Benefits of Yoga

The health benefits of yoga are numerous and well-documented, but some people remain skeptical. It reduces pain and inflammation, increases circulation, boosts metabolism and weight loss. 

What is Yoga?

Triangle Pose

Yoga is an ancient form of exercise that uses a series of physical poses and breathing patterns to create mind/body awareness, and physical health. The first written treatise is 2,000 years old, but the practice is actually probably closer to 5,000 years old. 

There are several "branches" of yoga. On this site, we deal almost exclusively with Hatha yoga, the physical and mental branch. It involves asana (integration of mind and body through physical activity) and pranayama (regulation of breath leading to integration of mind and body). There is a whole philosophy, lifestyle, and religion involved in the other branches, but they're out of the scope of this website (and the knowledge of the authors). You can read more here if you want.

Health Benefits of Yoga

There are scientific studies on the benefits of yoga. Specifically, in healing such conditions as anxiety, depression, asthma, arthritis, bipolarity, bad balance, cardiovascular disease, insomnia, fatigue, chronic neck and back pain, menopausal symptoms, and migraines. I hate to include pregnancy as a "condition" but prenatal yoga (yoga for pregnancy) is also scientifically proven to be effective in preparing the body for birth and reducing stress and labor pain.

*Please don't take this as a suggestion to replace actual medical care with yoga. Exercise can help ease symptoms, but there is always a root cause for symptoms. If you need medical care, please see a doctor.

A regular yoga practice increases flexibility.

Flexibility

Yoga poses are designed to increase flexibility. This is a benefit  in and of itself, but once the tightness leaves your muscles, aches and pains melt away as well. Tight hamstrings can cause back pain, tight shoulder muscles can cause headaches, etc. Releasing the muscle tension will inevitably relieve other pain as well. 

Strength

There is a whole new branch of yoga dedicated specifically towards bridging strength training and yoga. It's called ClubBell Yoga. It utilizes weights shaped like short baseball bats that are used as counterweights and for strengthening.

As well as flexibility, yoga uses body weight exercises to increase strength. Strong muscles do more than help you lift heavy things.  Having strong and flexible muscles greatly reduces your chance of injury, no matter your age. It can correct your posture, decrease your risk of falling, or help protect your body in the event of injury. 

Deep Breathing

The deep breathing in yoga has several benefits: it increases lung capacity, increases oxygen saturation in the blood, and promotes relaxation. It decreases heart rate and blood pressure. It reduces cortisol levels, which are linked to binge eating and major depression. High cortisol levels are present in high stress situations, and if they remain high, can cause numerous health issues.

Dancer's Pose

Exercise

One of the benefits of yoga is simply that it's a form of exercise. This one is a given, but exercise is beneficial for weight loss, blood circulation, and depression. It also corrects your posture. See the benefits of exercise page for more on that.

Immune Boosting

One benefit that you might not expect is the immune-boosting. Lymph fluid flows through ducts throughout the body when muscles flex against them. Yoga stretches moves lymph fluid, which carries antibodies and white blood cells.  (I found a video that explains this further, because I think it's so interesting.)

Joint Mobility

Your joints are filled with fluid that allows the joint to move smoothly. When the joints aren't moved regularly, they become stiff and painful. Yoga increases joint mobility, which reduces painful inflammation and risk of arthritis. 

Meditation

Mental Clarity

Yoga encourages mental focus and clarity. It gives a healthy, physical outlet for stress, and improves memory.


Sources:

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