Yoga is an early practice that unifies the mind and body in a harmony. For decades, yoga experts have been flaunting yoga’s astonishing effect on the overall health of an individual. The benefits are more than feeling relaxed and being flexible. It goes way beyond just that.
Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Nursing presented a comparative analysis in 2011. It includes 81 studies comparing the health benefits of yoga and aerobic exercise. The results show that yoga outperformed aerobic exercise in a lot of health parameters like strength, energy level, balance, and flexibility.
“We were a little surprised by the results,” lead researcher Alyson Ross admits after making the discovery. “We played around with the studies, making tables grouping the studies in a variety of ways (disease condition, health outcomes, and so forth). When we sorted them by exercise and yoga side-by-side, it became apparent we were on to something.”
The benefits are sensed in a profound yet subtle manner. A few are felt after a short session while others show up after a few months or a year, consistency is the key. And to motivate you to step onto your mat, here are some of the amazing benefits of yoga.
1. Increases energy
Is your energy reserve running low? A few minutes of yoga every day will do the trick of filling up your battery. When doing yoga poses you are working with your body and breathing. Poses that open the chest demands more breathe intake and poses that extend the spine helps energy to flow throughout the whole body. Doing a session of yoga everyday awakens the main energy centers called chakras and provides the body with a much-needed energy boost.
2. Reduces stress and boosts emotional health
Stress is inevitable in our busy lives and it’s taking away the little time we have for relaxation. How do you manage stress? Tame it with yoga. Multiple studies had backed the effectiveness of yoga in getting rid of stress. A yoga program was conducted to individuals who professed themselves as emotionally distressed. After 12 weeks, there is a significant decrease in the level of cortisol, the stress hormone. Levels of fatigue, anxiety, and depression have also declined, making one feel light, happy, and stress-free.
“Practicing in a group setting, such as a yoga class, stimulates the production of oxytocin, the love and bonding hormone,” McGrath from Duke University Medical Center stated. “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.”
Yoga calms the body and mind. Relaxation poses are effective in releasing stress and helps greatly in controlling the heart rate. This means the body has an ability to respond to stress in a flexible way and keep it in check.
3. Reduces chronic pain
Yoga consists of poses that stretch the body especially the spine. The stretching exercise improves spinal flexibility and emphasizes proper alignment. It is a common knowledge that the spine is connected to the brain. The brain, on the other hand, has the role of perceiving, managing and modifying pain. Can you see the connection?
Several studies had proved that yoga is effective in reducing the intensity of chronic pain in adults. “Practicing yoga has the opposite effect on the brain as does chronic pain,” said Catherine Bushnell, scientific director of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) at the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
Together with the team, they had discovered that chronic pain can be reversed or prevented through mind-body practices. The group claimed that doing meditation or yoga reduces pain perceptions. The study had shown that chronic pain can be treated without the use of drug-based treatments. People should turn to yoga for a more effective non-pharmacological pain-reliever that actually works.
4. Improves metabolism
Having a high metabolism means burning fat faster, lean muscles, and increased blood flow. How do you attain a high metabolism? Often times, poor blood circulation is the reason for slow metabolism. The distribution of oxygenated blood is interrupted and organs are affected. With yoga, deep and slow breathing is a part of executing the poses and it greatly helps with the blood circulation, oxygen levels, and toning the respiratory muscles. Engaging with yoga builds muscles and burns calories. The more muscle built-up, the more calories are being burned, and the more your metabolism improves.
5. Reduces risk of heart diseases
The heart is a vital part of the body and its health should be one of our top priorities. If you have high blood pressure the risk of having heart problems is high. Reduce the risk by lowering the blood pressure. Do this by starting a healthy lifestyle and incorporating yoga into your daily routine. It slows down the progress of heart diseases and may eventually stop it.
“Yoga plays a huge role in reducing your risk of heart disease,” Bethany Grace Shaw, founder, and president of YogaFit, Inc. says. “The cardiovascular benefits of yoga also help reduce arterial plaque.” By improving your heart health, you can enhance largely the quality of your life.
6. Strengthens bones
Arm bones are weak and are more prone to osteoporosis fractures. Yoga comprises of gentle movements. Particular yoga poses are effective in strengthening these fragile bones and increases bone density in the vertebrae. It is known that yoga lowers the level of stress hormone cortisol which also helps in keeping calcium in the bones.
“We did a bone mineral density (DEXA) scan, then we taught half of them the yoga, waited two years, and did another scan,” Dr. Loren Fishman showed in a 2009 pilot study. “And not only did these people not lose bone, they gained bone. The ones who didn’t do the yoga lost a little bone, as you would expect.” In just six weeks of doing yoga every day, there is a visible improvement in bone strength.
7. Helps with weight loss
It is a struggle to lose those extra pounds and shed the weight you gained. Is there any way to weight loss without sweating in the gym? Actually, there is. Yoga! A less costly, safe, peaceful, and holistic way to work out. It is a total package of cardio, strength, and functional training just like a workout in the gym.
“Those practicing yoga who were overweight to start with lost about five pounds during the same time period those not practicing yoga gained 14 pounds,” researcher Alan Kristal, DPH, MPH, explained the study linking yoga and weight loss. A daily session of yoga is enough to bring back the hormonal balance of the body which helps normalize bodyweight.
8. Promotes balanced life
Yoga is creating a huge wave in the community. It is an art that affects people’s lives to an unimaginable extent. Many studies are emerging, supporting how yoga is a therapy that affects overall health and generally improves the quality of life. In order to gain a balanced life, one must first acknowledge the loss of balance. By understanding what tipped your stability it’s easier to find balance. So take your yoga mat, spread it out and find balance and clarity in life.