Yoga, a physical practice that has been around for centuries, is a very popular means of exercise and stress relief in today’s society. Originating from India as a way to achieve a complete sense of wellbeing – through mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual avenues – yoga is done in many different ways…although always circling around back to the core of overall wellness.
Yoga has many different benefits, some of which are not quite so obvious to the eye. Mindfulness is an ever-increasing benefit to yoga, and this extends far beyond the edges of your yoga studio. Even research nowadays has noted that yoga can help to decrease achy and painful joints and muscles, and can even help to boost the immune system.
Known for its relaxation benefits, yoga is touted as being a major stress reliever. Studies have shown that a stress hormone in the body (called cortisol) is lowered after participating in yoga, and it can also lower depression and anxiety.
We typically have a certain amount of inflammation in our bodies on any given day – but research has shown that people who do yoga have lower markers of inflammation within the body. This is a good sign, seeing as how chronic inflammation can lead to diseases like cancer and heart disease.
Increases Quality of Life
Not only has yoga been shown to help increase and improve sleep quality, but it can also enhance social functioning and decrease anxiety. A study done on a group of women with breast cancer who participated in yoga noted that they had less pain after eight weeks, and were more relaxed and energized.
A most noted benefit of yoga, this practice has been shown to increase the mobility and flexibility of participants. Of course, this doesn’t happen overnight – consistency is key. Tight muscles and joints can cause poor posture, lower back pain, and misalignment of joints…all things that can be prevented with good flexibility.
Increases Bone Health
Exercises that require weight-bearing are widely known to improve the health and stability of bones …so you might be asking where yoga comes into play! Many of the movements that participants engage in require you to lift your own body weight, which qualifies as a weight-bearing movement. One study even noted that since cortisol levels are decreased with yoga, that it then helps retain calcium within the bones, helping them to stay strong.
Granted, these are just a few of the many benefits of yoga; there are many others, including increased blood flow, decreased blood pressure, improved overall focus, and improved balance. Just remember before you begin any new exercise routine to check in with your local PCP, and if you’re a beginner, take it very slowly. You’ll soon begin noticing the many benefits that go along with this mindful practice, and will be able to carry those benefits with you – well beyond the yoga mat!
Gess Blogger: Krista Harper