Yoga is undoubtedly the most popular form of exercise that provides our body and mind with various health benefits. It began as a spiritual practice but has gradually become a staple of most American homes to promote mental well-being and physical health. It is an ancient practice that combines breathing exercises with poses and has now transformed into different types. But does yoga do wonders like everyone claims? Are the health benefits only arbitrary, or is there any scientific backing for this ancient practice? Fortunately, countless studies and research supports the fact that there are different cardiovascular, mental, and other tremendous benefits associated with yoga. Therefore, let’s take a look at some of the following evidence-based benefits of yoga.
1. Manages and decreases depression
The word yoga means “union,” which refers to the practice that binds the body and the mind together. Most of the studies related to yoga’s effects on depression are few. However, the published ones conclude that yoga helps deal with depression, anxiety, and other psychological disorders. The assertion is that yoga decreases stress hormone levels called cortisol, which often affects the neurotransmitter (serotonin) associated with depression.
According to a study published by the Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, practicing yoga reduces stress hormones and improves brain plasticity. Incorporating different breathing and yoga techniques lets you focus on the mind-body connection, thus compartmentalizing some stressors and making room for positive energy.
2. Stimulates brain function
People think that yoga is all about complicated postures, stretching, and increasing body strength. So, they stock up on all the essential yoga equipment and focus all their energies on strengthening the body. However, when coupled with the right equipment and a tranquil atmosphere, you can reinvigorate both physical and mental strength from yoga. Undoubtedly, yoga does help with building bodily strength, but it also helps with stimulating brain function. According to a Harvard study, yoga helps strengthen the core and boosts energy levels to improve the brain’s executive functions. Other studies suggest that practicing yoga can improve information recall, task switching, and mental flexibility in older adults.
3. Maintains weight and enhances fitness
Yoga has been linked to increasing mindfulness which refers to focusing on present experiences without judging yourself. This mindfulness spreads to other parts of your life, including eating. Researchers suggest that those who practice yoga every day embrace mindful eating. This term refers to a nonjudgmental awareness of emotional and physical sensations associated with eating. Those who are conscious about their diet are more aware of the feeling of fullness and hunger cues.
According to a study published in the National Library of Medicine, yoga often helped people with weight loss, and its effectiveness depends on practice. Researchers also found that obese people who practiced yoga once a week for at least 30 minutes for around four years shed weight quickly.
4. Reduces lower back pain
Ample NIH research supports the benefit of alleviating lower back pain through yoga for both the long and short term. Researchers are still pondering to determine ‘why’ yoga helps relieve back pain. However, sufficient studies and strong evidence claim the effectiveness of yoga for lower back pain. Not only back pain, but many other studies are surfacing that support the fact that yoga helps reduce many types of chronic pain.
According to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, military veterans experienced an improvement in pain intensity after a 12-week yoga program. Back pain is mainly associated with lousy posture, something which yoga helps improve. Moreover, different types of yoga posture keep your back muscles engaged and relieve pain due to better muscle endurance and flexibility.
5. Helps with flexibility and balance
Yoga serves as an excellent way to increase flexibility in the body. Since many yoga postures involve stretching and balancing, it is an effective way of improving both. People suffering from a limited range of motion can experience incredible flexibility improvement after 15 minutes of yoga practice every day. Flexibility is essential for your body to function efficiently. Fortunately, yoga is an optimal way to flex your muscles and improve their flexibility through stretching. Even though research in this area is still limited, a few controlled trials suggest that yoga increases flexibility and improves balance. According to a study in 2016, male college athletes who took ten weeks of bi-weekly yoga sessions improved balance and flexibility compared to those who didn’t.
6. Offers cardiovascular benefits
Some yoga postures help lower your heart rate and relax your body, while others stimulate blood circulation. While yoga cannot be considered a cardio workout, many studies support the positive effects of yoga on cardiovascular risk factors. One study shows that patients with coronary artery disease and those with healthy hearts both had an improved lipid profile because of practicing yoga. It is likely that it helps lower blood pressure and helps the body maintain moderation in blood pressure.
According to the American College of Cardiology study, participants experienced reductions in cholesterol levels, BMI, and blood pressure with the help of aerobic exercise and yoga practice. It proves that yoga contributes to a decrease in heart diseases, improves circulatory health, and helps people manage high blood pressure.
7. Reduces inflammation
Inflammation refers to a process in which your body’s immune system fights against disease, injury, toxins, and infections to heal itself. Acute inflammation is a good thing as it is part of our normal immune response. However, many people suffer from harmful inflammation, where a person’s inflammatory response can go in overdrive when experiencing stress. That is where meditative and mind-body exercises like yoga help reduce chronic inflammation.
A Frontiers in Human Neuroscience study found that practicing yoga helps reduce inflammation-based blood markers. Another randomized controlled trial study in 2014 about breast cancer survivors concluded that the subjects had lowered inflammatory chemicals after three months of yoga practice. For supporting the positive effects of yoga on reducing inflammation, one NCBI study observed the effects of regular yoga practice of 200 participants, among which some did not. The yoga group showed lower inflammation levels after a round of moderate exercise compared to those who didn’t.
Many health experts hail yoga as an effective way of maintaining a healthy body and mind. Undeniably, there is sufficient scientific evidence to back the benefits of practicing yoga every day. Apart from inducing peace of mind and reducing stress, multiple studies have confirmed that yoga has many physical benefits. These include improving heart health, reducing inflammation, managing weight loss, reducing depression and anxiety, easing arthritis symptoms, improving breathing, increasing flexibility, and more. Therefore, it’s about time you began indulging in a rigorous yoga regimen.