Yoga is a 5,000-year-old form of mind-body integration that comes to us from India. This discipline has stood the test of time because it is a wonderful kind of physical activity with a wide variety of styles that can be used to promote strengthening, flexibility, relaxation, mindfulness, and more.
Join in the celebration on June 21 of the International Day of Yoga, which is designated by the United Nations and has hundreds of countries taking part. If you are new to yoga, this is a great chance to learn more and give it a try. If you are an experienced practitioner of yoga, it is a good excuse to broaden your horizons and try some new forms of the discipline.
Yoga offers many health benefits, both mental and physical. Check out five of our top reasons for everyone to add a little more yoga to their lives.
1 Builds Up Your Bones
Many yoga poses are weight-bearing exercises, which means your muscles are working harder against gravity to hold you in position. This not only makes the muscles stronger, but it also strengthens your bones and helps prevent loss of bone density. Therefore, yoga can provide some protection from osteoporosis, a condition characterized by weakened bones that often results in pain and fractures. To that end, yoga also helps correct posture problems that result in muscle pain and a stooped appearance.
2 Improves Coordination
Yoga makes you more flexible and increases self-awareness of your body and its movements. It can help you develop faster reaction time, greater strength, and better balance, which is especially important in avoiding falls as we age. In fact, a 2012 study at Indiana University in Indianapolis found that practicing yoga significantly improved balance in people who had experienced a stroke more than six months earlier.1 Schmid, Arlene A.; et al. “Poststroke Balance Improves With Yoga.” Stroke. 27 August 2012. Accessed 13 June 2018. http://stroke.ahajournals.org/content/43/9/2402.
3 Guards Against Depression
Practicing yoga makes you feel good. Part of that is related to the endorphins your body produces when you exercise, and part is due to the relaxed, meditative state that you can achieve. And this combination of mind-body integration can boost your mood and better your mental health. A 2017 study at Boston University in Massachusetts showed that Iyengar yoga is an effective means of treating depression and reducing its symptoms.2 Streeter, CC; et al. “Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder with Iyengar Yoga and Coherent Breathing: A Randomized Controlled Dosing Study.” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 1 March 2017. Accessed 14 June 2018. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28296480. Iyengar is a form of yoga known for precise breath control and posture, offering stress relief and perhaps positively impacting brain chemistry.
4 Aids in Digestion
If you’ve overindulged at a meal and are feeling bloated a few hours later or have been experiencing constipation, yoga poses can remedy these issues and help prevent them in the future. A much better option than antacids and other pharmaceutical medications that might provide a little relief but typically come with side effects or health risks, yoga can naturally apply pressure to the abdomen to stimulate the digestive process. In fact, a 2015 study at the University of California, Los Angeles found that adults with irritable bowel syndrome experienced significantly fewer symptoms after a six-month yoga program.3 Shahabi, L.; et al. “Self-regulation evaluation of therapeutic yoga and walking for patients with irritable bowel syndrome: a pilot study.” Psychology, Health & Medicine. 18 June 2015. Accessed 14 June 2018. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26086986.
5 Brings Variety to Your Workout
Not only does practicing yoga give you another activity to switch things up from your typical walking, bike riding, weight training, and aerobics class routine, but yoga has a wide range of options within its own discipline. Feel like focusing more on strength? Take an Ashtanga yoga class. Want to push your body to the limit in stretching-oriented exercise session? Try Bikram yoga. In the mood for a very active workout that will get your heart rate up? Choose Vinyasa yoga instead. Want to combine all forms of yoga into one while focusing on mind control and conscious relaxation? Try Raja yoga.
Many forms of yoga exist, so do a little research to figure out which ones you might enjoy most. And each teacher has a different style as well, so if you don’t love a class, you might still want to give that form of yoga another try elsewhere.
|↑1||Schmid, Arlene A.; et al. “Poststroke Balance Improves With Yoga.” Stroke. 27 August 2012. Accessed 13 June 2018. http://stroke.ahajournals.org/content/43/9/2402.|
|↑2||Streeter, CC; et al. “Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder with Iyengar Yoga and Coherent Breathing: A Randomized Controlled Dosing Study.” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 1 March 2017. Accessed 14 June 2018. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28296480.|
|↑3||Shahabi, L.; et al. “Self-regulation evaluation of therapeutic yoga and walking for patients with irritable bowel syndrome: a pilot study.” Psychology, Health & Medicine. 18 June 2015. Accessed 14 June 2018. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26086986.|