Need a workout and some stress relief?
Well, have you tried yoga?
Many studies have been conducted about the health benefits of yoga, and it’s official: yoga is great for you!
From reduced stress to improved fitness levels, learn why you should grab a mat and reap the benefits of yoga.
Why You Should Try Yoga
1. You’ll stress less
Many different research studies have been conducted to determine the effects that yoga has on stress. According to a recent study, a group of middle aged woman who went to one single 90 minute Hatha yoga session showed significantly lower levels of stress in comparison to those who didn’t.
Related Article: 10 Ways To Reduce Stress
Another study conducted at the University of Southern Mississippi took 81 undergraduate students with mild depression, anxiety or stress and had them participate in yoga. After one yoga session, participants demonstrated decreased levels of both depression and anxiety.
2. You’ll be more flexible
If you can run a marathon but have trouble touching your toes, you’re not alone. Many people forget to work on their flexibility during exercise. This is where yoga can help – the poses require you to hold a stretch and push outside your comfort zone, which can increase flexibility.
Related Article: 5 Running Tips For Beginners
3. Your posture will improve
Spending the day hunched over a computer, in a cubical, or driving your car can contract your spine and kill your posture. One of the most underrated benefits of yoga is that it helps counteract this by increasing your body awareness and reducing your tendency to slouch.
Related Article: 5 Ways To Have Good Posture
4. Your core will get strong
Most of the standing and sitting positions focus on core strength because the deep abdominals are used when holding yoga positions. One of yoga’s main focuses is to build a strong core so that the spine is held up by the center of the body and not by the neck and shoulders.
When held by the neck and shoulders, the spine is stressed and often leads to tension in the neck and upper back; breath gets stuck up in the chest, which in turn taxes the nervous system.
5. You’ll have a stronger heart
The best way to make your heart stronger is to give it a workout through cardiovascular exercise. One study shows that yoga increases the cardiovascular output and heart rate significantly, thereby strengthening your most important muscle.
Related Article: How To Prevent Heart Disease In 3 Steps
6. You’ll be able to breathe easier
Most yoga exercises involve forms of deep controlled breathing, which can increase your lung capacity and even help with certain forms of asthma.
7. You’ll be able to sleep better
30-50% of America’s population has trouble sleeping, and about 10% have chronic insomnia. Luckily, research proves that yoga is an effective treatment for people with insomnia, without any negative side effects…which we can’t say about most prescription or over-the-counter sleep medications.
Related Article: How To Sleep Better In 4 Steps
8. You’ll have a stronger immune system
Did you know that yoga breathing actually boosts the immune system? Sudarshan Kriya Yoga has proven health benefits for a wide range of clinical conditions, through manipulated breathing tactics.
9. You’ll have lower blood pressure
If you suffer from hypertension (high blood pressure) yoga is a fun and natural way to improve it. Studies show that people with high blood-pressure who practice yoga have a reduced heart rate, respiratory rate, and lower blood pressure.
Risks Of Yoga
Much like any other physical activity, yoga comes with risks. If you are normally stuck at a desk all day and are not used to stretching, make sure you don’t get too intense in your first class.
You should also learn from a yoga professional if you’re just starting out.
And remember: the practice of yoga is not a bending competition between you and the yogi next to you. Many people get hurt trying to compete with other ultra-flexible class participants.
If you have back, neck, shoulder or wrist issues make sure to let your teacher know before the class. People who have carpal tunnel syndrome often exacerbate it with a lot of upward-dog/downward-dog positions, so make sure you learn how to do the modifications correctly.
Ask your doctor about yoga if:
- You are pregnant
- Have high or low blood pressure
- Have spinal problems
- Severe osteoporosis
- Ear problems
Yoga can help you reduce stress, improve your fitness and boost overall health. So pick up your mat and unite your mind, body, and spirit! Namaste!
This article was reviewed and approved by Dr. Kathy Gruver
Originally published in 2013 and updated in 2014.