The benefits of yoga are numerous
Yoga was developed as a holistic system for better living. Therefore, it makes every aspect of life work together in harmony. First, yoga is more than just physical. It’s how you breathe. How you move. Eat. Think. How you treat others. And how you treat yourself. Read on for a list of 40 benefits of yoga.
Practice is key to discovering the benefits of yoga
Those who practice already know. They’ve seen how yoga slowly transformed their lives for the better. Perhaps yoga started as exercise. They giggled when their teacher chanted om to start class. Moreover, they may have been annoyed when introduced to breathing exercises because it didn’t make them sweat. However, they eventually surrendered and let yoga into their lives because the results were obvious.
The science is in: the benefits of yoga confirmed
Many scientific studies back some of yoga’s claims. However, as amazing as science can be, you don’t have to wait for all the claims to be substantiated. Further, good science takes decades. Therefore, you should trust real world results for yourself. To sum it up, try yoga and see if it’s for you. As a result, yoga is low risk for huge gain.
Here are some of the benefits of yoga
1. Reduces stress
Yoga reduces stress. The mechanisms for achieving this are numerous. For example, the extreme focus on the body’s physical form in a specific posture. Then, syncing movement to deep, controlled breathes. Finally, closing the eyes, laying down, being present, and not needing to do anything all help lower tension.
When you learn the philosophy behind yoga the impact on stress reduction is even greater. For instance, yoga philosophy helps you put everything into proper perspective. Therefore, it’s almost impossible to feel stressed when you have the faith that we are light, silence, already perfect, and whole. In yoga even death is celebrated as it’s a return to the source.
For some, that’s too “woo woo”. That’s ok. If this is you, know that on a scientific level yoga works to lower cortisol, the stress hormone. The result? Less stress.
2. Improves Flexibility
Many are afraid to try yoga. They say “I’m not flexible”. Well, good news. Yoga improves flexibility.
First, there are many reasons why we lose flexibility. For example, age, illness, injury. “Use it or lose it” applies, too. If you’re not as flexible as you’d like don’t be afraid to try yoga. In conclusion, it just might help you touch your toes again.
3. Increases Strength
When practiced correctly yoga can strengthen every muscle in the body. However, you don’t need an expensive gym membership or fancy equipment. You may not even need a yoga mat once you’re well-practiced. All you really need is your body and a few feet of floor space. Voilá. To sum it up, yoga can tone your muscles.
4. Nourishes cartilage and joints
First, yoga moves your joints through their full range of motion. This prevents degenerative diseases, like arthritis. Next, working the joints also flushes then replenishes the liquid in your cartilage. New liquid means new nutrients and increased sustenance. Without working your joints and cartilage they eventually break down, causing your bones to rub against each other. Therefore, yoga nourishes cartilage and joints and keeps them functioning properly.
5. Protects the Spine
The spine is an incredible machine. For example, it supports the entire body, provides a stable base for the head, and moves forwards, backwards, leans sideways, and twists around.
Yoga strengthens and stretches the spine every which way. Therefore yoga protects the spine. In addition, when the spine is strong you stand taller, too.
6. Improves Posture
Certainly yoga strengthens the spine, makes you stand taller, and teaches proper body alignment. First, your head is held high. Next, your shoulders relax back and down. Then, your chest lifts up and out. Finally, your hips tuck slightly under. To sum it up, you learn perfect posture and eventually develop the muscles to hold yourself up properly, and with ease.
7. Increases Confidence
Consequently, with all the improvements mentioned above to your physique, posture, and stress levels, your confidence will soar.
8. Strengthens bones
Any exercise that requires you to bear weight strengthens bones. Yoga does just that. Also, it lowers cortisol, as mentioned before. This not only lowers stress but also keeps calcium in the bones. This is optimal.
9. Increases blood flow
Yoga moves the body through a series of postures, all ranges of motion, and even upside down. As a result, these movements send oxygenated blood to every muscle, organ, and tissue.
10. Boosts immunity
During your practice the lymph nodes are drained. Consequently, this sends fresh immune cells throughout the body. Moreover, by bringing awareness inside the body you’re promoting healing wherever it’s needed.
Benefits of yoga: 11 – 20
11. Improves heart rate
Physical exercise increases heart rate. Therefore, sustaining a yoga routine over time will strengthen the heart. Further exertion will not cause the heart rate to increase as dramatically. In the end, when you’re at rest, the heart will not need to beat as hard or fast to pump blood.
12. Reduces high blood pressure
Studies show yoga reduces high blood pressure. Even those who simply laid down and focused on their breathe saw benefits. This is known as savasana, or corpse pose. Finally, most yoga classes end with this final pose for 5-10 minutes.
13. Reduces heart disease
To sum it up, the improvements to heart rate and blood pressure mentioned above lead to a reduction in heart disease.
14. Improves depression
Many are discovering yoga as a cost-effective way to manage depression symptoms. Consequently, therapy and prescription medication are expensive. Therefore, yoga is very low cost and as effective, if not more.
15. Promotes healthier lifestyle
There are after-effects when practicing yoga. You’ll remember how good you felt when you stood taller and breathed slower. This mindfulness extends to everything else you do in the day. For example, how you eat, think, treat others, and treat yourself.
16. Lowers blood sugar
Especially important for type-II diabetics, yoga can be a tool to manage blood sugar. Not only does yoga lower blood sugar, it also increases sensitivity to insulin.
17. Enhances focus
Meditation – a part of the holistic system of yoga – greatly enhances your ability to focus. Above all, that’s what meditation is: single-minded attentiveness. By continually observing your thoughts and steering them towards a primary objective (the breathe, for example) you’re training the brain to focus.
18. Improves balance
As we age our balance nosedives. Consequently, this leads to falls and injury, or worse. Yoga tests our balance. In conclusion, yoga improves stability over time, or keeps it from dropping further.
19. Reduces back pain
Back pain can be caused by many factors. For example, weakness, instability, muscle imbalance, nerve issues, injury – the list goes on. Consequently, yoga can help resolve back pain by improving the factors that cause it. A recent study shows yoga is just as effective at managing back pain as standard physical therapy.
20. Illuminates skin
During vigorous yoga workouts you’ll sweat. First, sweat not only cools the body, but also unblocks pores and drains impurities from the epidermis. The result is glowing, healthy skin.
Benefits of yoga: 21-30
21. Stimulates organs
Forward folds, extensions, and twists stimulate and massage internal organs. This is a very good thing because we often neglect our insides. Consequently, when massaged our organs are prompted to boost their immunity.
22. Controls nervous system
All parts of the nervous system are positively impacted by a yoga practice. Over time, advanced yogis are able to control their nervous system to impact specific parts of the body. Some can increase blood flow to just one body part, change their heart beat, or generate specific brain-wave patterns.
23. Releases tension
In yoga, you’re trained to release the tension in your body. Eventually you’ll learn to release the tension in your mind, as well. You can try it now. Relax your face. Dissolve any tension in your jaw. Relax your shoulders and your chest. Now stay absorbed in the present moment. Ah, that’s better.
24. Deepens sleep
The combination of physical exertion, mindfulness, and breath control does wonders. Firstly, it lowers stress. Next, it improves the nervous system. In short, this leads to deeper, better sleep.
25. Improves breathing
Long, deep, mindful breaths. Filling your lungs to capacity. Then, a slow exhale letting out all the stale air. That is to say, people who do yoga breathe better.
Breathe through the nose, always. First, the nostrils cleanse the air. Next, air is set to the right temperature. Finally, our nasal canal modifies the humidity optimally for the lungs. Breathing through the nostrils controls and slows the rate of inhalation and exhalation, as well.
Consequently, the impact of this mindful breathing is a relaxed nervous system and more lung capacity.
26. Prevents digestive problems
Yogis tend to eat better. Yoga teaches you about proper diet. It’s part of the lifestyle. For example, it’s a diet that’s friendlier for you, animals, and the planet.
This way of eating leads to less digestive problems. For instance, irritable bowel, constipation, diarrhea, stomach pain, and excess gas are eliminated when physical yoga and the yogic diet are practiced regularly.
A yogic diet prioritizes fresh fruits, vegetables, and grains. Some animal products are allowed though they should cause as little harm as possible. In today’s world that’s very difficult to achieve. Before, it was easier to find cruelty-free milk, butter, yogurt, and honey.
Don’t stress out trying to find totally cruelty free food, or giving up everything you love right away. If changing your diet is too difficult you’ll give up. Just do the best you can. Most importantly, start by making small changes. After that, this will lead to big changes.
27. Provides peace of mind
There’s a comfort and certainty about life when you’re a yogi. You know you are exactly where you should be at every moment. You can navigate the ups and downs of life by staying unattached – in the middle. Observing. Not judging. Just being.
28. Eases pain
Physical and emotional pain is a response. It’s a warning. It’s a sign that something is not right. However, yoga forces presence. It requires you to tap into that pain at the root. To look at it. To really look at it.
We tend to ignore pain. Because we don’t want to deal with it. However, pain only disappears when we confront our fear in a non-judgmental way and work through it.
29. Instills courage
Courage is doing something you’ve never done before. Or, looking at the world differently. However, yoga encourages courage. For example, headstand pose. By balancing on the tip of your head, upside down, you turn your world upside down. Therefore, headstand is the embodiment of courage in one pose.
30. Reduces reliance on prescriptions
With all its physical and mental health benefits yogis often reduce or eliminate the need for prescriptions. For example, diabetics may get their blood sugar under control with asana (physical yoga practice). Then, anxious people can lower stress with pranayama (breathing techniques). Finally, those suffering from depression often find solace in meditation. In conclusion, yoga is being prescribed more and more in Western medicine as an alternative because it works.
Benefits of yoga: 31-40
31. Improves relationships
Yoga teaches empathy, non-judgment, and truth. These are a solid foundation for healthy relationships.
32. Enhances sex
The root word of yoga means union. Connection to the source. The infinite. Moreover, this connection can be expanded to include all beings, including a lover or partner.
33. Clears sinuses
Certain poses naturally drain sinus cavities. For example, breathing exercises can assist sinus clearing. Yoga also includes activities for cleansing the body. One such action is using a neti pot. By pouring water through the nasal passages you sweep debris and mucus.
34. Provides energy
Physical exercise is often viewed as draining. However, yoga can be energy-boosting. Those who do yoga regularly condition the body to handle more activity. To sum it up, yoga creates more energy.
35. Enhances intuition
There’s the head, the heart, and the gut. Each one is speaking to you. Maybe you can’t hear them. Maybe you aren’t listening. However, yoga teaches you how to listen to what your head, heart, and gut are saying. Don’t ignore them. Do yoga. After that, tap into your intuition.
36. Slows pulse
When you exercise and breath like a yogi your pulse naturally slows. First, your lungs process air more efficiently. Then, the body gets fine-tuned. Finally, the mind is calmed.
37. Enhances cardiovascular endurance
Your heart pumps better, too. The blood that’s pumping is richer, more oxygenated.
39. Reduces anger
As you delve deeper into yoga you realize it has an effect on the mind as well as the body. Yoga teaches about the concept of karma. For every action there is a reaction.
Yoga also teaches that we are not always in control of every action. We cannot control other people. We cannot always influence nature or physics, either. But we can control our reactions. A yogi keeps anger in check by breathing deeply through it.
Yogis realize they can break the karmic cycle of action-reaction by simply not reacting. Some struggle with this. That’s normal. That’s the ego. Your sense of self.
First, let let go of anger by letting go of ego. Then, understand that when someone wrongs you, it’s not really you they are hurting. Finally, realize they are wronging themselves.
As a result, this yogic understanding of the nature of anger can help you cope with negative circumstances as they occur.
40. Improves intelligence
Much like how yoga helps you focus, it also improves intelligence. When you practice yoga you learn to live in the present. This mindfulness changes the structure of the brain. Your thinking becomes clearer, quicker, and memory is improved.
There are many benefits to yoga. Western science is catching up to what is already known in the East. That yoga is good for you.
What other benefits are there? How has yoga helped you specifically? Reply in the comments below and join the community discussion.
How can you best achieve the benefits of yoga?
To best achieve the benefits of yoga you should consider attending an in-person yoga teacher training. Shanti Yoga School offers Yoga Alliance International Certified teacher trainings. Learn yoga. Better yourself. And teach yoga around the world. Learn more here.