The Health Benefits Associated with Yoga
Yoga is a health and lifestyle activity and a form of physical therapy that has been practised for thousands of years. Originating from India, it has spread around the world in more recent decades and become an extremely popular pursuit.
In its entirety, yoga is not just an exercise regime but is a way of life. Asanas or poses are practised using specific breathing techniques but there is a whole philosophy that delivers greater yoga benefits, including for the way we eat and how we view our place in the world.
Here we look at the health benefits of yoga and how regular practice can deliver amazing results for people of all ages.
Different Types of Yoga
There are several different types of yoga and much depends on how deeply someone wants to go into the practice, whether they do it just for a fun exercise or to improve other aspects of their life such as the spiritual connection with the world around them.
Perhaps the most popular style in the Western world is hatha yoga which is a more physical approach and pays less attention to the meditation side of things. The focus is on correct breathing and performing a variety of different poses for flexibility and strength.
Kundalini yoga, on the other hand, is focused on creating energy and elevating consciousness. Ashtanga yoga is limited to 6 poses and performing them in order and is very physical which is why it is often called ‘power’ yoga in the West.
Health Benefits of Yoga
The health benefits associated with yoga are well-known and it’s an excellent activity to get involved in if someone wants to improve overall health and wellbeing. Not only does it provide a mechanism for improving mobility but it also promotes the use of breathing techniques to deliver greater energy.
1. Stress Reduction
Yoga is generally seen as a low impact activity although some of the asanas can be quite demanding for a beginner. There have been several studies over the last few years that show the regular practice of yoga helps to reduce the stress hormone cortisol.
2. Anxiety Reduction
If someone is feeling anxious it can have a wide range of detrimental effects on their health and wellbeing. We live in a challenging, fast-paced world and practising yoga can help slow everything down and deal with all those stresses and strains.
In one study, 34 women who had been diagnosed with anxiety were introduced to yoga and their levels of stress reduced compared to a control group.
3. Reducing Inflammation
Chronic inflammation can be a huge problem and, if left untreated, it can lead to a variety of different disorders. In another study, practising yoga was shown to reduce certain inflammatory markers which suggests it could be a non-invasive way to mitigate chronic conditions.
4. Good for the Heart
We all know that exercise is good for cardiovascular health. Yoga helps to reduce stress and lower blood pressure and in some cases may assist in reducing the progress of heart disease in those who have been recently diagnosed.
5. Improving Flexibility
One of the key factors in taking up yoga is that it aids better flexibility. The asanas involve lots of bends and stretches as well as spinal twists.
Flexibility and spinal health play a huge role in wellbeing. Particularly in older adults, regularly practising yoga can not only boost flexibility but also improve balance.
6. Increasing Lung Capacity
A big part of yoga practice is learning how to breathe properly. While we take this simple act for granted, many of us don’t use our lungs to their full capacity. Especially as we get older, we tend to use the top of the lungs more and that can have consequences for our health.
Each movement in yoga is accompanied by a specific breath. For those who want to get deeper into yogic breathing practices, they can help improve fitness and boost energy levels as well as reduce stress.
7. It Can Help with Chronic Pain
There are millions of people who suffer from chronic pain and dealing with it can be extremely challenging.
There have been several studies that show regular yoga practice may help reduce problems like joint pain. It’s slow movement and low impact approach are ideal for those who suffer from such conditions.
8. Promotes Health Sleep
Better health generally equates to better sleep. Yoga not only works on the joints and spine but can also have a huge impact on posture. A study on elderly patients found that those who practised yoga found that they fell asleep more quickly and slept more deeply than a control group.
9. Overall Happiness
Finally, yoga is good for general health and wellness. Those who practice the asanas and then go onto areas such as mindful meditation also tend to adopt better, healthier eating habits and lead happier lives.