The top 10 benefits of Yoga
If you’re like many of late, you’ve probably been searching for effective ways to decrease stress and get some more exercise. What if you could exercise and decrease your stress at the same time while reaping a host of other benefits? Yoga has long been touted for its ability to improve a variety of physical and psychological conditions while improving overall health. If you’ve been looking to diversify your exercise routine or are looking for a less stressful way to improve your health, the following benefits of yoga may help to convince you of its many merits.
1. Increased muscle length and tone
Among the many drawbacks, a sedentary life can bring is its effect on muscle condition. Sitting, standing, or remaining in a fixed position for an extended period of time can wreak havoc on one’s skeletal muscle quality, often leading to muscle imbalances from tight and weakened muscles that can lead to muscle strains. This scenario is at the route of many common muscle complaints, particularly for those who have bad backs.
The extended stretches and eccentric poses of yoga help to lengthen and strengthen muscles so that muscle tone improves throughout the muscles range of motion. Improved range of motion and strength not only helps you to look fitter and leaner but, more importantly, help your muscles to remain mobile while decreasing the likelihood of strains and sprains.
2. Improved joint stability and balance
Maintaining proper balance is critical throughout one’s life, especially as one ages. Mobile and strong joints not only make moving easier and allow you to enjoy your favorite activities to their fullest but help to protect against slips and falls.
The many balancing poses of yoga, from tree and eagle to pigeon and wheel, help to increase one’s physiological and mental perceptions of space. This awareness helps to improve overall balance while building strong joints that can withstand life’s stresses.
3. Improved breathing and decreased anxiety
Stressful workloads, constant rushing and poor posture can all leave us feeling overwhelmed and anxious. Worse yet, these tendencies also can impact how we breathe, causing us to take in short, shallow breaths that decrease the lung’s oxygen absorption capacity and increase overall stress levels.
Yoga improves breathing and decreases anxiety by two major pathways. First, the slow, intentional poses emphasized in yoga practice allow practitioners to literally slow down, focusing on one specific movement that disengages from the multitude of worries of the world. Second, yoga emphasizes deep breaths during postures as well as breathing exercises before, during, and after practicing yoga that promotes full oxygen absorption and helps to calm frazzled nerves. Yoga can actually help you to breathe your troubles away!
4. Increased concentration and mental acuity
Given the many tasks and responsibilities of the working adult compounded by poor lifestyles, it’s not uncommon for many to feel like they are in a mental haze that reduces cognitive capacity. Many types of exercise have been shown to increase mental performance thanks to improved blood flow and increased endorphins. Yoga helps to take those benefits to another level.
Among the core components of regular yoga practice is being mindful of the postures and intentions during yoga practice. Regular mindfulness meditation, such as is done through yoga, helps to improve focus, memory and cognitive output. Practicing yoga can help individuals decrease the tendency to be distracted while improving information retention and decision making.
5. Improved sleep
Poor sleep habits are both the cause and consequence of many stress-related symptoms ranging from headaches and poor mental output to inflammation and weight gain. Regular exercise can help to improve one’s ability to sleep, with yoga offering a variety of unique benefits with regard to improving sleep habits.
Aside from decreasing stress levels due to the slow, intentional postures and deep breathing exercises, the slow, low-impact movements and oxygen-promoting movements help to reduce chronic paint that can interfere with sleep. Ultimately, the tension and relaxation sequences found in yoga mimic other stress-reducing methods such as progressive muscle relaxation that are used for improving sleep.
6. Improved digestion through mindful eating
One of the chronic ails of modern living is the tendency to eat poorly or excessively. Obesity, and related conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, and stroke, are on the rise because of direct links to poor dietary habits. Through practices such as yoga, one can gain an improved attitude towards eating as well as potentially lose weight in the process.
Yoga helps to improve eating habits by improving one’s mindfulness. When someone is aware of what they are eating, they are more likely to make healthier food choices and eat until becoming full rather than overeating. Yoga positions can also directly improve digestive health by improving spine mobility and lengthening torso muscles that can constrict digestion. Finally, yoga, both through potential aerobic routines in addition to traditional poses, can provide sufficient exercise to help with weight-loss regimens.
7. Improves cardiac health
Among the many concerns and benefits already noted, yoga also offers considerable improvements for cardiac health. Beyond lowering stress and associated hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, that can raise blood pressure, yoga also helps to improve blood flow throughout the musculoskeletal system. Certain types of yoga, such as vinyasa flow yoga, can provide aerobic stimulation that improves vascularization, while yoga helps to lower the resting heart rate.
8. Improves immune system
Beyond decreasing stress hormones that can leave you feeling drained and susceptible to infections, yoga helps to improve the immune system by stimulating the thyroid to produce more white blood cells that combat infection. Yoga can also help improve digestion, ensuring needed vitamins and minerals are properly absorbed for tissue repair and replenishment. Moreover, yoga’s ability to decrease overall inflammation helps to improve the body’s ability to fight infections and pathogens rather than wasting resources combatting self-inflicted trauma.
9. Improves self-image
Self-image improves through yoga practice due to a variety of factors. Self-esteem grows as one masters certain postures while noticing some of the many benefits that begin to immediately take effect, such as decreased stress levels. Mindfulness training helps to improve self-awareness that can help with eliminating unhealthy habits, such as overeating and smoking. Yoga can also be integrated into other exercise regimens that allow one to benefit from different training, improving one’s overall fitness and overall self-image.
10. Improves social interaction
Socializing is important to yoga practice for a variety of reasons. Learning yoga from a teacher can help to feel connected to a source of guidance while practicing with a class can help one to feel like a member of a like-minded community. Overall, committing to regular yoga practice, becoming more mindful and decreasing stress makes for a happier person to be around!
If you’re looking to start a regular yoga practice or just want to try it out, the above reasons should provide enough incentive for you to get on the mat and get into yoga mode. Given the variety of postures and benefits, yoga offers an incredible opportunity to reposition yourself into a healthier way of living.