Ever wondered what yoga does apart from making you touch your toes? Besides spiritual learning, modern science has also accepted the magical health benefits of yoga in the modern era. Yoga – derived from the Sanskrit word Yuj meaning ‘union’ is an ancient practice that is highly restorative and therapeutic for your body. It is rooted in the sacred land of India. It began as a spiritual practice in the beginning, but today, it is widely known for promoting mental and physical well-being.
Here are ten health benefits of yoga supported by science in the modern era:
1. Natural stress buster
Stress exhibits itself in many ways including physically, emotionally, and mentally but thank goodness yoga can ease us from stress and enhance relaxation.
A study has shown that the regular practice of yoga can eliminate the secretion of cortisol – the primary stress hormone. The study was conducted on 24 emotionally distressed women. They were sent to a 3 month long yoga program. It was observed that after 3 months their cortisol levels dropped significantly. They also had a lower level of anxiety, stress, depression, and fatigue.
Yoga is highly beneficial in improving the quality of mental health and life. When you practice alone or along with other methods like meditation, it can be a helpful way to keep stress in check. It helps in the secretion of endorphins known as a natural stress and pain fighter. This hormone acts as a drug called codeine and morphine to help you feel relaxed.
2. Get rid of anxiety
Anxiety attacks are described as immediately escalating and unbearable. You can have anxiety attacks whenever you feel stressed with an unfamiliar environment. Additionally, you can feel anxious because of mental and physical issues also. Anxiety attacks are characterized by shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, muscle spasms, shaking, fatigue, and weakness.
Yoga is known as the best way to cope with the feeling of anxiety. It is interesting to know that research proves that yoga helps in reducing anxiety. It is not completely clear how yoga cures anxiety, however, yoga highlights the necessity of being present in the moment, finding a sense of peace, and helps in treating anxiety.
3. Reduced inflammation
The regular practice of yoga improves mental health and cures chronic inflammation. Inflammation is a general immune response, but severe inflammation can add to the development of pro-inflammatory diseases like diabetes, cancer, and heart diseases.
A study was done on 218 participants by dividing them into two groups. Both groups participated in strenuous and moderate exercises for inducing stress. The group who practiced yoga had a lower level of inflammatory elements than those who didn’t. Yoga helps protect you from certain diseases caused by inflammation. The advantageous effects of yoga on inflammation are still needed to be confirmed.
“Yoga begins with listening. When we listen, we are giving space to what is.” – Richard Freeman
4. Improved heart health
The health of our heart is crucial for maintaining normal functions like supplying tissues with necessary nutrients and pumping blood regularly to all the organs. Studies prove that practicing yoga regularly improves heart health and lowers the risk of heart diseases.
A study was done on people aged over 40 years. They practiced yoga for 5 years. Results showed that they had a lower pulse rate and blood pressure than those who didn’t practice yoga. Many types of research also state that having a healthy lifestyle with yoga slows down the progression of heart diseases.
5. Quality of life
Yoga has become a general adjunct therapy for improving the quality of life for numerous individuals. A study was performed on 135 seniors. It showed that practicing yoga improves their quality of life and mood. Yoga also helps in reducing the symptoms of cancer and the effects of chemotherapy, such as vomiting and nausea.
Another study states that yoga improves the quality of sleep, improves social functions, enhances spiritual well-being, and reduces the symptoms of depression and anxiety in cancer patients.
6. Yoga fights with depression
Yoga has antidepressant effects and helps in reducing the level of cortisol – a stress hormone that influences the level of serotonin – the neurotransmitter, which is often associated with depression.
During the study, participants (in an alcohol dependency program) were told to focus on yoga and rhythmic breathing. After two weeks, participants had a lower level of cortisol and symptoms of depression. Another study also proved the same. Acquired results showed that yoga helps in fighting with depression alone or with the help of traditional methods.
7. Reduces chronic pain
Chronic pain can be a result of many severe causes from arthritis to injuries. Research has demonstrated that the regular practice of yoga reduces numerous types of chronic pain. In a study, 42 people suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome did yoga for eight weeks or received a wrist splint. People who practiced yoga had positive results by improving their grip strength and experiencing less pain than those who received a wrist splint. Another study states that yoga helps in decreasing pain and improves the physical function of people suffering from osteoarthritis of knees.
“Yoga is a dance between control and surrender — between pushing and letting go — and when to push and when to let go becomes part of the creative process, part of the open-ended exploration of your being.” – Joel Kramer
8. Cures insomnia
Poor sleep quality is associated with high blood pressure, depression, and obesity, amongst other disorders. Studies show that incorporating yoga into your life helps in promoting better sleep.
In a study, 69 elderly patients were assigned three different programs – practice yoga, be a part of the control group, or take herbal preparation. The group who were assigned to do yoga fell asleep quickly and slept for a long time, and were well-rested in the morning.
Another study was performed on the patients of lymphoma. The regular practice of yoga decreased sleep disturbance, while improving the duration and quality of sleep. Yoga increases the secretion of melatonin – a hormone that regulates wakefulness and sleep. Yoga has notable effects on the causes of sleep issues such as anxiety, chronic pain, stress, and depression.
9. Promotes flexibility and balance
Numerous people incorporate yoga into fitness routines for improving balance and flexibility. It’s well known that practicing yoga regularly improves your balance and flexibility. A study was performed on 66 older people. They were assigned to 2 different groups. One group was told to practice yoga and the other one was told to practice calisthenics. After one year, the flexibility of the yoga group increased 4 times as compared to the calisthenics group.
According to a study in 2013, yoga can improve mobility and balance in older adults. Daily practice of yoga for just 15 to 30 minutes can make a big difference. It can enhance performance by improving balance and flexibility.
10. Invigorates the nervous system
It is crucial to have a strong nervous system that reacts to stress and relaxes in the absence of stressors. Unfortunately, numerous people fail to react in the absence of stressors. People who are often overstressed are prone to stroke and heart diseases.
Stressed people also adopt unhealthy behaviors, such as overeating, physical inactivity, and smoking. A study shows that yoga and meditation help in keeping our body relaxed, calm, and working. It also reduces the chances of engaging in bad behaviors, which can affect your health. It reduces blood pressure and allows the body to be active. It also strengthens the nervous system.