The Scientific Benefits of Yoga: An Extended Look

The Scientific Benefits of Yoga: An Extended Look

We all have that friend who is a devoted “Yogi” and spends countless hours per week practicing yoga. They go to studios, take classes, practice their poses, and always seem to talk about how great yoga makes them feel.

Whether you’re a skeptic of their claims or someone whose interest has been legitimately piqued, you’ll probably be interested in knowing that there are a plethora of benefits. Yoga can positively impact the mind, body, heart, and more! In this article, we’ll cover an extensive list and show you exactly how yoga can transform your life and what all the fuss is about.

Benefits of Yoga

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What is Yoga?

If you want to fully grasp the full advantages available through a proper yoga regimen, it’s important to get a proper understanding of the practice itself.  Getting a complete grasp will enable you to view the various elements that make up yoga as a means to bring about an endgame of ideal health, as opposed to a hodgepodge of odd postures.

Traditionally, the core of yoga combines meditation, breathing exercises, and physical postures into a philosophical practice. While the seeds of this philosophy are planted in the tenants of Hinduism, ascribing to these original tenants isn’t necessary to engage in the practice or reap its benefits. When seen through Western eyes, yoga is likely to be viewed as a long-standing exercise program that’s been around for over 5,000 years.

Likewise, the goal behind yoga has some fluctuation. If you tie in the traditional philosophical tenants behind the practice, you’ll find that the endgame is to funnel the concentration of body and mind to achieve a higher state of being. This particular goal is intense, and transcends the concept of breaking out the yoga mat and doing some poses.

For those of us that want to just to use yoga as a means to promote and perpetuate a healthy lifestyle, the goal of yoga is to keep your body and mind running at an optimal level as much as possible. This mindset doesn’t necessarily strive to be connected with a heightened form of consciousness; rather, you think of it as a desire to keep your brain and body running on all cylinders.

Sources: National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, WebMD, Yoga.com

Types of Yoga

If you look beyond the basics of the yoga philosophy, you’ll find the practice branches into a host of subset forms. In fact, there are over 800 different forms of yoga to choose from; each of these forms accomplish the practices in various speeds and intensity. Some do function under the somewhat expected guise of being gentle and relaxing, while others are fast-paced and are designed to break a sweat.

The most classical form of yoga – at least, the one most associated with the practice – is called Hatha. This version is a combination of basic movements and breathing. On the other end of the spectrum is known as Power, which is a higher-intensity version of the practice that’s specifically designed to build muscle.

Other major forms of yoga include: Vinyasa, which is a series of poses designed to smoothly coalesce into each other; Bikram or “hot yoga,” which constitutes a series of more than 25 poses performed in a room that’s cranked to a high temperature; and Iyengar, a type of yoga that uses props such as blocks, straps, and chairs to help properly align your body.

Regardless of the yoga path you take, adhering to the practice will result in an ability to achieve a better sense of health. This overall sense of improvement can be best appreciated by drilling down and examining what effects yoga has on different parts of the body and the mind.

Sources: Health.com, WebMD, AARP

Between the Ears


Yoga Calms the Mind

Mindfulness is one of the foundations upon which yoga is built. Through mindfulness, we focus on the moment in a judgement-free state. Doing so allows us to eliminate all the stressors and external anxieties that plague us daily.

By modulating stress response systems, yoga can lower blood pressure, reduce heart rate, and ease respiration. These means of decreasing physiological arousal eliminate the clutter in our minds and slow down our thoughts, allowing us to find peace and harmony from within.

Source: Harvard Health

Yoga Improves Focus

There are numerous brain training techniques out there designed to sharpen our focus and improve cognition. These methods have proven to be effective, but according to UCLA scientists, yoga is even more efficient and beneficial than brain training.

A study conducted recruited a group of people who suffered from mild cognitive impairment. Half of the group took part in brain training exercises for an hour per week in a classroom setting in addition to daily brain exercises at home spanning 15 minutes.

The other half spent an hour per week taking a yoga class and learned Kirtan Kriya, a form of meditation that involves a repeated mantra combined with hand movements. This group was also instructed to meditate at home for 15 minutes per day in addition to the yoga class.

After a 12-week period, brain function of each of the two groups were evaluated.

Each group performed better when they were subjected to memory tests, but the group that practiced yoga showed notable improvement in the mood while the other group did not.

Brain scans of the subjects also revealed that the group that participated in yoga and meditation had increased communication in the brain between the parts that are responsible for controlling attention. In turn, this test group displayed increased ability to multitask and focus.

Source: The Institute for Natural Aging

Yoga Brings Happiness

No, simply doing a few handstands and salutations aren’t going to turn your brain chemistry upside-down completely. However, yoga improves our happiness by teaching us to live in the moment.

Science has shown that forcing a smile when we’re in a bad frame of mind can actually help to reduce the intensity of the body’s stress response during periods of high stress.

A Harvard study that was conducted in 2010 revealed that people spend an astounding 47% of their time worrying about things that are not taking place. As a result of being so preoccupied, we wind up focusing on things that increase stress and make us feel overwhelmed.

By practicing yoga, we learn to slow down our thoughts, focus on the moment, and improve our mental state. Deep, diaphragmatic breathing can lower cortisol levels, heart rate, and blood pressure in as little as 90 seconds.

Sources: CNN, Science Daily

Yoga Boosts Confidence

Yoga is an excellent complimentary therapy method that can aid our self-confidence in several ways.

The unity of mind, body, and spirit, supports our pursuit of peace and confidence. By reaching higher plateaus and ascending to new heights, we can meet new goals that boost our overall perception of our abilities.

Many beginners start out with limited flexibility and stamina and struggle with some of the most basic yoga poses. Most beginners also doubt that they will ever be able to execute many of the poses that are popular in the yoga community. By increasing flexibility and broadening our horizons over time, we can feel more confident in ourselves and our ability to learn and grow.

Source: NCBI

Yoga Promotes Positive Thinking

Positive thinking can lead our minds into wonderful places. Thinking this way can invoke emotions such as love, contentment, and courage. Positive thoughts also undercut negative emotions such as fear, jealousy, or anger.

A major part of the yoga practice focuses on training our minds to think positively. Those who practice yoga regularly believe that our thoughts have tremendous power over us and some even believe that positive thinking can heal our bodies.

Yogis often use positive mantras and specific words to induce feelings of overall positivity and eliminate emotions that trigger our stress response levels to spike.

Sources: Wikibooks, Sivananda Yoga Europe, NCBI

Yoga Improves Memory

According to researchers, just 20 minutes a day are all that is needed to sharpen the mind.

Neha Gothe, a kinesiology professor, led a study that compared a group that spent 20 minutes on a treadmill to a group that spent 20 minutes performing yoga. Those who spent the time performing yoga were better able to process information, focus their mental resources, and learn.

Gothe believes that the ability yoga has to lower anxiety and stress levels is a contributor to enhanced memory skills.

According to another study, aerobic exercise training, which can include yoga, increases the size of the anterior hippocampus. The hippocampus is directly related to memory, and this particular study showed that exercise increased hippocampal volume by 2%.

Sources: Daily Mail, PNAS, Psych Central

Yoga Erases Anxiety and Depression

Many of those who decide to give yoga a try are looking to find salvation from the daily mental prisons that are anxiety and depression. We often hear that yoga can work wonders for both of these conditions, but how exactly does it work?

To decrease both anxiety and depression, stress reduction techniques have been targeted for decades as a means for doing so. Yoga appears to modulate stress response systems. Why is this important? Because modulation of stress response systems can lead to a decrease in physical arousal by lowering blood pressure, reducing heart rate and easing breathing.

A 2008 University of Utah study was done to measure pain response among various participants. The subjects consisted of yoga practitioners, people who were suffering from fibromyalgia, and a healthy group. The yoga practitioners had the highest pain tolerance and the lowest brain-related pain activity during the corresponding MRI. The study proved that yoga can regulate stress levels and pain response.

A German study from 2005 took a group of 24 women who had described themselves as “emotionally distressed” and had them take two 90-minute yoga classes per week for three months. The control group consisted of women simply maintained their regular activities and were asked to not start any new exercise or stress-reduction activities during the trial period.

At the conclusion of the three-month study period, the women in the yoga group had very encouraging results. These women reported improvement in perceived depression, stress, anxiety, energy, fatigue, and well-being. There was a 50% improvement in depression scores as well as a 30% improvement in anxiety scores. General welfare scores saw a 65% increase.

Improvements in back pain, overall sleep quality, and headaches were also noted more in the yoga group than in the control group.

Source: Harvard Health

Yoga Reduces Migraines

A study conducted in 2014 showed that the frequency and intensity of migraines was reduced in those who took part in a yoga regimen in addition to their regular treatment.

Numerous yoga poses can help stimulate blood flow to the head and alleviate migraines and tension headaches. Downward dog, bridge pose, child’s pose, and corpse pose can all be beneficial in relieving headache or migraine symptoms.

Source: NCBI

It Does a Body Good


Yoga Improves Flexibility

The vast majority of those who have never tried yoga feel quite intimidated by the overall practice. They see seasoned yoga vets contorted in all types of challenging positions, able do headstands and pull off a wide array of poses that require substantial flexibility.

However, everyone started somewhere. Most of those who begin yoga aren’t all that flexible at first. It takes time and patience, but a steady yoga diet can create an impressive amount of flexibility over time.

Increased flexibility has numerous benefits. Loosening tight muscles can release lactic acid buildup. Lactic acid is the waste product that accumulates after various forms of physical activity and contributes to muscle soreness.

By loosening the muscles and reducing lactic acid buildup, yoga flexibility can prevent soreness and decrease overall recovery time between training.

Yoga is especially helpful for those who work office jobs and spend long hours each day sitting in the same position. Extended amounts of time in a sitting position can create rigidity and stiffness. Regular yoga practice can alleviate stiffness and loosen muscle groups that are subjected to limited ranges of motion.

Source: ScienceDirect

Yoga Strengthens the Core

Core strength is vital when it comes to building the rest of our bodies. Our core is the very foundation upon which we build muscle.

Core muscles are comprised of stomach and back muscles. With a weak core, it is impossible to get the most out of our other limbs. The majority of yoga asanas require having a strong core. These asanas can include twists, inversions, standing postures, and balancing poses.

Inverted poses such as headstands and shoulderstands as well as standing postures such as the triangle pose all strengthen the abdominal muscles as well as train the oblique’s. These poses also help stabilize the spine and torso.

If you’re keyed in on getting the washboard abs that most people spend endless time chasing, folding postures will help you to achieve them. In folding postures, the thighs and chest draw in towards one another and include several arm balances and movements that closely mirror sit-ups.

Source: Yoga Journal

Yoga Builds Muscle

Come again? Yoga builds muscle? It’s true! You probably didn’t think so. If you ask most people, they’ll probably say that If you want to build muscle, you should hit the weights. This isn’t necessarily the case. Yoga can be an excellent way to help muscle building along.

No, you’re not going to resemble an incarnation of Arnold Schwarzenegger through yoga alone, but it most certainly can be effective.

Fat burning and lean muscle building are both possible through yoga movements that require the push and pull of our own bodyweight. Yoga is also a nice muscle building alternative for those who struggle with joint pain following certain weight training.

You don’t have to take our word for it that yoga builds strength. The research backs it up.

In a 2012 study that was published in the Journal of Sports and Medicine, it was revealed that a group of women ages 35-50 saw increased leg strength in an 8-week span of practicing yoga.

A 2017 study published in Complimentary Therapies in Medicine concluded that “power yoga” is better for muscle building than traditional yoga. Power yoga is essentially derived from Ashtanga but is more challenging and faster-paced.

Sure, if you’re looking to be a body builder or see massive “gains,” yoga is not going to be the best way to reach those goals. However, if you’re looking for a more toned look or to lose fat and add a little bit of lean muscle, yoga is a perfectly effective and acceptable alternative to lifting.

A combination of the two is ideal, as practicing yoga can help you optimize your time in the gym by increasing flexibility, reducing soreness, and shortening overall recovery time.

Sources: NCBI, Science Direct

Yoga Boosts Energy

You may be under the impression that yoga classes require a lot of energy and can leave you feeling wiped out in a pool of your own sweat once all is said and done. But did you know that yoga can actually increase energy levels?

Yoga can eliminate toxins from the body through the massaging of the internal organs that results from stretching and strengthening the muscles. Pranayama exercises which focus on the breath infuse fresh oxygen into the blood stream and can help to revitalize and repair.

Certain yoga poses can fight fatigue and increase cortisol levels. Low cortisol is a common culprit when it comes to reduced energy.

A couple of poses that are specifically recommended for energy stimulation are the tree pose and corpse pose.

The tree pose is much like it sounds. The tree pose is a balancing pose that aims to strengthen the core. It also strengthens the muscles around the knees as well as the lower body in general.

The corpse pose is also aptly named. This pose is often practiced at the conclusion of yoga sessions and requires doing exactly as it sounds; laying still like a corpse. This pose encourages deep relaxation and soothes the sympathetic nervous system.

Sources: Halifax Courier, Yoga Abode, NCBI

Yoga Improves Your Sex Life

This aspect may be a bit more anecdotal rather than scientific but it’s hard to argue with most of the connections being made.

“Mula Bandha” is probably not a term you’re all that familiar with. This term is used in the yoga world, but it is really just a fancy way of referring to Kegel exercises.

Since yoga focuses on muscle groups both large and small throughout the body, certain poses even work the sphincter muscle and the muscle that controls urination. Daily Kegel’s can lead to stronger orgasms.

We all know self-confidence is sexy, and as we touched on earlier in this article, yoga can make you feel much better about yourself and create a much more positive self-image. When you feel good about yourself and are confident in the way you look, you’re bound to feel better in the bedroom.

We’ve also touched on flexibility and how adding yoga to your daily or weekly regimen can pay huge dividends in that department. Without being too descriptive or graphic, we think you can probably assume where we’re going with this.

Many yoga positions manage to find their way into the bedroom and can give you and your partner some new things to try to spice things up.

Source: Bustle, PsychCentral

Yoga Protects the Spine and Improves Posture

Many of us spend long hours sitting in a chair at a desk typing away for large portions of each week. While we’d all love to have one of those fancy, ergonomically designed seats specifically built to improve our posture, most of us are stuck sitting in a plain old office chair.

The way we sit, in addition to the way we sleep, and even the way we stand can all lead to poor posture.

There are several yoga poses out there that can help protect our spines and encourage better posture, including:

  • Standing forward bend
  • Bridge pose
  • Upward facing dog
  • Cow face pose

Sources: National Osteoporosis Foundation, Prevention

Yoga for Men’s Hormonal Health

For men, yoga has the capacity to release an excess of testosterone. This is the hormone that promotes various physiological elements that are associated with males and develop during puberty. It’s also the primary factor behind a man’s sexual drive.

Testosterone regulation becomes crucial for men as they age. As men age, testosterone production can diminish. Decreasing levels of testosterone can lead to a condition called “Low T.”

As science improves and diagnoses become more pinpointed, this issue has become more widely-discussed. Because yoga can keep testosterone production relatively steady, men that are suffering from the condition may find that deploying a yoga regimen can give them a boost. This could help mitigate several male-specific issues, from erectile dysfunction to low sexual drive.

Source: NCBI

Yoga can Increase Estrogen in Perimenopausal Women

A study that was conducted took 20 peri-menopausal women and randomized them into a yoga group and a control group. The yoga group practiced meditation, breathing exercises, and a few entry-level poses for 30 minutes each day for a month. The control group did not partake in any yoga-related activities.

At the conclusion of the study, elevated levels of estrogen and progesterone were found in the yoga group but not in the control group.

Source: The Physiological Society

Yoga is Good for Women Who are Expecting

Certain yoga poses are particularly beneficial for women that are pregnant. While pregnancy is wonderful in and of itself, the process can put a lot of physically and mentally-altering stress on a woman’s body.

While women won’t be able to do a full range of yoga poses while they are pregnant, there are several poses they can conduct that can help keep their body and mind in as harmonious of balance as possible.

If you are pregnant and are interested in doing yoga, you should first consult with your physician to make sure it is safe for you and your little one.

Once you’re cleared, it’s wise for you to seek out an instructor that is specifically trained in prenatal yoga. Doing so will provide you with an extra layer of protection for both you and for your baby.

Source: Yoga Journal, ScienceDirect, PsychCentral

Yoga is Good for Bone Health

When you exercise, you’re not only burning fat and building up muscle; you’re also working to strengthen your bones. Yoga is a fantastic choice if you want to promote optimal bone health; something that can have immense long-term benefits.

The reason for this is because most yoga postures make you lift and carry your own weight. When you do this, you’re encouraging an increase in bone density. Better bone density provides an extra layer of protection against classic bone scourges like osteoporosis, making it one of the prime benefits of yoga.

The concept of yoga improving bone mass has been argued in a few circles for some time. In fact, there is still an active resistance to the correlation.

However, there have been some deep research efforts that indicate that adhering to certain poses such as the tree, triangle, and corpse pose can boost bone density in the spine and femur, as well as slight improvements to hip bone density.

This research also points to an important by-product of this correlation. Although yoga’s bends and poses appear to put a lot of torque and strain on the body, older people with weaker bones aren’t at a higher risk of inadvertent fractures occurring during the routine. So, this demographic can partake in yoga’s benefits with the utmost in confidence.

Source: New York Times, NCBI

Yoga Increases Lung Capacity and Efficiency

Breathing is such a rote bodily activity, the only time you may think about it is if you have difficulty. By that rationale, you may not pay mind to the benefits relating to breathing that yoga can offer. They’re there; what’s more, it can help you breathe more efficiently than ever.

If you do yoga on a consistent basis, you could start developing a tendency to take fewer breaths of larger volume. This boost of efficiency will save on the wear and tear of your lungs over time. The saving of functionality could help to lower the risk of various serious lung-relation issues, up to and including congestive heart failure.

A boost in lung function can also have some positive effects related to overall body efficiency, such as an increase in the ability to exercise and improved overall lung capacity.

Yoga will also make it easier for you to breathe through the nose. This is surprisingly critical, as nasal breathing itself contains a few underappreciated benefits.

Taking air through the nose blocks pollen, dirt, and other nasty particles from entering your lungs. It also helps to warm the air that’s taken in. This is crucial if your subject to asthma, as cold and dry air tends to trigger a greater instance of attacks.

Source: Pure Action, ScienceDaily

Yoga Increases Endurance

If you’re a beginner, you might decide to take a class and find that you have trouble holding poses or getting through the entire thing without feeling exhausted.

After a few months, you’ll probably realize that those same poses have become much easier and that you’re no longer worn out midway through the class. Why is this? Because studies have shown that yoga increases your endurance.

Source: NCBI

Yoga Aids in Pain Management and Prevention

In some ways, yoga can feel like a magical cure-all that can act as the ultimate preventative medicine if done properly. This leads to what you may consider being the ultimate question: Can practicing yoga prevent the scourge of pain from creeping into your daily life?

Technically, the answer is not universally. Certain root causes of pain are ensconced in a physical realm deep enough to where you won’t be able to uproot them through yoga or any other process. Here, we’re talking about heavy-duty elements that may require serious action elsewhere.

That being said, there are a wealth of chronic conditions that can be diminished through the deployment of yoga. Recurring issues such as arthritis, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and others can be reduced because of the way yoga can relax various parts of your body through muscle and nerve.

This could lead to other avenues of goodness, such as putting you in a better mood because you do not have to deal with persistent pain all the time.

What’s more, research has indicated that yoga’s ability to diminish chronic pain has a positive effect on the brain – yet another example of yoga’s important mind-body connection.

According to various brain imaging studies, chronic pain alters brain structure by changing gray matter volume and disrupting the integrity of white matter connectivity. The former houses certain brain regions, while the latter serves as the communication center that connects various brain regions.

Source: Psychology Today

Yoga Burns Calories and Aids in Weight Loss

To say yoga can help you maintain and control your weight obscures the wealth of weight and dietary benefits it can impart. It’s not just about dropping a few pounds, although it can certainly be effective in helping you achieve that sometimes elusive element.

Even you’re doing a lot of bending and posing when you’re doing yoga; you are still exerting physical movement and exercise.

Granted, it won’t have the same kind of caloric crush that you may be able to get through your typical aerobic workout – studies indicate that a 150-pound person will burn about 150 calories during a typical hour-long yoga session. Still, you’re clearly not just bending and posing without feeling a bit of the burn.

In a big-picture sense of the word, yoga’s effect on weight loss is much larger than little weight loss. Its prime mover is the capacity it possesses to course correct your body and mind’s reaction to food, from what you put into your body to what your body can extract from what’s being introduced.

Source: WebMD

Yoga Encourages Better Dietary Decisions

Deep practitioners of yoga may be able to focus their energies and thoughts on the concept of food and eating. Along the way, they might dive into the root cause of excessive eating, poor dietary choices, and the like.

This deep dive into these roots can address eating issues on a level that’s significantly deeper than just eating less and exercising more.

Even if there isn’t a deep-seeded cause in play, the increased pondering on your dietary habits may inspire you to analyze what’s right and wrong about your dietary choices, which in turn could cause you to develop into a more conscious eater.

In a way, this plays into the classic spiritual tenants that are behind yoga’s concept. After all, yoga in this pure sense suggests a vegetarian diet.

While this avenue ties into concepts that are ultimately linked to the concept of heightened awareness, it should be noted that you don’t have to eschew the consumption of meat to enjoy the benefits of yoga from a scientific standpoint.

In fact, yoga can actually lend you a hand if you’ve over-indulged in any meal, even heavy meat-centric ones.

Source: MindBodyGreen

Yoga Can be Beneficial for Digestion

The mental aspect of personal dietary regulation only tells half of the story, of course. Keep in mind that yoga can play an instrumental role in regulating all kinds of things with your body, from your circulatory system to secretions emanating from your endocrine system.

With that in mind, it should be noted that deploying yoga on a consistent basis can help you resolve a host of digestive issues, from constipation and irritable bowel syndrome to ulcers.

There are two keys to playing here. Firstly, a lot of issues that are considered stress partially causes bugaboos to the digestive tract. Simply put, the more stressed out you are, the harder it is for your body to function properly.

Because yoga possesses the ability to relax the body and alleviate stress, issues that may otherwise cause a struggle with your digestive tract are no longer in play.

The second problem is more of a theory than scientific fact, but it’s something that some yoga practitioners swear by. That is, the poses required in yoga – specifically, the twisting poses – encourage waste to move through the digestive tract on a more consistent basis.

This translates to a more regular waste disposing experience, which in turn can also help prevent other digestive issues from manifesting such as constipation.

As implied earlier, if you want to attack the digestion issue headlong, there are a few poses you can strike up after indulging in a heavy meal. These positions, such as the seated cat-cow or garland pose, can not only make digestion move more efficiently, they can also alleviate the discomfort you may experience in the wake of a particularly hefty meal.

Source: Yoga Journal, NCBI

Yoga Improves Balance

As you may guess, if you start practicing an exercise program that encourages you to get into funky poses and shapes, said the program would help you get an improved sense of balance.

More to the point, regular yoga will recalibrate your inner capacity to sense what your body is doing and what’s happening in its space, even if you have balance issues caused be problems within your body’s balance center, the inner ear.

While you may think of this re-focusing as a means to keep you from being a klutz, it’s actually an essential component to improving your overall health. If you have poor balance, you may also have dysfunctional movement patterns or poor posture.

These issues aren’t just associated with having an increased chance of tripping over your feet; it can also lead to back pain or knee problem brought about by unnecessary movement.

For older people, the restorative sense of balance could help them avoid falls and other long-term injuries which may eventually lead them to a nursing home or some sort of assisted living situation.

This benefit is somewhat cyclical in nature, too. The more you do yoga, the easier it will be for you to hold poses. One of the big reasons why you’ll be able to hold poses with more efficiency is that you’ll be more focused and centered, thanks to the yoga you’re doing.

Source: LiveStrong, ScienceDaily, ScienceDirect

Yoga Makes You a Better Athlete

If you pay attention to what a lot of professional athletes have to say, you’ll notice that many of them are big proponents of yoga as part of their weekly regimen. Have you ever wondered why?

Yoga has some great benefits for athletes.

Nearly every sport requires balance. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing football, baseball, soccer, hockey, golf, or even bowling. Balance plays a role in each and every one of these activities. There are several yoga poses out there that improve overall balance and provide you with better coordination and body control.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a sport where having more strength would be a detriment. If you’re a baseball player, being stronger means hitting the ball farther. If you’re a football player, being stronger means breaking more tackles or throwing the ball further.

Yoga can improve strength and make you even more of a force out on the field.

Yoga can provide an immense increase in flexibility. Just ask a runner or gymnast how important flexibility is and how it can positively impact performance.

Not only can yoga make you a better athlete, but it can also get your body in tip-top shape and help prevent injuries.

Source: MindBodyGreen

Yoga Improves Sleep Quality

Going to bed doesn’t always equate to going to sleep. If you’re stressed out, you may find it a bit tough to get some slumber. That’s one of the beautiful things about yoga – it’s inherent ability to induce relaxation can help improve your chances for sleep, even if you’re going through stuff that on paper would appear to be immensely stressful. It’s a benefit that for the most part, everyone agrees upon.

A national survey stated that more than 55% of those polled that did yoga found that the practice helped them sleep better. The survey also showed that more than 85% of those polled found yoga to be an ally to help reduce stress.

Seeing as how lower stress can theoretically correlate to better sleep, these numbers seem ready to fortify such a link.

Some of the yoga’s sleep-inducing qualities do stem from its meditation roots, which encourages an inward reflection of your own senses. This practice is said to provide a break for the nervous system, which can allow it to restore the kind of flow that comes with relaxation.

Even if you don’t subscribe to the meditation aspect of yoga and are using it as an exercise tool, the very nature of the practice does unjumble your nerves, leading to an easier path to shut-eye.

There are a few specific yoga poses that you can take that is said to aid in proliferating this boosted sleep benefit. These poses, such as the standing forward bend and the corpse pose, bring about the benefit by primarily targeting and relieving stress. This of course directly links to the concept of less stress equaling better sleep.

Some yoga-centric breathing techniques can also provide you with an ability to fall asleep more efficiently. One technique, alternate nostril breathing, is deployed by closing your right nostril down with your fingers and breathing the open nostril deeply, then repeating the process with in reverse.

A second technique, deep throat breathing, involves lying down in bed, taking a few deep breaths through your nose until your lungs are full, and then exhaling through your mouth completely. In both cases, you should do a count of four between inhaling and exhaling for the full effect.

Sources: Harvard Health, Shape

Yoga Benefits the Nervous Health System

One of the side benefits of diving into any exercise regimen is that the good ones will do more than promoting the physical health you can see, such as weight regulation. They can act as a prime stress reliever; an outlet that can allow you to funnel and ultimately cast aside the bothers, worries, and other nagging portions of your day-to-day life that can be painfully bothersome if left unchecked.

Yoga is no different. If anything, the ability to calm and soothe stressful souls may be the one avenue of overall health where it excels at the most. Some of this ties into yoga’s philosophic roots; one where you’re trying to achieve a heightened state of consciousness.

But from a practical health perspective, it works so well because of the ways it naturally heals from within. This healing touch extends to a keen maintenance of the nervous system.

Consistent yoga can benefit the nervous system, which could have some extraordinary secondary effects. Some of this translates to somewhat practical stuff, like making it easier for you to fall asleep. It can also ease the kind of tension that may cause extra restrictive blood flow, something that seems to go hand-in-hand with yoga’s ability to lower blood pressure.

Source: PsychCentral

Yoga Helps You Relax

The level of relaxation that yoga can induce will also help your nerves in a figurative sense. The practice itself is designed to encourage you to slow your pace of breathing, eschew external pressures and stresses, and chill out. This lessens the body’s tendencies to gravitate toward its “fight or flight” response unnecessarily.

This sense of inner recalibration essentially puts you in a calmer, cooler state; one that allows your body to keep the little nuisances that populate your day little, and therefore more manageable.

The heightened tendency to help you relax also works to cut down on instances of excessive tension throughout your body. The more you do yoga, the more conscious you’ll be of “unconscious” habits that cause tension in various muscles, such as clutching a steering wheel a little too tightly. This will help you release these stressors more efficiently, which can lead to feeling considerably less uptight.

Source: MayoClinic

For the Heart


Yoga May Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease

Because of yoga’s combination of physical activity, breathing, and meditation, the practice may also be able to lower the possibility of heart disease.

The deep breathing that is associated with yoga can help to reduce blood pressure. Meditation quiets the mind and calms the nerves. Meditation also reduces stress levels. This combination is perfect for those with cardiovascular issues and can lower the risk of heart disease.

Source: Harvard Health

Yoga May Lower Cholesterol

For all its negative connotations, cholesterol in and of itself really isn’t all bad. Cholesterol is actually essential to the human body and helps maintain healthy bodily function. Cholesterol plays a vital role in membrane production as well as the synthesis of Vitamin D and hormone production.

However, too much cholesterol can be problematic. Excess levels of cholesterol can create arterial blockages and can lead to heart problems. This is where yoga comes in.

There hasn’t been a whole lot of research done to date, but the preliminary studies certainly look promising by showing lowered LDL, or “bad cholesterol” levels as well as reduced triglycerides.

Source: American Heart Association,  Very Well

Yoga Increases Heart Rate

You may be wondering if increased heart rate is actually a good thing or not, but when it comes to healthy physical activity, it most certainly is!

Our muscles need both oxygen and glucose, especially when we are exercising. Blood flow is the mechanism to deliver these things. As we know, blood flow is controlled by the heart.

Increased heart rate has a plethora of benefits including fat burning, weight loss, improved recovery, improved stamina, and decreased cholesterol.

Through various facets of practicing yoga, we can get our hearts pumping and enjoy the many benefits.

Sources: Live Strong, American Heart Association

Yoga Improves Overall Cardiovascular Health

Your heart is the engine that keeps your body running from a physical standpoint. As such, it’s unsurprising that so many exercise regimens are designed to place a huge emphasis on improving heart and cardiovascular health. While yoga’s bends and poses tend to obscure talk about the immense heart benefits it possesses, rest assured that they deliver such essential perks, and in a massive way.

For instance, yoga can improve your heart’s conditioning. Even basic exercises designed to chill you out can lower your resting heart rate and improve the amount of oxygen you can take in during exercise, both of which are hallmarks of heightened heart conditioning.

When you do more vigorous yoga routines, you can boost your heart rate, which when kept in the short term can work to lower the risk of heart attack.

Because yoga can lower your resting heart rate, it’s no surprise to find that the practice also has the capacity to drop your blood pressure.

Although studies have indicated that this decrease isn’t necessarily dramatic, it’s thought to nonetheless be enough to have potentially effective long-term benefits that can ease hypertension.

Because of yoga’s cardio benefits, it has become an increasingly essential component of exercise for those that have previously dealt with cardiac arrest, heart attack, or another form of cardio-related trauma.

Regular yoga practice could translate to promoting the regulatory conditions that are essential to maintain for a lifetime after suffering and incident.

There are specific groups that are specifically designed to help you target your cardiac health through the power of yoga. This is good news for you that are interested in helping your heart but aren’t too invested in a full-blown, hardcore yoga routine.

Source: American Heart Association, WebMD

Immunity and Disease Prevention


Yoga Can Promote Lymph Drainage

Certain yoga poses can encourage immune system health through lymph drainage. The lymphatic system is responsible for removing toxins and waste from the body.

The lymphatic system can be negatively affected by factors such as stress, injury, age, lack of physical activity, and chemical overload. Yoga helps to move and drain excess lymph out through certain poses.

These are a few examples of poses that are effective for lymph drainage:

  • Downward dog
  • Cobra
  • Bridge pose
  • Bow pose
  • Rabbit pose
  • Triangle pose
  • Sun salutations

Source: Inner Light

Yoga Can Stimulate the Pituitary Gland

The pituitary gland is also referred to as the “master gland” and is responsible for hormone production that stimulates other endocrine glands. The pituitary gland is directly responsible for growth hormones, which stimulate the adrenal gland as well as the thyroid gland.

Hormonal imbalances can create a host of issues including hair loss, skin issues, weight gain, fatigue, insomnia, and mood swings. Certain yoga poses can stimulate the pituitary gland which can aid in restoring hormonal imbalances.

Source: Ageology

Yoga Benefits the Immune System

Several factors play into poor immune health. A few of these factors include poor respiratory health, excess stress, and toxins settling down inside our vital organs.

Yoga is proven to lower stress, improve respiratory health, and help flush toxins from the body. All of which improve immune health and make us less susceptible to illness.

Source: NCBI

Yoga Can Relieve or Prevent Diabetes

Although yoga isn’t going to make diabetes disappear on its own, it can pay some pretty significant dividends in reducing symptoms or even preventing it altogether.

Many yoga poses require contracting and releasing the abdominal muscles which stimulate the pancreas and increases both blood and oxygen supply. Because of this, the pancreatic cells enhance the ability of the pancreas to produce insulin better. Certain yogic breathing techniques also can stimulate healthy pancreatic function

Certain yoga exercises also reduce blood sugar and can provide hypoglycemia relief, which is one of the main culprits of diabetes.

LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, as well as triglycerides, are two more common features of a person with diabetes. Yoga works well to reduce the levels of both.

Source: Yoga U

External Benefits


Yoga Can Help Improve Relationships

Yoga has a way of putting us in touch with our inner being and getting back to basics. We live in a world where there is no shortage of distractions. Between smartphones, tablets, and our constant connection to the internet, we often lose touch with people we’re close to the real world.

Yoga teaches us how to be present at the moment. Many of us spend entire conversations with people we care about worrying about unpaid bills, what’s for dinner, or a missed appointment. It’s not intentional, but it happens. Yoga improves our focus and shows us how to live in the current moment without drifting.

Yoga also gives us more energy and makes us feel more vibrant. We are much more likely to be good friends, family members, or lovers when we’re energized.

Source: MindBodyGreen

Yoga Helps You Stay Drug-Free

Although this doesn’t quite fit under the “scientific” category of things, it is still a benefit of yoga that many people have been proud of.

The act of performing yoga poses isn’t going to nullify additions suddenly, but it does provide a safe, and healthy alternative. Yoga provides a built-in support group. You can attend classes together, take trips to new exciting places and forge new, healthy friendships in general!

Belief in a higher being varies from person to person, but the yoga community has always been a very spiritual one. As you may know, the 11th step in the well-known 12-step process utilizes prayer and/or meditation in order to connect with a higher power. Yoga can provide an excellent means of finding this connection, staying sober, and meeting your goals.

Conclusion

Congrats! You’ve finally arrived at the end of our journey.

It’s hard to deny that yoga has an incredible amount of benefits. There’s a whole lot to like. Whether you’re looking for a means of winding down after stressful days, a way to release tension, a way to get into better shape, or a way to become more flexible, yoga can help you meet these goals.

However, yoga isn’t just about becoming more flexible or being able to accomplish certain poses. It’s a way of life for many people. The spiritual connection they can achieve, the feeling of accomplishment on a daily basis, feeling healthy and confident, and overall progression are all things to be proud of and can promote a healthier, happier lifestyle.

Have you recently just started yoga? Maybe you’ve been taking part for a long time and just wanted to learn more about the many benefits you’re providing for your body and mind. What have you noticed along with your journey? How have you changed as a person? Are you more centered now? In better shape? Happier? We’d love to hear your story!

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2 Comments

  1. After reading this monster guide on Yoga, it seems that Yoga has great potentials to fight with lot’s of diseases and make our body more flexible, smoother and healthy. Really love this guide!

  2. very Nice post. I like the flow of content. I really appreciate your writing style.

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