It’s no surprise that yoga has its health benefits. Yoga does wonders for the body and mind and has a unique power to integrate and relax the entire body. Many people even turn to yoga as a form of medicine to help them conquer specific health issues such as back pain or anxiety. Research on these more specific effects and uses for yoga is always developing and science is pinpointing just how amazing yoga can be.
We all know that yoga is fabulous to keep our physical bodies limber and our nervous systems chilled out – but are you aware of the dozens of other health benefits that yoga boasts? Read on to discover just a few of the ways yoga can transform your health and set you up for a lifetime of wellness.
Become More Flexible
Yoga is well-known for its bendy moves and pretzels poses. But the limber yogis you see don’t start out so flexible, their yoga practices have helped them become more and more flexible over time. Many people shy away from yoga, thinking they are too stiff or too inflexible to do any of the poses. But yoga is just what they need! Almost any yoga position can be modified to any level of flexibility, and with consistent practice, you will find your flexibility to be constantly improving.
Find Your Balance
Similarly to flexibility, yoga trains the body to be more balanced. This is not something you need to be born with, but regular yoga practice will help you to develop the strength in all your muscle groups to be stable and balanced.
Not only does yoga help you to keep a graceful balance in class, but it also helps you to find mental balance. The mind can be a tricky thing to master, but yoga brings us closer to the meditative states that help to improve our moods and wellbeing. Most people notice feeling an emotional release after a yoga session as they have let go of the usual chatter and focused on the task at hand.
Keeping a regular yoga practice will help you find balance in your daily life. Much of our lives are go-go-go and full of constant judgement, decision-making, reaction, and planning. Yoga takes us to a place of quiet, introspection, and focus. While on the mat, we can let go of these distractions and spend some time in the here and now.
Strengthen Your Bones, Joints, and Muscles
A balanced yoga sequence will involve all parts of the body. We stretch and strengthen each area, while encouraging blood-flow to help repair all these areas as well. Yoga is low-impact and can be modified to suit each individual. This means that even those with medical issues or trouble spots can find a type of yoga that suits them, and helps them to build strength. Furthermore, yoga asanas can even help to increase bone cell production, cartilage health, and improve the flow of synovial fluid in the joints – all leading to a holistically healthy frame.
Relieve Your Aches and Pains
Yoga is a fantastic way to self-treat your aches and pains. Because of yoga’s gentle nature, it can be a form of exercise to use when you are dealing with injuries or impediments. One of the most common reasons people turn to yoga is for back pain, and it has shown to have remarkable effects in healing the back. Other common complaints that yoga can help are sciatica, neck pain, chest tightness, TMJ, foot and ankle pain, menstrual pain, migraines, and more. If you are suffering from a particular issue, be sure to inform your yoga teacher prior to class so he or she can help you make the best adjustments to relieve your pain.
Improve Your Posture
Yoga can be incredibly beneficial for keeping your spine in tip-top shape. In addition to helping relieve back pain and strengthening your spine, yoga also helps you to maintain a proper posture. Do you slouch or sway your back? These are issues that can cause long-term back problems, but yoga can help set them right. Yoga is so intently focused on proper body positioning, that even after a few sessions you may notice yourself sitting up straighter and standing tall. With consistent practice, your body will naturally find better posture habits and your spine will thank you.
Release the Tension
One of yoga’s greatest benefits to us is it’s ability to help us release. Release our breath, release our attachments, release our physical and emotional tensions. Moving through the asanas, we open and close, flex and extend our bodies. All of this movement, as well as the concentrated movement of the breath, helps us to release that pesky tension that we hold in our bodies. It is common to keep this tension in areas like the shoulders, jaw, or arms, while others may notice they hold tension in their backs or calves. No matter the area, yoga works to help us let go and relax.
Promote Healthy Circulation
Poor circulation can result from a number of lifestyle or health-related issues. Many of us spend our days sedentary at desk jobs or in long commutes. For others it can be the result of other problems like high blood pressure or diabetes. Poor circulation leads to feelings of cold limbs, numbness, swelling, muscle cramps, undernourished hair and skin, and other issues.
Yoga is the perfect fix for poor circulation. It helps to gently move blood through the whole body, and certain poses can even be used to target particular areas (for example, try a legs-up-the-wall pose to increase circulation to the abdomen). After a yoga session, your whole body will have benefitted from the increased movement and flow of blood through your body.
Support Your Immune System
With stress, poor sleep, long working hours, and other lifestyle imbalances, our bodies can easily suffer. One of the ways that this effects the body, is by lowering our immune system health. This leads us to always feeling a little under the weather, being more susceptible to colds and flus, and increases the likelihood of developing other health issues down the road.
Thankfully, yoga can reduce those troublesome stress hormones that wreck havoc on our immune systems. Yoga also helps to improve our lung health as we practice deep and purposeful breathing throughout our practices. The lymph system is stimulated and benefited by regular yoga practice as well, and that helps to prevent a build-up of waste in the body.
Regulate the Digestive System
So many people suffer from a range of digestive issues. From nausea to constipation, yoga can help us to regulate our digestive systems and helps us improve our overall health.
Many yoga poses involve twists and bends of the abdomen which not only improves the blood flow to these areas, but helps to move waste along our digestive tract. Furthermore, during yoga we are making good use of the breath, bringing it deep into our abdomens. This stimulates all of our organs and helps to cleanse the digestive system. A regular yoga practice can help to rid the body of unnecessary waste and create a more pure internal environment.
Reach Your Weight Goals
In addition to adopting healthy nutrition habits and other forms of stress-relief and exercise, yoga can be instrumental in helping with weight loss. This practice, while it may seem like little more than stretching, is actually a full-body workout that requires strength, endurance, and determination. The good thing about yoga, however, is that it doesn’t wear on the body or lead to burn-out like many other intense exercise regimens. This helps to keep you healthy, injury-free, and motivated during your weight loss journey.
Much of the struggle of a weight loss journey is re-training the mind. It can be so easy to let old habits or our emotions set us down the wrong path. The practice of yoga helps to set your mind to focus on your health goals and release those cravings and addictions that can keep us from attaining those goals.
Lower Your Blood Pressure
Yoga’s ability to reduce stress along with it’s circulation-promoting benefits are a few reasons why yoga can help to lower high blood pressures. Exercise in general has been shown to reduce these levels, and yoga’s low-impact, focus-driven practice is perfect for helping people of all ages maintain healthy blood pressure levels.
This one may seem like a no-brainer, but yoga really does have some amazing stress-reducing abilities. Yoga’s power here does not simply come from the fact that it is a whole-body practice that takes place in a relaxing setting with a nice little rest at the end. No, the reason are far deeper than that.
First, yoga has the ability to lower cortisol levels which leads to less physical and emotional stress. With lower cortisol levels, the brain is less likely to enter fight-or-flight mode for everyday stressors like traffic or emails and we can attend to our normal life matters with ease and a clear head.
Yoga also makes great use of the breath. Purposeful deep breathing has been shown to slow heart rates, relieve stress, and even promote restful sleep. By tuning in and focusing on your breath during a yoga class, you are helping the body to self-regulate at a more optimal level.
Manage Anxiety and Depression
Yoga works in similar ways to reduce the occurrence and severity of depression and anxiety symptoms as it does stress. By encouraging whole-body wellness, yoga starts to improve the mental sphere as well. With regular practice, yoga engages the mind in positive and meditative activity that helps to prevent depression and anxiety.
For those already suffering from these issues, yoga offers a welcome escape. Focusing the mind and finding meaning in your practice can have a major effect on your mental health.
Improve Your Sleep Quality
Yoga can do more for the mind than help it to relax and focus. Yoga can even help people make better sleep habits and enjoy more restful, quality sleep. This is particularly helpful for individuals who suffer from insomnia or wake frequently at night. Those who have situational insomnia – such as pregnant women or those undergoing cancer treatment – have also shown to have great responses and improvement in sleep quality with a regular yoga practice.
Focus Your Mind, Find Peace
We have touched upon the benefits of yoga for several health goals and considered that yoga has a huge effect on calming the mind. But this deserves it’s own look! There is so much power in having a focused mind and a peaceful outlook on life. We often get stuck in the problems of daily life, our past mistakes, or future plans (or lack thereof). But yoga teaches us that all we really have is the here and now, and that is often a beautiful experience. Whether we are on our mats and actively engaging in yoga exercises, or out in the world and recalling all that yoga has taught us about being present and calm in every situation, we can always tap into our focus. This is one of yoga’s greatest gifts.
Find Your Best Self With Yoga
Yoga’s benefits are endless, and these are just a few of the important ways we can use yoga to transform our bodies and our lives. Even the little effects yoga may have, such as regulating our tiny hormones, have big results over time with regular practice.
No one enters the world of yoga as a master. We attain all of these benefits by keeping up a routine, a dedicated ritual. Yoga is a fantastic habit on its own, but engaging in a yoga practice also helps you to make better lifestyle choices in all areas of your life. Yoga fosters a wholesome and healthy lifestyle and provides us with purpose. Making space in your life for yoga will not only help you become stronger and more supple – it just may help you live longer, better, and happier as well.
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Paving the way for yogic living in Nebraska, Jacqueline Roberts is adored by her students as a constant source of support and inspiration. A knack for writing allows her to share what she has learned with the world.