three months significantly reduced their cortisol levels; the volunteers reported a decrease in stress, anxiety, fatigue, and depression.
Likewise, a larger study involving 131 volunteers found that yoga exercises helped reduce anxiety and stress. An improvement in the quality of life and mental well-being was also observed.
2. Reduced anxiety levels
Many say that since they started practicing yoga, they’ve experienced a decrease in anxiety levels, and research seems to confirm this impression.
In a study carried out by Complementary Therapies in Medicine , a group of women who took a yoga class at least twice a week for two months drastically reduced their anxiety levels.
On the other hand, a survey aimed at people suffering from post-traumatic stress, (i.e. subjects who experience severe anxiety and fear after witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event), revealed that those who attended yoga classes showed fewer symptoms of this disorder. 52% of them solved the problem.
3. Reduced inflammation
Inflammation is one of our body’s defense mechanisms in the face of organic damage and, to some extent, it’s a healthy reaction. However, when the inflammatory state becomes chronic, it can lead to heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, as confirmed by the journal Recent Patents Inflammation Allergy Drug Discovery.
With this in mind, one of the benefits of yoga would be a reduction in inflammatory states. This is according to a study that compared two groups of volunteers. People who attended yoga classes showed lower levels of inflammatory markers than those who didn’t.
Similarly, yoga could help reduce inflammatory markers in breast cancer survivors, according to other research. However, more studies are still needed to fully understand the benefits of yoga in inflammatory processes.
4. Improved heart health
A study published in The Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology followed a group of people over 40 for five years. It showed that yoga practitioners tended to have a lower heart rate than the control group.
For this reason, it’s believed that yoga can benefit heart health and reduce risk factors for heart disease.
Furthermore, a study published in the Expert Review of Cardiovascular Therapy suggests that people with low blood pressure develop fewer heart diseases and strokes on average. To enjoy this protection, it’s to practice yoga at least twice a week.
Yoga could lower total cholesterol by 23% and bad cholesterol by 26%; It’s also capable of slowing the progression of heart disease by 47%, according to a study published in the Journal of the Association of Physicians of India.
5. Improved quality of life
A study published in the journal Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine compared subjects who consistently practice yoga with people who don’t. The former significantly increased their quality of life, improving mood and reducing the feeling of fatigue compared to the latter.
It’s also believed that yoga can improve the quality of life of women with breast cancer. For example, it may be able to relieve the symptoms produced by chemotherapy, such as vomiting, nausea, dizziness, and other discomforts, according to a study by the European Journal of Cancer Care.
A similar study found that a group of breast cancer volunteers who participated in yoga sessions for eight weeks had a reduction in pain and fatigue, as well as greater acceptance and relaxation.
6. Yoga helps with depression
Yoga could reduce symptoms of depression and provide an antidepressant effect. One of the benefits of yoga practice is that, by lowering cortisol levels, it acts on neurotransmitters associated with depression, according to a study published in the journal Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience.
Other journals, such as the Journal of Affective Disorders and Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, support the contention that yoga exercises help fight depression by intervening in the production of stress-related hormones.
7. Reduced chronic pain
Chronic pain can result from several conditions, such as arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, or osteoarthritis. The practice of yoga typically helps relieve chronic pain in patients with these conditions.
The academic journal JAMA published a study revealing yoga’s effectiveness in reducing carpal tunnel pain and its ability to improve wrist strength.
Similarly, a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that the practice of yoga improves physical performance in patients with osteoarthritis of the knees and, therefore, reduces pain.
If you’re one of those chronic pain sufferers, incorporating yoga exercises into your routine could act as a pain reliever. However, more research is needed to confirm this theory.
8. Improved sleep quality
Depression, obesity, high blood pressure and other disorders are known to prevent restful sleep. According to research, yoga could help induce sleep and achieve restful rest.
The Indian Journal of Medical Research found in a study of older people that yoga could help people fall asleep. Participants who practiced yoga reported that they were able to fall asleep faster, sleep much longer, and wake up with more energy.
Generally, yoga’s believed to activate the sleep regulating hormone, melatonin. Therefore, practicing yoga when you reach an advanced age could be very beneficial.
9. Greater flexibility and balance
A study published in the International Journal of Yoga stated that certain postures promote balance and flexibility. Athletes who added yoga practice to their workouts greatly increased flexibility and balance compared to those who didn’t.
At the same time, a 2013 study revealed that yoga improves balance and flexibility in older people. 25 minutes of yoga exercises a day could be enough to get these benefits.
10. Improved breathing
It’s believed that the practice of pranayama or yogic breathing technique can help control and improve breathing. So says a study published in the International Journal of Yoga, which found that yoga practice could be effective in improving lung function in people with mild or moderate asthma.
Therefore, performing yoga exercises on a regular basis is recommended in order to increase endurance and maintain proper functioning of the lungs and heart.
11. Migraines relief
A study published in The Journal of Pain found that yoga stimulates the vagus nerve, which is known to relieve migraine pain.
There are other studies that confirm that the practice of yoga reduces the intensity of headaches, as well as the frequency of their occurrence.
12. Yoga promotes healthy eating habits
Similarly, other research revealed that yoga exercises reduce the tendency to disordered, compulsive, and out of control approach to eating. Even those who don’t suffer from eating disorders will certainly be able to take advantage of the benefits of yoga on their diet.
13. Increased strength
Among the many techniques and postures of yoga, some are particularly aimed at developing muscles and increasing strength.
An experiment involving 79 adults found that the sun salutation sequence dramatically increases stamina and strength, as well as leading to a decrease in body fat.
The ability to increase strength and endurance increases the more regular the practice becomes. Furthermore, its effectiveness can be enhanced with a combination of aerobic and strength exercises.
14. Yoga stimulates cognitive activity
Another study comparing a yoga session and an aerobic exercise session found that the former produced a greater increase in memory accuracy and speed than the latter.
The practice of yoga has also been shown to improve mental flexibility and information retention in the elderly.
The benefits of yoga: More than just a hobby
Many of the benefits of yoga have been proven by medical research. From reducing fatigue, stress, anxiety, and depression to improving breathing, eating habits, and sleeping habits.
Dedicating a few hours a week to this practice improves your quality of life. And if it becomes a pleasant habit, you’ll notice changes in your health in a short time. Beginners, however, should rely on a qualified yoga instructor. This is because some postures can be counterproductive if not done correctly.It might interest you...