35 Scientific Benefits of Yoga for your Health
Fervent practitioners have experienced firsthand how yoga has made their lives better. It goes beyond the physical because practicing yoga makes you want to maintain that healthy lifestyle as a whole. Meanwhile, the health benefits it brings can really transform you from the inside out. You will not only feel good but you will have that extra energy to do most of the things you love as well as sleep better, feel relaxed, and get sick less. The best thing about this practice is that it is backed by science so you are assured that you are doing the right thing. Here is how yoga works to rebuild your body:
1. Improved flexibility
One of the primary benefits of yoga is improved flexibility. It is the most obvious one you will notice as you keep coming to class, trying to reach for your toes or doing a back bend. Over time, you will realize that both feats will come naturally as your body starts to loosen up and your flexibility improves. Those seemingly difficult poses that you see with long-time practitioners will not be that impossible any more. As you stay consistent with your exercise, you will experience less of the aches and pains, giving way to more flexibility in your connective tissues and muscles. Your thighs and shinbones will gradually be aligned again and you will not experience any strains on your knee joint any longer. You can also say goodbye to back pain as hamstrings loosen up and the lumbar spine become upright.
2. Happier disposition
There is one thing that all human beings strive for and that is the pursuit of happiness. Yoga is guaranteed to make you happier and this is backed by research. A study has confirmed how yoga can uplift you from depression and increase the serotonin levels or happy hormones in the brain. Dr. Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin observed a heightened activity in the meditators in the left prefrontal cortex which is associated with greater levels of happiness and improved immune function. Practice yoga longer and the results will be even more dramatic. Go ahead and enjoy sitting in Lotus, do your backbends, and strike a King Dancer Pose.
3. Muscle strength
Muscles serve to give the body that firm shape. But more than just good looks, they have important functions to fulfill and that is to protect you from conditions such as back pains and arthritis. They also give strength to the body and prevent falls and accidents from happening. The good thing about yoga is that muscle strength is balanced with flexibility. In this way, you do not just build the muscles but you become flexible enough to allow for strong and fluid movements. This is the kind of versatility that yoga can give you which going to the gym for weight lifting or strength training might not.
4. Renewed cartilage and joints
Often times, some areas of cartilage do not get used as needed. Consequently, they get neglected, wear out, and result to degenerative arthritis. All these can be prevented with yoga as you are able to take your joints through its full range of motion. When this happens, those neglected areas get to be squeezed and soaked up like a sponge. As the fluid is squeezed out, a new supply of fresh nutrients is received and soaks up the cartilage once more, preventing joint and cartilage breakdown.
5. Upright posture
A perfect posture does not only leave a good impression but serves to protect you from head to toe. Imagine a big and heavy bowling ball as your head and how the rest of your body is supposed to carry that weight and not experience any strain. The key to this balancing act is an erect spine that the practice of yoga helps you develop. In this way, your neck muscles as well as your back muscles don’t have to work too hard to support your head. Otherwise, they could get strained and make you feel easily tired or fatigued. And then, there goes the neck, back, muscles, and joint problems. Worst, it can result to a degenerative spinal osteoarthritis or arthritis of the spine. With yoga, you will be able to improve your posture and avoid the development of degenerative joint diseases.
6. Spinal health
In between the vertebrae are shock absorbers called spinal disks that crave for movement. This is actually their way of getting nutrients. To help your body in doing so, yoga lets you do a lot of forward and back bends as well as twists so that your spinal disks are kept supple. It does expand the range of motion of your spine and the rest of your body especially when you are able to maintain your regular yoga exercise. In this manner, the risks of spine injuries or chronic pain are significantly reduced. If your daily lifestyle includes hours sitting on a desk or lifting heavy baggage, yoga can compensate for that by allowing for agility, flexibility, and support against herniation of the vertebral discs.
7. Cardiovascular conditioning
Various studies have revealed that yoga lowers your resting heart rate. It also tends to increase endurance and improves one’s maximum oxygen uptake while exercising. On the other hand, it helps get the heart rate into its aerobic range and when done regularly, it actually reduces the risks of a heart attack while providing relief from depression. Apparently, not all yoga exercises are aerobic, but you can do them vigorously or make use of Ashtanga classes to boost it into the aerobic level. Fortunately, whether vigorous or not, yoga practice still improves your cardiovascular conditioning.
8. Hypertension remedy
If you are suffering from hypertension, yoga can help you drop that high blood pressure. As indicated in two studies published in a British medical journal called “The Lancet”, you can optimally benefit from yoga. The effects of Savasana or the Corpse Pose was compared with a typical lying on the couch for three months. The result was quite dramatic as Savasana showed significant drops in systolic and diastolic blood pressure at 26-point and 15-point respectively. And so if you want a solution to high blood pressure that won’t take so much from you, go yoga and go beyond just lying down.
9. Bone development
More than anything, yoga has a significant impact on bone health. In general, weight-bearing exercises strengthen the bones and prevent the development of osteoporosis. Postures like downward-facing dog and upward-facing dog are especially helpful in strengthening the bones in your arms that are often vulnerable to fractures. The advantage with yoga is that most of the postures require you to lift your own weight, making it as natural and as safe as possible. Moreover, in an unpublished research done at the California State University, it was found that the yoga routine helped increased bone density in crucial areas of the body such as the vertebrae. Finally, yoga helps in reducing the levels of cortisol or stress hormones in the system which in turn, facilitates calcium maintenance in the bones.
10. Increased blood circulation
Yoga promotes the continuous circulation of blood in the body by increasing the blood flow. It is so relaxing that blood keeps flowing in the hands and feet. It provides more oxygen for the cells to make it function better. Likewise, it boosts hemoglobin levels and red blood cells. The risk of strokes and heart attacks is substantially reduced as blood is thinned out and the levels of blood-promoting proteins are cut. Moreover, various poses have different beneficial effects. Twists are supposed to draw out venous blood in the internal organs so that oxygenated blood is allowed to flow with the release of each twist that you make. Meanwhile, inverted poses including handstands, headstands, and shoulderstands, serve to bring venous blood from the bottom of your body to the heart so it can be pumped to your lungs and be freshly oxygenated. This will remedy any swelling in the legs as well as kidney problems.
11. Immunity booster
You will enjoy yoga because you get to stretch and contract your muscles, move some organs around, and transition from one posture to the next. But aside from the fun and action, you get to increase the drainage of a viscous fluid called lymph that is abundant in immune cells. Because of this, the lymphatic system is more enabled to fight infection, put down cancerous cells, and throw away those toxic waste products from cellular functioning.
12. Regulation of adrenal glands
In an acute crisis situation, the adrenal glands is responsible for secreting cortisol to boost your immune function temporarily. However, if they are not regulated, they could remain in high levels after the crisis and in turn, put the immune system in trouble. So while the temporary boost is going to help with your long-term memory, the opposite becomes true and may even cause permanent brain changes when they continue to remain at chronically-high levels. Aside from this, excessive cortisol has also been associated with osteoporosis, major depression, insulin resistance, and high blood pressure. Fortunately for you, yoga can lower cortisol levels and regulate the adrenal glands so you won’t have to suffer from any of these.
13. Blood sugar control
The benefits of yoga works in two ways and that is to lower your blood sugar together with the “bad cholesterol” or LDL, while boosting the HDL or the “good cholesterol.” And so, for those with diabetes, a lowered blood sugar level would also mean reducing the risk of suffering from the complications including kidney failure, blindness, and heart attack. Fortunately, yoga practice has been associated with lowered blood sugar levels by reducing the adrenaline and cortisol levels and promoting weight loss. As you keep doing it, you will notice an improved sensitivity to insulin effects.
14. Improved concentration
Yoga is not only healthy for the body but also for the mind as it helps one focus on the present moment. With constant practice, various studies have confirmed how yoga can improve your memory, reaction time, coordination, and have a positive impact on your IQ test scores. Through transcendental meditation, your mind can get more focused and become less distracted by endless thoughts. Your problem solving abilities and acquisition or recall of information will get better over time as well.
15. Healthier lifestyle
When you exercise, you tend to get more conscious about what you eat and how much because you don’t want to waste any of your efforts. With yoga, diet management becomes even more intense because while it helps you burn calories with all that movement, it is likewise supported by the spiritual and emotional dimension of the practice. In this way, it does not only help you deal with a weight problem on the surface level, but it helps you maintain a healthier lifestyle because in your mind and in your heart, you understand how beneficial that is for you.
The noise of the outside world can sometimes create a lot of stress within you. In the slow movement and the serenity of yoga, you are able to relax your system, slow your breath down, and just focus on what you are currently doing. As this is happening, you are actually helping your sympathetic nervous system to shift the balance to your parasympathetic nervous system. In this way, you are able to activate a relaxation response where your breathing and heart rate is lowered, blood pressure is decreased, and the blood flow to your reproductive organs and intestines is increased. Yoga is indeed calming and restorative.
17. Tension reliever
Without your knowing it, some unconscious habits ultimately lead to muscle fatigue, chronic tension, and soreness in different parts of your body such as your arms, neck, shoulders and face. You will notice this when you seem to have too tight a grip on the steering wheel or while holding your phone. This is really a manifestation of the tension that you are feeling inside which also negatively affects your mood and increases your stress levels. As you continue with your yoga practice however, the tension that you feel will gradually be minimized. You will be able to identify in which part of your body you are holding that tension and be able to release it.
18. Pain relief
Whatever pain you may be currently experiencing, you can count on yoga to help you ease them. Studies show that individually and as a combination, Asana and meditation, were able to help the subjects reduce pain associated with arthritis, fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome, back pain, as well as other degenerative conditions. When these kinds of pain are relieved from your system, you are enabled to do the things that you were restrained to do before, become happier, and have less need for taking pain medications. Yoga is a liberating remedy at this point.
19. Proprioception and balance
Proprioception is your ability to have a feel of your body, what it is doing, and also where it is in terms of space. Regular yoga practice tends to increase this ability as well as improves your balance. Otherwise, poor proprioception means having dysfunctional movement patterns or unerect posture that eventually lead to back pains and knee problems. And so, if you are an elderly and you want to achieve more independence or prevent admission to nursing homes, yoga is the answer. At any age, yoga postures like the Tree Pose can help make you feel less unstable on the mat or off it.
20. Sound and deep sleep
When you have been deprived of deep sleep, the undesirable consequences reverberate all through the day or even the next day. Fortunately, yoga practice helps you to sleep soundly so you can have a respite from your busy, modern lifestyle. The key is to allow for the nervous system to have a downtime so it can restore itself. In yoga parlance, this refers to pratyahara or the turning inward of one’s senses achieved through asana, Savasana, meditation, and yoga nidra which is guided relaxation. With better sleep, you are bound to feel less tired or stressed out.
21. Lung care
Yoga is all about proper breathing and this is not just for perfect execution during the exercise. Taking fewer breaths but in greater volume is really more calming and efficient for the lungs. The Lancet published a study in 1998 which taught the yogic technique termed as “complete breathing.” The subjects of the study were individuals who suffered from lung problems in relation to a congestive heart failure. After a month of practicing yoga, a significant decrease in their average respiratory rate was exhibited from 13.4 breaths to 7.6 per minute. On the other hand, exercise capacity significantly increased together with their blood’s oxygen saturation. So definitely, yoga is meant to improve lung function such as maximum breath volume and exhalation efficiency. In those prone to asthma attack, the practice promotes breathing thru the nose to filter air, warm it up, and humidify it to remove the pollen and dirt.
22. Digestive health
Yoga promotes digestive health by preventing irritable bowel syndrome and other problems such as ulcers and constipation. This is made possible as yoga lowers your stress levels that otherwise worsen any digestive problem. Like any other physical exercise that entails making body movements, it eases constipation and theoretically lowers the risk of developing colon cancer by facilitating the speedy transport of food or waste products through the system. This is yet to be scientifically proven but, yogis assume twisting poses likewise facilitate this process.
23. Mental well-being
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra espouses that the practice does not only relax the body, but it can also give you that otherwise elusive peace of mind. What it does is appease the waverings of the mind so that the loops of anger, regret, frustration, desire, and fear may be slowed down and cause minimal stress. When stress levels are kept to a minimum, you are also able to avoid a string of health problems ranging from eczema, migraine, lupus, insomnia, MS, heart attack and high blood pressure. This goes on to say that learning how to achieve serenity of mind will help you live a healthier, longer life.
24. Enhanced nervous system
Yogis or some of those who practice advanced yoga are able to control their body in exceptional ways that are mediated via the nervous system. Scientists have been a witness to yogis who are able to induce peculiar heart rhythms and specifically generate brain wave patterns. With the use of a meditation technique, the same yogis can increase their hand’s temperature by fifteen degrees Fahrenheit. If they are able to utilize yoga in this way, it is likewise possible for you to maximize its benefits. For instance, you can use it to help you feel relaxed until you are able to sleep soundly or learn how to improve the flow of blood to your pelvis if you desire to get pregnant.
25. Healing through guided imagery
Yoga can be extraordinary and this is evident in yoga nidra as it allows you to effect desirable changes in your body just by contemplating an image of what you want to achieve in your mind’s eye. In this way, you are able to guide your body’s healing as demonstrated in numerours studies on how yoga was able to reduce postoperative pain and decrease the frequency of headaches through guided imagery. In people diagnosed with cancer or HIV, an improved quality of life became apparent.
26. Higher self-esteem
As mentioned earlier, yoga has ripple effects on one’s lifestyle as a whole. Life can be challenging indeed and if you choose to deal with it unproductively by taking drugs, overeating, sleeping around, or working too hard then eventually, it will take its toll on your self-esteem. Low self-esteem is bound to result from poor physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. So if you want higher self-esteem, choose to practice yoga consistently and see its motivational effects on the other aspects of your life. You will realize your value as a person or in yoga philosophy, that you’re a manifestation of what’s considered Divine. This is because aside from the physical exercise, it will allow you to examine your self deeply and work for your betterment. You will come to imbibe the values of forgiveness, gratitude, and empathy that will make you realize your important role and purpose in the bigger scale of things.
27. Immune system booster
Yoga has the capacity to boost the functionality of your immune system. Both pranayama and asana are likely to enhance immune function but meditation is one which has been supported by strong scientific evidence to boost your immune functionality. For instance, as necessary, antibody levels get raised to respond to a vaccine; or get lowered to mitigate an unsuitably aggressive immune function in relation to an autoimmune disease such as psoriasis. Consequently, yoga does have a highly-beneficial effect on your immune system’s efficient functioning.
28. Strength from within
Yoga works from the inside out. Without you knowing it, it will give you the strength to transform from within and make better changes in your life in areas that has been a struggle for you to make all this time. What will fuel you from the inside is the “Tapas” or the heat in Sanskrit, that will fire you up to spread the benefits of the discipline to your whole self. You will be able to let go of dysfunctional habits and replace them with a healthier lifestyle of eating right and exercising more. You will not find solace in smoking or drinking anymore as a defense mechanism. Yoga will provide you the inner strength to become the best person you can ever become.
29.Teaching and guidance
Yoga instructors are no ordinary teachers – they are literally good for your health. And mind you, the more extraordinary ones go beyond just guiding you through the postures. They assist you through the practice in a personal manner, helping you adjust where they see fit, pushing you to your limits when they see potential, and helping you relax in their compassionate discipline. Your yoga teacher is your very own, faithful health partner.
30. More meaningful relationships
As you practice yoga over a period of time, you will also get to imbibe yogic philosophies that will improve your friendships and relationships. Yoga is all about developing friendliness, honesty, empathy, and equality, and these values are sure to benefit you when applied to your relationships. Healthier relationships with family, friends, and your immediate community will also mean emotional healing for you. The love that you give and receive will show in better moods, happier days, and a healthier lifestyle.
31. The power of chanting
The Yoga basics pranayama, asana, and meditation work for your health advantage, but there is more to that. It likewise involves chanting and makes use of that sound to give your sinuses a soothing relief. The Karolinska Institute of Sweden found in a recent study that humming sounds just like that from chanting Om actually open up the sinuses to facilitate drainage. Because of this, exhalation tends to get prolonged – shifting the balance towards your parasympathetic nervous system. Chanting in groups is even better as it gives you both a stimulating emotional and physical experience.
32. Drug-free lifestyle
Yoga helps you maintain a drug-free lifestyle where you do not depend too much on synthetic medications. So, if your medicine cabinet is starting to look like more of a pharmacy, this could be a sign for you to try yoga instead. Whatever it is that you are dealing with: high blood pressure, asthma, Type II Diabetes, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, yoga can help you minimize or completely free you of your dependence on medications to help you feel better. Give yoga a chance then save on money and avoid the side effects or the serious consequences of drug interactions.
Yoga plus meditation combined opens up the world of self-awareness for you. Being aware means being able to check on some destructive emotions that you may be holding inside such as anger. Apparently, studies have shown that chronic hostility and anger are contributory to heart attacks in the same way that smoking, high cholesterol, and smoking does. To make sure you do not suffer from heart failure, regularize your yoga practice and reduce that anger by cultivating more of the positive emotions of interconnection and compassion. Being able to achieve calmness of mind will allow you to spare the drama and to stay strong in the midst of life’s challenges.
34. Protection from viruses and allergies
There is an element in yoga called Kriyas, in reference to cleansing practices. It includes rapid-breathing exercises and the more elaborate cleansing of the intestines. In this way, you will be able to keep viruses and allergies at bay. In particular, jala neti involves the gentle washing out of the nasal passages using salt water to remove viruses and pollen from the nose, prevent mucus build-up, and drain the sinuses.
In these numerous benefits that yoga gives you, they are all meant to empower your whole self. While conventional medicine is about being a passive recipient of care, yoga empowers you to bring healing to yourself. You simply have to make full use of the tools that are made available to you and you become the agent of your own transformation. From day 1 of your practice, you will already feel the impact of yoga to your whole being. And, the more you commit to doing it, the more that you will discover its powerful effects on you until you become self-empowered to heal yourself and be the best person you can ever become.
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