Are you looking for a way to get fit that builds strength, flexibility, and muscle, yet can relax the mind and improve your mood and overall well-being at the same time? If so, yoga may be the perfect practice for you. This ancient art from India dates back over 5,000 years, yet today it is one of the most popular forms of exercise for people all over the world. Yoga offers many health benefits to practitioners, including increased strength, balance, and energy, and a decrease in stress, disease, and depression. There are many different types of yoga, so it is easy to find a style to suit any taste.
‘Yoga is like music: the rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind, and the harmony of the soul create the symphony of life.’ – B.K.S. Iyengar
Health Benefits of Yoga
Studies show that yoga can have an extremely positive effect on the health and well-being of those who practice it on a regular basis. This low-impact form of exercise involves physical poses that stretch the muscles, which relieves tension and pain in the muscles by releasing lactic acid in the joints. The long duration of the poses also helps to build and tone muscles, particularly those in the core area such as the abs and the obliques. Yoga also involves controlled breathing, which increases lung capacity as well as self-awareness of the body. Researchers have found that people who take yoga often experience lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose levels, as well as an increase in white blood cells, better concentration, and less stress. The practice of yoga has many health benefits associated with it, so read below to discover 63 benefits of incorporating yoga in to you or your patient’s fitness program.
A consistent yoga practice decreases blood pressure through better circulation and oxygenation of the body.
A slower pulse rate indicates that your heart is strong enough to pump more blood with fewer beats. Regularly practicing yoga provides a lower pulse rate.
Yoga improves blood circulation. By transporting nutrients and oxygen throughout your body, yoga practice provides healthier organs, skin, and brain.
Like the circulatory system, a lower respiratory rate indicates that the lungs are working more efficiently. Yoga decreases the respiratory rate through a combination of controlled breathing exercises and better fitness
A combination of lower heart rate and improved oxygenation to the body (both benefits of yoga) results in higher cardiovascular endurance.
Yoga practice massages internal organs, thus improving the ability of the body to prevent disease. Additionally, an experienced yoga practitioner becomes better attuned to her body to know at first sign if something isn’t functioning properly, thereby allowing for quicker response to head off disease.
Gastrointestinal functions have been shown to improve in both men and women who practice yoga.
Yoga practice has frequently been correlated with a stronger immune system.
Pain tolerance is much higher among those who practice yoga regularly. In addition to pain tolerance, some instances of chronic pain, such as back pain, are lessened or eliminated through yoga (see below for more on back pain).
Having a balanced metabolism results in maintaining a healthy weight and controlling hunger. Consistent yoga practice helps find the balance and creates a more efficient metabolism.
Yoga stimulates the detoxification process within the body.Detoxification has been shown to delay aging, among many other health benefits
The very nature of yoga teaches the practitioner how to hold and control one’s body in a more healthful position. Through consistent practice, your posture will improve so that you look more confident and healthy.
One of the premises of yoga is that you are using the weight of your own body for overall strength.
Regular yoga practice provides consistent energy. In fact, most yogis state that when you perform your yoga correctly, you will feel energized after your yoga session rather than tired.
The benefits of a better metabolism along with the exercise of yoga work to keep your weight in check. Additionally, the stretching of muscles longwise helps to reduce the amount of cellulite that can build around muscles.
Because of the many benefits to both body and mind that a yoga routine can provide, many find that their sleep is much better.
An integral part of the yoga practice is balance and control over your body. With a consistent practice, you will find that your overall balance will improve outside the yoga class.
Yoga is derived from Sanskrit and means "to join together and direct one’s attention." This is exactly what happens to your body after you start practicing yoga. Yogis find that their body works together much better, resulting in more graceful and efficient body movements.
Doing yoga will give you an increased awareness of your own body. You are often called upon to make small, subtle movements to improve your alignment. Over time, this will increase your level of comfort in your own body. This can lead to improved posture and greater self-confidence.
With a strong body core, you receive better posture and overall body strength. A strong core helps heal and reduce injuries. This is why a lot of athletes do yoga as cross training (boxers, MMA fighters, etc).
Yoga can improve your sexuality through better control, more relaxation, and more self-confidence.
Overall well-being improves with yoga practice. The combination of creating a strong mind-body connection, creating a healthy body, and focusing inward can all lead to improvement in your mood
The concentration required during yoga practice tends to focus your attention on the matter at hand, thereby reducing the emphasis you may have been putting on the stress in your life.
One benefit to the controlled breathing used in yoga is a reduction in anxiety.
Continued practice of yoga results in a balance of many hormones and nervous system, which brings about a more stable, positive approach to life.
Most yogis report a huge reduction in the amount of hostility they feel as well as a sense of control when anger flares. This calm effect is likely from the relaxation and meditation that is incorporated in their yoga practice that leads to an overall calming of the nervous system. Less hostility means lower blood pressure and stress and a healthier approach to life.
Researchers have shown that as little as eight weeks of yoga practice can result in better concentration and more motivation.
Improved blood circulation to the brain as well as the reduction in stress and improved focus results in a better memory.
The attention required in yoga to maintain the structured breathing in conjunction with yoga poses sharpens the ability to keep a sharp focus on tasks.
In yoga, you learn the interconnectedness of all of life. Your yoga practice soon evolves from a personal journey to one connecting to to the community at large where your social skills improve along with your yoga practice
Concentrating so intently on what your body is doing has the effect of bringing calmness. Yoga also introduces you to meditation techniques, such as watching how you breathe and disengagement from your thoughts, which help calm the mind.
Yoga practice lowers cholesterol through increased blood circulation and burning fat. Yoga practice is a great tool to fight against harmful cholesterol levels.
Your lymphatic system boosts your immunity and reduces toxins in your body. The only way to get your lymphatic system flowing well is by movement. The specific movements involved in yoga are particularly well-suited for promoting a lymphatic system.
There is evidence to suggest that yoga may lower blood glucose levels.
As does any good exercise program, yoga reduces the sodium levels in your body. In today’s world of processed and fast foods that are full of sodium, lessening these levels is a great idea.
Practicing yoga helps to regulate and control hormone secretion. An improved endocrine system keeps hormones in balance and promotes better overall physical and emotional health.
Triglycerides are the chemical form of fat in the blood, and elevated levels can indicate a risk for heart disease and high blood pressure. A recent study shows that yoga can lead to "significantly lower" levels of triglycerides.
Yoga has been shown to increase the level of red blood cells in the body. Red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen through the blood, and too few can result in anemia and low energy.
Vitamin C helps boost immunity, helps produce collagen, and is a powerful antioxidant; and a yoga regimen can increase the vitamin C in your body.
Due to the low impact of yoga and the controlled aspect of the motions, there is a very low risk of injury during yoga practice compared to other forms of exercise.
In many forms of exercise, the sympathetic nervous system kicks in, providing you with that fight-or-flight sensation. Yoga does the opposite and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic system lowers blood pressure and slows the pace of your breathing, which allows relaxation and healing.
Consistently practicing yoga leads to better muscle tone.
Subcortical regions of brain are associated with well-being, and yoga is thought to dominate the subcortex rather than the cortex (where most exercise dominates).
Yoga consumes less oxygen than traditional exercise routines, thereby allowing the body to work more efficiently.
With yoga, breathing is more natural and controlled during exercise. This type of breathing provides more oxygen-rich air for your body and also provides more energy with less fatigue.
Without practice, eye-hand coordination diminishes. Yoga maintains and improves eye-hand coordination
The strong mind-body connection and flexibility gained from yoga leads to grace and skill.
Working the entire body, yoga improves endurance and is frequently used by endurance athletes as a supplement to their sport-specific training.
Becoming aware of your body and how it moves, as one does in yoga practice, leads to increased depth perception.
Yoga reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, keeps off weight, and improves cardiovascular health, all of which lead to reducing your risk of heart disease.
. It is well documented that weight-bearing exercise strengthens bones and helps prevent osteoporosis. Additionally, yoga’s ability to lower levels of cortisol may help keep calcium in the bones
In addition to the glucose reducing capabilities of yoga, it is also an excellent source of physical exercise and stress reduction that, along with the potential for yoga to encourage insulin production in the pancreas, can serve as an excellent preventative for type II diabetes.
. Individuals with carpal tunnel syndrome who practiced yoga showed greater improvement than those who wore a splint or received no treatment at all. Researchers saw improved grip strength and reduction of pain in the study participants.
There is some evidence to show that reducing symptoms of asthma and even reduction in asthma medication are the result of regular yoga.
The slow, deliberate movement of yoga poses coupled with the gentle pressure exerted on the joints provides an excellent exercise to relieve arthritis symptoms. Also, the stress relief associated with yoga loosens muscles that tighten joints.
Using yoga in the early stages of muscular dystrophy can help return some physical functions. The practice of Pranayam yoga helped one teen regain many of his abilities lost to muscular dystrophy.
Regular yoga practice has been shown to reduce the number of migraines in chronic migraine sufferers
Exercise that does not elevate respiration, yet increase oxygen levels in the body is ideal for treating chronic bronchitis. Luckily, yoga can do this, as well as aerate the lungs and provide energy.
Studies of people with OCD have shown that practicing yoga has lead to a reduction in symptoms–resulting in less medication or medication no longer needed.
Due to the practice of yoga and overall better posture, the digestive and elimination systems work more efficiently. If the practitioner also has a healthy diet, any constipation will be eliminated through yoga.
Using a neti pot to clear the sinuses is an ancient form of yoga to help reduce or eliminate allergy symptoms. Certain types of breathing can also help clear the nasal passages.
Yoga practice can help control some of the side effects of menopause.
Yoga reduces spinal compression and helps overall body alignment to reduce back pain
Types of Yoga
Hatha is an excellent type of yoga for beginners or those looking for stress relief, as it involves slow-paced and gentle poses, controlled breath work, and meditation. It is a combination of the basic elements of yoga, and a good starting point for those new to the practice.
Vinyasa yoga involves fast-paced poses and synchronized breathing. It is often called ‘flow’ yoga because the movements and the breath flow together in a smooth, continuous motion. This is a great workout for those looking for a more active form of yoga.
Ashtanga is a very intense form of yoga, and best suited to those who have experience with yoga practice. It involves steady breathing and vigorous, continuous poses. It is very good for building muscle strength and tone, and is often called ‘power yoga’ for its physically demanding nature.
Bikram yoga was created by Bikram Choudhury in the 1970s in Los Angeles, and has become famous as the original ‘hot yoga’. Practitioners work on a series of 26 poses in a room heated between 95-105 degrees. This helps to relax the muscles, increase flexibility, and detoxify the body through sweating.
Restorative yoga focuses on connecting the body to the mind, and holding gentle postures to restore the energy in the body. Classes may include props such as blankets, ropes, and blocks to align the body and many of the poses are done lying down.
Whether your aim is to release stress and tension after a hard day, focus on aligning the mind and body, or sweating through an intense workout, there is sure to be a style of yoga for you. Yoga not only makes you look and feel good, but it can also help ward off harmful conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and depression. Those with existing medical conditions should consult a health care professional before starting a yoga program.