Top 10 Health Benefits of Yoga
Practicing yoga has been shown to have a number of health benefits, ranging from increased strength and flexibility to reduced stress and the risk of heart disease.
What is Yoga?
Yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual practice that originated in India. The word “yoga” derives from Sanskrit word yuj, meaning “to unite” or “to join.”
Dating back to ancient times in India, yoga has been practiced for more than 5000 years. It aims to bring the body and mind into sync with each other. This is accomplished through the three main components of yoga: postures, breathing, and meditation. It is thought that through the physical practice of doing poses and breathing, the yoga practitioner is enabled to then sit and meditate, allowing the mind and body to become “one.”
Today, yoga has become a popular form of exercise around the world, not just because of its strength in providing relief to the practitioner from mental and emotional distress but also of its efficacy in the management of some diseases.
Health Benefits of Yoga
1. Build muscle strength
Most yoga poses require you to hold postures for long periods of time, which ups your endurance and your muscle strength. Yoga also works on most every aspect of the body, giving you a more complete workout than targeted muscle workout at the gym.
2. Improve flexibility
In addition to strengthening your muscles, yoga poses also beneficial for improving flexibility by safety stretching your muscles and all other soft tissues in your body. No matter what your yoga-level is, you will likely feel the benefits within a short period of time.
3. Improve posture
With increased flexibility and strength comes better posture. Yoga also improve your body awareness which helps you notice more quickly if you’re slouching or slumping, so you can adjust your posture. Correcting posture imbalances will also help to relieve chronic back pain produced by poor posture.
4. Improve concentration and focus
The practice of yoga requires concentration and focus to your breath as you move through a sequence of poses. This process of observing your breath calms your mind and makes you more mentally relaxed. As a result, you’ll able to think sharper and have better concentration throughout the day.
5. Improve your balance
Practicing yoga can also help improve balance by strengthening your lower body, particularly your knees and ankles. Improved balance is especially important for the elderly, as it lowers the risk of falling.
There are various yoga poses that exercise your balance. The tree pose (Vrikshasana), mountain pose (Tadasana), and the triangle pose (Trikonasana) are suggested to improve your balance and stability.
6. Reduce stress
Yoga is well-known for its ability to reduce stress and anxiety. In fact, many studies have shown that yoga can decrease the secretion of cortisol, the primary stress hormone.
One study evaluated the potential effect of yoga on stress by following 24 women who perceived themselves as emotionally distressed.
After a three-month yoga program, the women had significantly lower levels of cortisol. They also had lower levels of stress, anxiety, and depression.
Taking a few minutes before bedtime to do some relaxing yoga poses is a good way to get rid of the stress tension accumulated throughout the day and help in promoting a good night’s sleep.
7. Strengthen the immune system
Psychological stress can impact many systems in the body, including weakening the immune system. Since yoga is known to help reduce stress, it can help improve the body’s immunity as well.
One study found that yoga can positively affect immune system response at a genomic level, directly impacting the expression of genes that produce pro-inflammatory cytokines.
While the yoga programs that featured in this research varied in duration, most programs lasted between 8-12 weeks. This suggests that while yoga may indeed improve immune system function, it may also take some time, potentially years, to experience that benefit.
8. Reduce heart disease risk
Yoga has long been known to lower blood pressure and slow the heart rate. Several research have shown that doing yoga at least three times a week can lead to a decreased risk of high blood pressure and the overall risk of heart disease.
For instance, a study published in Indian Journal ohif Physiology and Pharmacology found that participants aged over 40 years who practiced yoga for five years had a lower blood pressure and pulse rate than those who didn’t.
High blood pressure is one of the major causes of heart diseases, such as heart attacks and stroke. Lowering your blood pressure can help reduce the risk of these problems.
9. Improve respiratory health
Most forms of yoga emphasize deepening and lengthening your breath. This can help increase your lung capacity, bringing more oxygen to the blood and brain.
Moreover, doing yoga breathing exercise (Pranayama) in a long run can also help cure respiratory problems and even calm the central nervous system.
10. Improve blood circulation
A healthy blood circulation is vital for carrying nutrients and oxygen through the body, and improve your overall health.
Daily yoga practice can improve blood flow through relaxation and movement that promotes increased oxygen in cells.
Inverted postures, such as headstands, increase blood flow by relaxing the sympathetic nervous system. As the muscles surrounding the sympathetic veins are relaxed, blood can flow through the body with ease.
Stretching postures can also improve blood circulation. When you stretch, it increases the blood flow to those sore muscles which facilitate healing.