If You’re Not Practicing Yoga, You Should Be
As you continue in your yoga practice, you will notice you’re able to bend more easily and poses that were once difficult for you to achieve will become familiar as your body adjusts to it’s newfound limberness. Also, your aches and pains will disappear as well. 1
Builds strong muscles
Strong muscles are not only attractive, but they protect our bodies from conditions like arthritis, back pain and knee pain. Having stronger muscles is especially beneficial in older age because they prevent falls which can be particularly damaging. By building your muscles through yoga you also build flexibility which is not possible through weight lifting alone.
Helps relieve stress
Yoga relieves anxiety, which reduces the physical effects of stress in the body. Yoga reduces the stress hormones cortisol which in turn helps reduce blood pressure, heart rate, and digestion.2
When we are less stressed we sleep better, and vice versa. Physical activity and mental clarity and calm both add to our sleep quality. Many studies have shown that yoga improves sleep quality and quantity in people struggling with insomnia. Similar studies have shown the benefits for menopausal women and cancer survivors.
Detoxifies the body
Physical activity increases the function of muscles and organs, which allows them to better perform their natural detoxification process. Deep breathing associated with yoga also helps lungs improve their function. The sweat that the body produces also boosts the body’s cleaning process.
Improves your posture
By practicing yoga, your body works to realign proper positioning of your head, neck and spine. Unfortunately, many of us do not have good posture most of the time, which leads to increased fatigue. In addition, poor posture can also lead to back, neck and other muscle and joint problems.
Weight-bearing exercise strengthens your bones and wards off osteoporosis. Since many yoga positions require bodyweight movement and require you to be able to support your body weight on your arms, it is excellent for improving bone strength. In fact, yoga practice increased bone density in the vertebrae. Yoga’s ability to lower cortisol levels may be a contributing factor for keeping calcium in the bones.
Boosts the Immune System
Since yoga involves continual contracting and stretching of muscles, as well as the movement of muscles around as you change from different poses, this drains the lymphs, which is great for our overall health. Lymphs are thick fluid abundant with immune cells. This release of fluid assists the lymphatic system fight infections, destroy cancerous cells, and get rid of unwanted toxic cellular waste.
It helps with concentration
We are a culture obsessed with constant productivity and multi-tasking.
The practice of yoga allows you to focus on what your body is doing in the moment, instead of on the past or the future. You can focus on breathing, your body, and your position. If you are focusing on your breathing, it will naturally begin to slow. As your breathing slows, your mind will also slow until you are in a peaceful and restful state.
Lowers your blood sugar
Practicing yoga consistently reduces blood sugar and HDL (beneficial) cholesterol. In diabetics, yoga has been shown to lower blood sugar by decreasing cortisol and adrenaline levels, improving insulin sensitivity and boosting weight loss. By lowering blood sugar levels, this decreases the risks of heart attack, kidney failure and blindness.
Improves digestive function
Digestive problems such as IBS, ulcers, constipation and other issues can be made worse by stress. Physical exercise and yoga in particular, due to the fact that moving the body helps food and waste through the digestive tract and into the bowels. Twisting yoga poses have been helpful in getting waste to move through the system.
Peace of mind
Practicing yoga stops the mind from wandering aimlessly, as well as reduces excessive worrying or fears. Mental stress often manifests in the body’s condition. It has been known to cause and exacerbate many health problems including migraines, lupus, eczema, high blood pressure and heart attacks.
Decreases and eases pain
After several studies, asana and meditation has been documented to reduce symptoms of patients suffering from fibromyalgia, back pain, arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome as well as other painful medical conditions.
Decreases allergies and viruses
Cleansing practice or kriyas are a part of yoga that aims to cleanse the system. They can vary from rapid breathing exercise to internal cleaning of the digestive system. Jala neti or (neti pot) involves gentle cleansing of the nasal and sinus passageways, clearing away pollen and viruses as well as preventing mucus buildup and congestion.
As you practice yoga you will begin to notice that places that you hold tension in the body will reveal themselves. If you hold tension in your arm, neck or shoulders, certain poses will help relieve it. As with other body parts, you will notice that particular poses will stretch your body in a way that is initially uncomfortable, but as you continue, will feel wonderful because the tension is gradually being released.
Improves lung function
People who practice yoga regularly tend to take fewer deeper breaths that are more oxygen-rich. In a study a yoga breathing technique called “complete breathing” taught people with lung issues due to congestive heart failure to breathe this way. This resulted in their respiratory rate decreasing from 13.4 breaths per minute to 7.6 per minute. Their ability to exercise improved as well as the oxygen saturation of their blood.
In a study of 72 migraine sufferers, half were placed into yoga therapy and half were placed into self-care for 3 months. Participants who were in the yoga group experienced a reduction in headache intensity, frequency and pain compared to the self-care group. Studies theorize that practicing yoga stimulates the vagus nerve which has been an effective strategy in alleviating migraines.
Overall yoga has shown that it can not only provide the health benefits we all need, but be an excellent workout as well.