Everyone wants to be healthy and look good and for a lot of people, one way to keep their mind and body in good shape is to practice yoga everyday. Or so they say. Coming off the heels of the International Yoga Day which was on the 21st of June, I’m here to tell you today that it is true. Yoga really does do wonders for your overall health and ill share some of those benefits backed up by research so maybe you might be convinced to give yoga a try.
There are many definitions of yoga but the one I like the best is this: Yoga is a Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline, a part of which, including breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures, is widely practised for health and relaxation.
According to an article by Annie Hayes on netdoctor.co.uk, some research-based yoga benefits are:
- Makes you more flexible and mobile and helps with good posture: Poses like Warrior and Downward Facing Dog can cause a difference in your mobility, whether you’re naturally flexible or not. Research proves that when male college athletes took part in biweekly yoga sessions for 10 weeks, they experienced ‘significant gains’ in flexibility and balance compared to a control group who didn’t practice at all. Another study of 80 women published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science showed that a programme of intense, short-term yoga posture sessions contributed more to improving spine mobility – especially bending – than any other conventional exercise programme.
- Helps with building strength: Some think you can only get stronger by lifting weights but that’s entirely wrong. Daily yoga practice can do that for you as well. A study by The Chinese University of Hong Kong showed that men and women who participated in a 12-week Hatha yoga course demonstrated ‘significant improvements’ in muscular strength compared to the control group.
- Keeps your heart healthy: This is not a very popular benefit, but yoga is good for your heart. Studies show that yoga practice overtime can reduce your cholesterol levels and even slow the progression of heart disease when you combine it with dietary changes and stress management. It also improves your circulation as one study found that people over 40 years who’d practiced yoga for five years had lower blood pressure and pulse rate than those who didn’t.
- Reduces chronic inflammation: Chronic inflammation is definitely related to heart diseases, diabetes, cancer etc and so frequent yoga practice helps chronic inflammation by lowering the levels of pro-inflammatory markers like cytokines, a systematic review published in the Journal of Behavioural Medicine found. It also increases immunity.
- Helps you lose weight: In this era of fitfam, I’m sure many people want to know if yoga can help you lose weight and the answer to that is a big YES! Particularly belly fat. A study by the University of California, showed that restorative yoga, which is yoga practiced at a very slow pace with long holds and lots of deep breathing, helped overweight women lose belly fat. Another review published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine concluded that yoga can promote weight loss by burning calories, reducing stress levels and helping you feel more connected to your body, preventing over-eating.
- Decreases stress: Yoga practice helps with decrease in cortisol levels, one of the essential stress hormones. It also improves one’s subjective wellbeing meaning you actually feel better too, according to published research by Frontiers that assessed people on a yoga and meditation retreat for 3 months.
- Reduces anxiety: The practice of yoga eliminates symptoms of anxiety according to a study by Georgia State University, and it’s especially works for feelings of worry, the research showed.
- Helps with lower back pain: Overtime, yoga practice offers a wallet-friendly, convenient way to get some relief – in fact, one study found it to be as effective as traditional physical therapy. And research by the University of California revealed that participants with chronic low back pain experienced significant decreases in pain intensity after completing a 12-week yoga programme.
- Manages depression: Multiple studies show that yoga helps with decreasing significantly your cortisol levels, which is the key stress hormone, which in turns increases your body’s ability to make serotonin (the happy hormone). So more yoga, less cortisol, more serotonin.
There are quite a number of other benefits of yoga but to have even this many, you already know to get started to enjoy these benefits. Get into a yoga pose today, your body will thank you.