30 Health Benefits of Yoga
If you’ve been doing yoga classes for a while now, we don’t have to convince you of the benefits of yoga. You’ve already experienced them for yourself. You’ve seen for yourself how regular yoga practice can increase strength, lower levels of stress hormones, and improve your quality of life.
What you might not know, though, is why it works as well as it does. Yoga teachers have probably told you that it works by regulating the flow of prana, but what does that mean exactly? It’s true, of course, but to your average practitioner, it’s not exactly a scientific explanation.
Now, if you’ve never tried a yoga class or even any yoga poses, you have never experienced the benefits of yoga for yourself. For you, hearing about how it helps to improve your prana means even less. You want to know how it helps with staying healthy and improves your mental health.
That’s why we’ve created this article about the top 30 health benefits of yoga. We’re going to explain what the actual health benefits of regular yoga practice are in clear and straightforward terms. You’ll be surprised at the number of health-related topics that yoga covers.
Yoga alliance practitioners have been saying for years that it can even assist in fighting cancers, like breast cancer and prostate cancer.
We’re not going to be talking about prana or chakras or anything like that – we’re just going to focus on plain and simple information to start you off. Over time, naturally, you’ll want to learn more about the different types of yoga, and the potential spiritual benefits of practicing it.
For now, though, our aim is simple – we want to encourage you to get into the yoga studios or start an online learning program of yoga poses. Why? Because we’ve gained so much from practicing yoga ourselves.
We understand from personal experience how much you’ll benefit from regular yoga practice. We’ve experienced the complete transformation of mind and body that accompanies regular practice, and we believe that there is no better way to boost men’s health or women’s health than through yoga practice.
Simply put, no other type of exercise can contribute quite as much to a healthy lifestyle and reducing stress. There are many different postures to learn, and each will contribute to your overall health and fitness. Yoga provides a complete wellness solution.
Even Western medicine and medical schools now acknowledge that there are significant benefits to the practice. It’s not exactly breaking health news that yoga is good for you, but it is relatively new that Western medicine is starting to acknowledge the benefits.
Just One Word Before We Start
Yoga has a reputation as being a very gentle form of exercise. You’re not going to be bouncing around to the latest hit music, or performing flashy dance moves. However, don’t let that fool you. Yoga is an ancient practice that has been honed over millennia to test and tone the body and mind.
Depending on the type of yoga class that you join and power yogas you try, you could end up with a workout that is a lot more intense than any cardio routine you’re used to. The benefit with yoga, though, is that you can move at your own pace. Any form of physical activity is worthwhile over the long term.
As you progress, you can raise the intensity level of every class so that they become more challenging. It’s a whole-body workout that will help you feel calm and centered, and leave you in the best shape of your life.
Health Benefits of Yoga
1. Better Flexibility
This is one of the primary reasons to strike a yoga pose. Even if you can’t touch your toes right now, that should change quickly. The exercises are designed to smooth out and limber up your muscles and the connective tissues in your body.
As you get more practice, you’ll find that you are more easily able to move, and you will become more flexible. Our sedentary lifestyle tends to result in tight muscles, particularly in the hip area, which means tighter hamstrings and the misalignment of the tibias and thighs.
This, in turn, leads to bad posture and can result in chronic pain. Increased flexibility has an amazing effect on your overall health and wellness. You’ll find it easier to move, and you’ll experience less pain overall.
2. Builds Muscle Strength
There’s no question that strong muscles are essential for good health. Your muscles help to keep your skeletal structure in place and working as it should. If you want to stave off degenerative conditions like arthritis, you need to keep your muscles strong.
Here’s the thing, you don’t need to lift weights for increased strength. In fact, while there are definite advantages to weight training if you want to look like Vin Diesel, strength training can be counterproductive for most of us.
Lifting weights does build muscle, but it won’t do a thing to improve your flexibility. With yoga, you’ll build strength and improve your flexibility. Your body weight is all the resistance that you need to get started.
As you progress, you can always add weights into your practice, which helps to build muscle and improve bone density as well, a practice to help increase muscle and core strength can be Kettlebell yoga that both gives you muscle tone and gives you strength and flexibility.
3. You’ll Perfect Your Posture
Your mom was right – you need to stop slouching. Do a quick experiment. Get yourself a weight of around ten or eleven pounds. Carry it around all day holding it out in front of you. How far did you get? How easy was it to carry it around in front of you all day?
What’s that got to do with posture, you ask? Your head weighs around ten to eleven pounds. Now, unless you’re able to detach your head, you’re going to be carrying it around all day. Here’s the thing – the spine is designed to handle that weight, as long as you maintain the right posture.
Most of us don’t maintain the right posture, though. We hunch over our computer screen or bend over to read our phones, which has the same effect as holding a weight out in front of your body – you get tired fast.
That would be bad enough, but over time, the slumping affects the muscles. The curve of the spine starts to flatten out to compensate. It’s an unnatural position and one that leads directly to pain and possibly degenerative conditions like arthritis.
Yoga helps you to stretch those muscles back into the correct position.
4. Stops Your Cartilage from Degenerating
The exercises ensure that your joints move throughout their full range of motion. This motion helps to keep the cartilage more supple. Every time a joint is exercised, it squeezes the cartilage. This pushes all the fluid from the joint. The body then speeds new fluid and nutrients in to replace it.
So, every time you exercise a joint, your cartilage is getting a fresh supply of nutrients, which helps it stay spongy and prevents it from wearing out. You’ll also love how this helps with improving flexibility.
5. Your Spine is Protected
Your spine is mainly designed to absorb the shock of impact when you walk, as well as to keep you upright. The disks in between each vertebra need to have a steady supply of nutrients to stay healthy.
Spinal twists, backbends and forward bends all help to exercise the spine and keep the disks healthy and flexible.
If you have a degenerative condition like Multiple Sclerosis, this protection of the spine can help to alleviate pain. It cannot cure the disease, but it can delay the progress of degeneration.
6. Yoga Improves Bone Density
We’re told that we need to do weight-bearing exercise to strengthen our bones and improve bone density. With yoga, you are using your body weight as resistance, which is effectively a weight-bearing exercise.
So, every time you practice downward dog, for example, you are placing pressure on the bones of the arm, which helps to improve bone density.
Studies suggest that calcium in your bones is leeched out when you have a high level of cortisol in the blood. So, it follows that if you can reduce the levels of cortisol in the bloodstream, less calcium is leeched out. One of the benefits of yoga is that it reduces the levels of this stress hormone.
7. Better Circulation is a Huge Yoga Benefit
Do you battle with cold hands and feet? This is a symptom that your circulation is not quite as good as it should be. That’s where the asanas that you will learn can be extremely helpful. Remember what we said about Prana?
Prana refers to the body’s essential energy or life-force. There is nothing more life-giving in the body than your blood. The poses assist with circulation in two ways:
- The muscles are constricted and compressed and creating from asana a tourniquet effect, and this pushes blood around the body. Healthy blood flow is restored.
- Inverted poses use the force of gravity to move blood to different areas.
When you do a headstand, for example, the blood in the legs will naturally flow back to your heart.
Why is this important? Blood is pumped through the lungs to be oxygenated. The more effective your circulation is, the more oxygenated blood is circulated through your body. Oxygen is required by every cell in the body, so you’ll feel more energetic as a result. Exercise will also increase the levels of hemoglobin and will stimulate the production of red blood cells. Your body becomes even more effective at transporting oxygen.
8. Your Lymphatic System is Drained and Immunity Boosted
If there is one design flaw in the body, it might be in the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system has no pump that can help to move the lymph fluid around the body. Lymph fluid moves when the muscles contract and push against the vessels that carry it.
If you’re sedentary most of the time, the lymph flow becomes sluggish. This is bad news because the lymphatic system has an important function – to move toxins out of the body. The more sluggish the lymphatic system is, the longer the toxins and waste products are left in the body.
The lymphatic system is an essential part of your immune system. The best way to improve immunity, therefore, is to keep this system in tip-top shape.
9. It Gets Your Heart Pumping
This might sound a little strange to you. We don’t usually associate yoga with cardio, after all. But vigorous exercise of any kind will get your heart pumping. If you try Ashtanga, Hot yoga or any other styles of yoga that raise your heartbeat, you can achieve the same level of exertion that you would with a low-intensity cardio workout.
Even if you’re following a gentler set of exercises, though, you’re still increasing your heart rate. What’s more, over time, yoga helps to reduce your resting heart rate, which means that the heart doesn’t have to work as hard as it otherwise would at rest.
This is good for heart health and can help stave off heart disease. You’ll significantly lower your chances of having a heart attack or heart failure by practicing yoga.
What’s more, the breathing exercises that accompany the postures can further assist in aerobic conditioning.
10. Lower Blood Pressure
High blood pressure increases your chances of developing cardiovascular disease, which increases the chances of having a stroke or a heart attack. Yoga helps to reduce blood pressure in two ways:
- It relieves stress, which helps to lower high blood pressure.
- It helps to improve the circulation and lower cholesterol levels, which can help to prevent plaque building up in the veins and also keep the veins more supple. This reduces your blood pressure overall.
For more reading about yoga and lower blood pressure you can read Lifestyle modification and blood pressure study (LIMBS) that if systolic blood pressure drops by 2MM Hg it can lower the risk of dying from heart disease by 7 percent and reduce the risk of dying from a stroke by 10 percent.
11. Yoga Help to Regulate the Actions of the Adrenal Glands
Do you tend to put on weight around your gut? Or do you have a jelly belly? That’s usually a result of high levels of cortisol circulating in the bloodstream. Now, ironically, the hormone cortisol serves an important function.
It’s meant to help prime us for action when there’s danger. Back when we needed to fight or flight to avoid being dinner, this was a good thing. The problem is that the body doesn’t discriminate between actual physical danger and a perceived threat.
So, while you might not have to fight your way out of the boardroom, your body acts as though you do. Your cortisol levels go up. If you don’t work off that extra cortisol by exercising, it wreaks havoc in the bloodstream.
If it’s a one-off event, it’s not going to cause much harm. Over and over again, though, this hormone causes you to build up more fat in the abdomen, increase insulin resistance, increase blood pressure, and cause you to become more susceptible to stress and depression.
Regular exercise helps to reverse this cycle. With yoga, you get a double whammy of this cortisol-busting effect. Exercise helps you to use up the hormone in your body, and you'll feel more relaxed, so you'll produce less cortisol overall. That in return can result in weight loss.
12. May Improve Your Mood
Any exercise will help to improve your mood over time. Yoga, however, has been proven to increase the levels of serotonin in the bloodstream and decrease the levels of the enzyme that breaks neurotransmitters down.
Here, it’s a triple whammy effect. You have more serotonin, the “happy” hormone, being produced, and your body doesn’t need as much. Add to that the cortisol-busting effects and you’re on a real roll here.
13. You’ll Naturally Become Healthier
Exercise helps your body cope better with stress. When you’re stressed out, it’s harder to follow a healthy diet. Yoga helps by providing you with stress relief and the exercise that you need. It also helps you to get more in touch with your body.
You’ll be more aware of your body, and you’ll want to feed it healthy, nutritious food the result of eating healthy are more energy and sometimes weight loss.
14. Regulates Your Blood Sugar
Another adverse side effect of having too much cortisol in the bloodstream is that it lowers the body’s response to insulin. The result is that you need to produce more insulin to regulate blood sugar levels.
Yoga helps to regulate blood sugar by reducing cortisol levels and improving your body’s sensitivity to insulin. It also helps to reduce your weight, and lower the levels of bad cholesterol in the bloodstream. This, in turn, helps to reduce your risk of developing diabetes.
The practice itself will encourage you to practice better eating habits, and that can be helpful with weight loss management as well.
It is scientific fact that yoga and meditation will help reduce stress, thereby helping with diabetes control. Yoga asanas The various yoga asanas during a yoga practice help to improve the sensitivity of β-cells to glucose, thereby improving insulin secretion, and improve the blood flow to the muscle and muscle relaxation, thereby improving glucose uptake. Read more in study Therapeutic role in type 2 diabetes
15. Study Show Yoga Helps You to Focus
Yoga helps you to calm your mind, but it also helps you to control your thoughts. You have better control over runaway emotions, and you can concentrate better. You can, therefore, focus better on what is important to you. A study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign shows that just 20 minute of hatha yoga 3 times a week boosts brain function in older adults.
16. Relieves Stress and Help You to Relax
The one thing that all people taking classes can agree on is that breathing exercises help you to feel calmer. Yoga has a significant calming effect because it shifts your focus. It helps to engage the parasympathetic nervous system and this, in turns, triggers the relaxation response.
This is essential in having a better quality of life. Check any symptom checker or health AZ guide, and you’ll find that stress negatively affects your health in just about any case.
17. Yoga Improve Balance
Yoga helps you to develop a better sense of where your body is in space. This is known as proprioception. The body is naturally designed to understand balance well, but poor posture or lack of mobility can reduce our abilities in this area.
By developing a better sense of balance, you can improve your mobility overall, especially as you start getting older. Asana like the Tree pose significantly improves balance.
18. Yoga Helps Promote a Healthy Nervous System
Eventually, with enough practice, yogis can do extraordinary things with their bodies. They learn how to control aspects of their bodies that are usually automatically controlled by the nervous system. For instance, they can slow their breathing, change their heart rate, and even direct the flow of blood.
It takes years of practice to get to this level, but there are significant benefits to the nervous system when it comes to practicing yoga. You might not want to alter your heart rate, but what about inducing the relaxation response?
19. Relieves the Tension You are Holding in Your Body
Over time, repetitive actions, like clenching the phone between our shoulder and ears, or typing constantly can result in a lot of tension in the related muscles. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is one of the results of this kind of repetitive action.
Yoga will teach you how to relax all the muscles in your body. When these muscles relax, the tension in them is automatically released.
20. You’ll Sleep Better
We live lives that continually stimulate our brains. Whether we’re watching Netflix until three in the morning, or checking our messages on our phones, our brain hardly ever gets a chance to relax.
Yoga can help you learn to relax, and also give you some time free from stimulation, which makes it easier to fall asleep at night and encourages restful sleep.
If you battle to fall asleep, you can practice Yoga Nidra, which is a guided relaxation, or restorative yoga.
21. Improves Immune Function
Stress has a significant negative effect on our bodies. Cortisol production suppresses the immune system. By reducing your overall levels of this hormone, your immune system gets a boost.
22. Yoga Improves Lung Function
Breathing exercises teach you to take longer, deeper breaths, which is more efficient for your body and is also calming. It’s incredibly beneficial to your well-being because it improves the oxygen saturation levels in the bloodstream.
You’ll also learn to breathe through your nose. This is important because the nose helps to filter the particles out of the air and helps to warm it. If you have asthma, this could help to reduce the number of asthma attacks you have overall.
23. Yoga Helps Your Digestive Tract
Our typical diet, combined with stress, is bad news for the gut. Exercise helps to increase the speed at which food moves along the digestive tract. So, yoga can help to prevent constipation and move waste through the intestines.
The stress-relieving benefits of yoga can also assist in reducing digestive upsets. IBS, ulcers, and so on are all made worse by stress.
24. Helps You Achieve Peace of Mind
Yoga is as much a mental practice as it is a physical one. You’ll learn to quiet racing thoughts and feel more at peace, which can help reduce the severity of physical conditions that are exacerbated by stress.
25. Helps Improve Your Self-Esteem
We’re constantly bombarded by media telling us how we should look, what we should buy, and how hard we should work. If you don’t have it all, buy the latest gadgets, or look like a model, you’re supposedly a failure.
Intellectually, we know it’s not true, but it’s hard to dodge those subconscious doubts that keep bubbling to the surface. We end up working too hard to buy things that we don’t need and put too much pressure on ourselves to look perfect.
It’s a recipe for disaster, and it’s not making any of us happier or more fulfilled. Yoga cannot completely turn that around, but it does help you feel better and healthier. The philosophy behind this practice is that we need to look inside for fulfillment and that we all have a place in the universe, which can help you to reevaluate things from a more balanced perspective and see the negative messages for what they are. Your self-esteem can only improve as a result.
26. Provides Real Pain Relief
If you’ve been battling with chronic pain, you’ll know that your mood affects how well you’re able to cope. You’ll also realize soon enough that medication is not going to do much for you.
Yoga provides pain relief from many different fronts:
- It helps to gently stretch your body and reduce tension in the muscles, which is helpful for pain relief.
- It helps to improve your mood, and so you are better able to cope.
- It gives you the tools you need to manage your pain better. You’ll learn to access a meditative state that enables you to move past the pain.
27. Helps You Build Inner Strength
Inner strength requires discipline. Yoga helps you to build inner strength by building your discipline. You’ll be better able to resist temptation and exercise your willpower, which will help you achieve your goals, even if they’ve seemed unachievable in the past.
Say, for example, that you’ve tried every smoking cessation trick in the book. Getting a better sense of your body, and learning better control of it could help you to quit finally.
29. Reduces Your Dependence on Drugs
We’re not advocating that you stop taking your diabetes medication or statins right away. Over time, however, you’ll find that you will be able to rely on them less. As you become healthier your stress levels reduce, and the systems in your body start to rebalance themselves.
Many of the so-called lifestyle diseases, like diabetes, can be halted, or even reversed if you adopt a healthy lifestyle. Yoga could be the first step for you. And who doesn’t want to be able to stop spending a fortune on medication and still feel healthier?
30. Helps Your Connective Tissues Stay Healthier
Inactivity is probably one of the most significant health risks of our age. Your body wasn’t designed to sit in a chair all day, so getting moving is essential. Yoga does more than work on your muscles, though. It helps to stretch out the fascia and other connective tissues in the body, which helps to ease tension in your body and reduce pain and stiffness.
Benefits of Yoga Final Notes
Is yoga a one-step panacea for great health? It’s a great start, and there is no question that you’ll start to feel healthier and a lot better by taking classes. But let’s be realistic here, if you smoke like a chimney, and eat all the wrong foods, an hour of yoga a week is not going to reverse the damage.
That’s like eating a huge calorie-laden meal and then thinking that an hour of cardio will set things right. If you’ve been living a relatively unhealthy lifestyle, then you’ll need to make other changes in addition to the classes to see the full benefits.
The advantage of yoga over a standard exercise class, though, is that you can take things at your own pace. Start with gentler Hatha or restorative yoga poses, and then work your way up to the more intense workouts more slowly.
Where yoga breaks the mold, though, is that it has a profound calming effect on the mind. You might start with just taking a class, and not making any other changes, but as you progress, you’ll find it easier to make healthier choices and adopt healthy eating plans.
So those lifestyle changes that you need to make become a lot simpler to pull off. Also, there are many different traditions that you can follow. So, if you don’t feel an affinity to one particular style, there are plenty more to choose from.
Are you ready to experience the benefits for yourself? Why not sign up for a class? With the internet, you don’t even have to walk out the front door to find expert instruction. There’s nothing to stop you getting started today to get benefits of yoga.