What are the health benefits of yoga poses?

Yoga has been linked with numerous health benefits, such as improved strength and balance, improved sleep, pain and stress relief, brighter mood and improved cardiovascular health.

Women practicing yoga

Yet, yoga has had its fair share of myths and misconceptions. In some parts of the world, it is disregarded and seen as an irrelevant activity practised by young people. However, one thing that cannot be swept under the carpet is that people that do yoga love what they do, and it benefits their health in many ways!

Yoga is one exercise that helps improve a person’s confidence. This is because this practice encourages people to look inwards into their minds and not outwards. Yoga enables you to focus your attention on your body’s abilities right at that moment. The result is that you become more aware of your body and get satisfied with it. 

In this article, we will talk about yoga and explore some of the fantastic benefits of yoga to health.

What is yoga?

Yoga is an ancient practice that comes from Asia. It is rooted in Indian philosophy. It first started as a spiritual practice even though there now exists classical yoga as practised in the United States. 

Classical yoga incorporates elements that promote physical and mental wellbeing through emphasising meditations (Dyana), breathing techniques (Pranayama) and physical postures (Asanas).

Yoga is similar to the Chinese practices - qi gong and tai chi that have both meditative and physical elements. 

Poses are the building blocks of yoga, and there are 10 poses for a complete yoga workout. The poses include: child pose, downward-facing dog, four-limbed staff pose, plank pose, tree pose, cobra pose, triangle pose, bridge pose, seated half-spinal twist pose, and corpse pose.

What health benefits does yoga have?

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One of the best things about yoga is that you don’t need to be a yogi or a yogini to benefit from this practice. 

Everyone, irrespective of age, sex or background, has the power to relax and empower their mind and strengthen their body. Yoga is for you if you want to harness those abilities. 

Below are some health benefits of yoga.

Increased flexibility

Can you bend at your hips while standing and touch your toes with your legs straight? Try it and see if you can touch your toes. Many people will be unable to do that because their body is not flexible enough. 

The good thing is that flexibility can be acquired. All you need is to practise different poses, and eventually, your body will start adjusting and getting used to them. Improve your chances of doing different movements with your body by practising yoga. 

Constant yoga practice allows you to stretch your body to limits you never imagined before you started yoga.

Improved balance

Just as it is with flexibility, yoga can help improve your balance and posture. With yoga, you move and hold different postures, which allows the body to maintain the right balance over time. 

A study review published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine shows the correlation between constant yoga practice and improved balance.

However, in order to reap this benefit, you have to practise yoga consistently. The longer you keep doing yoga, the better your balance gets. 

Better sleep

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When you have tried other ways to induce sleep, such as taking tea, melatonin pills and using soothing sound machines, and they seem not to work, you may want to try yoga.

Many studies, including a recent one by John Hopkins, found that blind patients who participated in an eight-week yoga program experienced better sleep.

The best yoga poses to try for sleep include the lying butterfly pose, legs up the wall and corpse pose. 

Improves heart health 

Aside from the great feeling you have after doing yoga, yoga positively affects your heart. This is one of the amazing health benefits of yoga.

Just like the exercise you do when you go to the gym, yoga can help reduce inflammation and stress levels in the body.

A study published in the Indian Heart Journal sees yoga as the primary prevention for cardiovascular diseases.6 The study found that mindfulness-based reduction practises such as yoga can positively affect health (particularly cardiac health) in populations prone to significant mental stress. 

Cardiovascular diseases include several diseases that affect the heart and blood vessels.

According to CDC, one person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from Cardiovascular disease.1 This is more reason why yoga should be encouraged among young and older adults.

Enhances fitness and body weight

Many people think that yoga targets only the mind. On the contrary, it targets the body as well. It can significantly impact your exercise capabilities by increasing muscle strength, flexibility, endurance, and cardio-respiratory fitness.

People who do yoga also tend to be mindful eaters. Being a mindful eater means you are conscious of what you eat (so you don't eat what your body doesn't need), and you are sensitive to feelings of fullness and hunger cues. 

When you practise yoga, you become more aware of how your body feels, even during mealtimes, which can help keep your weight in check and enhance your fitness.

Improves mental health

Yoga may just be the best thing your mental health needs. This is because it helps you develop your inner awareness and strengthens your mind and body. And these are exactly what your mental health needs to thrive.

Yoga can help alleviate stress which affects mental health negatively. Chronic stress can wreak deadly havoc on your mental health. However, yoga can help by reducing stress levels, regulating heart rate and managing other symptoms of stress.

Yoga can also help you deal with anxiety, one of the most common mental issues people suffer from. While anxiety is treatable, not many people agree to seek treatment because of the stigma surrounding mental health conditions. 

It is best always to seek the help of a healthcare professional. But, just in case you are looking for a home remedy, yoga can help. A 2018 study published on Depression and Anxiety indicates that yoga is one way to help treat your anxiety.

Supports the immune system and relieves chronic pain

Practising yoga can help the body's immune system by boosting the body's natural response to illnesses. One way it does this is by reducing stress.

Stress is a psychophysiological process that involves the body's response to psychological or physical stress. 

A study was carried out to find out if yoga positively impacts the health effects of stress on the immune system. It turned out that yoga resists the impairment of cellular immunity induced during examination stress.

Many people are living with chronic pain. But what many don't know is that yoga can help treat chronic pain or manage its symptoms. 

If you are experiencing menopause pain, menstrual pain, pain in the lower back and neck, or arthritic pain, yoga can help relieve the symptoms. Yoga International suggested that you do restorative yoga to help you go past your most challenging days.

References

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heart disease facts. (2022). 
  2. Cramer, Holger et al. Yoga for anxiety: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. (2018).
  3. Jeter, Pamela E et al. “A systematic review of yoga for balance in a healthy population.” Journal of alternative and complementary medicine. (2014).
  4. John Hopkins Medicine. Yoga for sleep. (n.d.).
  5. Gopal, A. et al. Effects of integrated yoga practices on immune responses in examination stress - A preliminary study. (2011).
  6. Manchanda, S.C. Yoga - a promising technique to control cadiovascular disease. (2014).
  7. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Yoga: What you need to know. (n.d.)
  8. The New York Times. Yoga for everyone. (n.d.).
  9. Yoga International. Restorative yoga for Chronic pain. (n.d.).