Benefits of Yoga
For 5,000 years, hardcore yoga practitioners have been touting yoga’s mental and physical powers. Luckily, you don’t have to be an expert to reap the benefits – adding just a few poses to your daily routine can help your health in all kinds of unexpected ways.
On a physical level, yoga helps improve flexibility, strength, balance, and endurance. On an energetic level, yoga teaches you how to cope better with stress by cultivating a sense of ease in both active and passive poses. On a psychological level, yoga helps cultivate mindfulness by shifting your awareness to the sensations, thoughts and emotions that accompany a given pose or exercise.
Research continues to unearth even more health-boosting benefits of various types of yoga – and here are some of them.
Emotional health boost
All exercise has been shown to help people with depression feel better, and yoga is no exception. In fact, a study from Duke University Medical Center suggested that yoga could benefit those living with depression, schizophrenia, other psychiatric conditions and sleep problems.
Practicing in a group setting, such as a yoga class, stimulates the production of oxytocin, the love and bonding hormone. Practicing mindfulness through yoga and meditation also results in higher serotonin levels (the happiness hormone), and long-term practitioners have shown more mass in the areas of the brain associated with contentment.
Back pain treatment
Multiple studies have found yoga to be a more effective treatment for chronic back pain than usual care. In a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, people living with chronic lower back pain reported better back function, though similar levels of pain, after a few months of practicing yoga.
In another study of 80 individuals with chronic lower back pain, the group that participated in just one week of yoga showed less disability and greater flexibility than patients who completed other physical exercises. Even if you don’t have chronic pain, yoga’s stretching exercises can improve your spinal flexibility.
In recent years, couples have increasingly turned to yoga as a means of decreasing stress and increasing their chances of conceiving a child. And though there are few studies that indicate that yoga benefits include enhancing fertility, it has been shown to reduce stress and could indeed play a role.
Yoga can help with infertility in a variety of ways. Yoga allows the mother-to-be to relax, de-stress and open up energetic channels, thereby improving chances of conception. Yoga may also allow for better blood flow to reproductive organs, improving organ function and improving hormone function. Finally, by reducing stress, conception becomes easier.
According to a review article that looked at several complementary and alternative medicine strategies for treating insomnia, yoga was one of the most effective approaches for getting a good night’s sleep.When experiencing insomnia, practice relaxing asanas or postures, such as forward fold (uttanasana) or lying on your back with your feet up the wall. This will help with circulation as well as calming your body and, most importantly, your mind.
The benefits of yoga may even extend to your brain. By reducing mental stress and physical tension, we are able to recall easier and have more organized thoughts. Improved cognitive function happens when we are able to clear our minds and refresh. From a place of peace and calm, we are able to use our mental facilities more efficiently.
A study published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress found yoga could be a beneficial adjunctive treatment for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). This pilot study evaluated the effects of 12-session Kripalu-based yoga versus no yoga intervention in 38 women with symptoms of PTSD. The women randomized to the yoga group experienced a greater reduction in PTSD symptoms than women in the control group. The results of this study hold promise for people with PTSD who have found little success with traditional psychotherapy.