Derived from an ancient word “yuji” (meaning union or yoke), yoga binds the body and mind, incorporating meditation poses and breathing exercises to help you achieve this task. With over five thousand years of practice behind it, many hardcore yoga practitioners are entirely sold out on its ability to increase your body’s mental and physical resilience and well-being. The ability to twist your body into pretzel shapes can be reason enough to learn yoga, but science has proved that there are benefits of yoga that could be highly beneficial to you. Below are some of these remarkable benefits.
1. Reduces the effects of stress and anxiety
Yoga isn’t only known for its physical benefits to the body, but also for its ability to foster inner peace. Just like most other forms of physical exercise, studies show that yoga can decrease cortisol secretion in the body. Cortisol is the body’s primary stress hormone, and a decrease is highly beneficial. If you’re feeling stressed, try doing yoga to get a grip on any stress and anxiety running your life.
Research also shows that continuous practice of yoga has been found to improve depression. Yoga reduces the levels of monoamine oxidase and cortisol in the body while elevating the levels of serotonin, which is your primary happiness and sleep hormone. Better sleep equals better health and more happiness, and this gives better outcomes for those suffering from schizophrenia, depression, and other psychiatric conditions.
To add the icing on this cake, practicing yoga in a group environment has also been shown to increase the levels of oxytocin, a hormone which helps humans bond and love.
2. Improves your flexibility
Yoga is well known for its potent abilities to enhance flexibility. Most yoga practitioners would’ve found it hard to touch their toes when starting out. With time though, head to knee forward bends become a daily routine.
Studies show that yoga loosens the inflexibility in your ligaments, fascia or connective tissue, and adequately aligns those tight hamstrings or hips causing annoying aches and pains to become a thing of the past. This is a particularly useful benefit for the elderly and athletes, as it significantly improves mobility and balance.
3. Boosts immunity
Your body’s immune response has an inflammatory effect that can activate due to stress. When this effect becomes chronic, it can contribute to the development of diseases such as cancer, diabetes, or heart disease. A study shows that the practice of yoga shows lowered levels of inflammatory markers, and a particular 2014 survey shows a specific decrease of inflammatory markers in breast cancer survivors suffering from extreme fatigue. This may mean that yoga may assist protect against diseases brought on by chronic inflammation.
4. Boosts your heart’s health
Yoga has been shown to improve the health of your heart by reducing some risk factors. A study consisting of nineteen heart failure patients shows that incorporating yoga into their daily routine significantly improved their heart health, reducing arterial plaque too.
High blood pressure is a precursor to a heart attack and stroke. Studies show that in elderly patients, a continuous practice of yoga has the benefit of the reduction of overall blood pressure and pulse rate. If a disease is already present, incorporating yoga into your daily life may help slow down its progression, combined with proper dietary management. For some very lucky patients, this combination can lead to a complete halt of heart disease!
5. Better sleep quality
Relaxing asanas and related postures can help improve blood circulation and increase the production of melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that dictates your body’s sleep and circadian rythm. This essentially means that you don’t just get a relaxing good night’s sleep, but it can also cause a significant reduction of conditions like chronic stress, anxiety, or depression, which are all exacerbated by insomnia. A study that compares some alternative and complementary medicine strategies that combat insomnia shows that yoga was more effective than most in aiding you to get proper sleep.