Ever wonder about the benefits of yoga?
Well, you don’t need to look any further. We went through thousands of research studies to see how yoga can make you healthier. Boy, did we find many!
I remember my own story.
That’s how I got to thinking about yoga’s benefits.
What I soon realized was that this ancient practice did more good than what we give it credit for. When I began, I thought it was all about the stretching and poses.
But, I found out it’s much, much more.
So, I’ve decided to compile a list of scientifically proven benefits of yoga.
Currently, there are over 3,000 studies done on yoga. And below, I’ve included a few hundred that are relevant to our health.
To make it easier to go through this long list, I’ve divided the benefits into categories. This will make the list easier to navigate.
Table of Contents
- Brain & Emotional Benefits
- Mind & Performance Benefits
- General Health Benefits of Yoga
- Physical Benefits
- Yoga Helps in Your Relationships
- Role in Pain Relief
- How it Helps in Preventing Illness
104 Proven Benefits of Yoga
Yoga’s Benefits on Your Brain & Emotions
How does yoga affect your mood and emotions?
Here are some changes in our brain, our way of thinking and perception that happen.
1. Attending Yoga Classes Lifts Up Your Mood
Yoga has similar effects to exercise.
During yoga, the body releases hormones that help improve mood and lowers stress. This is why many feel happier after a class.
Besides doing poses, yoga includes meditation and breathing. The latter two help improve focus and mindfulness.
A Boston University study compared its effects walking. Their focus was to see which improved mood, anxiety and GABA levels more. GABA, or Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid, is a neurotransmitter. It helps calm your brain down. It also works to regulate anxiety.
After 12 weeks, the yoga group had bigger improvements in mood and anxiety.
To check for GABA levels, the scientists used magnetic resonance spectroscopy scans. These scans showed increased thalamic GABA levels in the yoga group.
Also, the study links the improvements in mood and anxiety to the higher GABA levels.
Another experiment compared yoga to swimming.
Here, yoga decreased anger, tension, and fatigue more in both men and women. This led the team to conclude that for mood enhancement, aerobic exercise isn’t your only choice.
2. Yoga is a Proven Stress Reliever
Stress can come in many forms. These include mental, physical and emotional.
Physical exercise is a proven stress reliever. This is thanks to endorphins released by the body during exercise.
Endorphins are brain chemicals that help lower our feeling of pain. They also make us feel more positive.
As a result, it helps reduce your stress levels.
Yoga’s physical aspect helps lower stress the same way other kinds of exercise do. But, it has extra health benefits. That’s because yoga includes mental, emotional and spiritual aspects as well.
Altogether, these features help you unwind, lower stress and relax.
Here’s a review that shows yoga lowering stress. Plus, it also reduced symptoms related to it.
So how does yoga fare against other proven stress management therapies?
A study in the journal Cognitive Behavior Therapy sheds light. It shows that yoga produces similar results in stress reduction as cognitive behavior therapy.
Here, employees from large companies did 10 sessions of yoga. This was enough to cut their stress. It also helped improve behavior and other factors related to stress.
3. Yoga Reduces Anxiety Levels
Along with stress, yoga helps reduce anxiety.
Anxiety can come from many things. These include fear and uncertainty.
Yoga helps reduce worrying by lowering our cortisol levels.
It also decreases that feeling of nervousness that can sometimes overcome us. This is especially true when there’s something we’re uncertain of.
German researchers did an experiment to see how this works.
They found that 3 months of Iyengar yoga helps emotionally distressed women. It was able to reduce their stress and anxiety levels.
Besides these effects, the women also had more vigor. They were less fatigued and had a better overall well-being. Those who had back pain and headaches also reported relief from these problems.
Additionally, the researchers noted the yoga group’s salivary cortisol decreased significantly.
For followers of hatha yoga, you’ll be glad to know that it works just as well. Especially as a relaxation therapy for anxiety and stress reduction.
This is based on a study by the University of South Australia.
Here, 1 hour weekly sessions of hatha yoga improved stress and anxiety levels. The 10 week program also helped participants be more relaxed.
4. Yoga Helps Fight Depression
Depression affects over 15 million adults in the U.S.
The condition carries the most burden among mental and behavioral disorders. This is according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The worse thing about it is it takes away the most years out of our lives.
Depression is often linked to illness and disease. The thing is, it can be caused by many different things.
For anyone with depressive symptoms, yoga can help you be more active. It also aids in reducing your feelings of depression.
The GABA neurotransmitter we mentioned earlier is linked to depression and anxiety. Scientists found that lower GABA levels are associated with depression.
For their study, they relied on specialized MRI machines. These devices let them measure GABA levels in the brain of teenagers with depression.
The team then compared the teens’ scans with those who weren’t depressed. This led them to discover that the depressed teens had lower levels of GABA.
Yoga helps decrease feelings of depression. It does this in part by boosting GABA levels.
A study by UCLA researchers used 5 weeks of Iyengar yoga to test this. They found that yoga reduced symptoms in adults with mild levels of depression.
The classes focused on postures believed to help reduce depression. This included inversions, backbends and standing poses.
In the end, participants reported less depressive symptoms and anxiety. They also had more positive moods and lower levels of negative mood.
5. It Gives You A More Positive Outlook on Life
Having a positive outlook and mood helps you be happier. More importantly, it makes you healthier.
According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, being positive is healthy for everyone.
It reduces your chances of getting sick. Plus, it protects against diseases like diabetes and hypertension.
The institution also notes the importance of emotional vitality. This includes having the feeling of enthusiasm and being hopeful.
Together, these help us cope with stresses in life. Additionally, it provides us with emotional balance.
Harvard professor Shawn Achor, an expert in positive psychology, says it is vital. He notes that 75% of predicting one’s success at work relies on optimistic behavior. That is, the ability to see challenges as a way to improve. And, having a positive support system.
Yoga helps foster the 4 important attributes. All 4 are essential for a happier, healthier life.
- Emotional vitality or that sense of enthusiasm
- Social support
- Self-regulation ability
Here’s some proof.
Researchers collected data from 312 participants during a week-long free yoga camp. Analysis of the data showed that integrative yoga practices have many positive effects.
Pranayama (breathing), asana (postures) and relaxation improved positive emotions. And, they reduced the negative ones. This allowed participants to feel better.
6. Practicing Yoga Reduces Hostility, Anger, and Violent Tendencies
We all get angry at some point or another.
Sometimes we hold grudges or feel hostility towards others.
Studies have found that those who practice yoga are able to reduce that level of anger and hostility.
The practice also improves anyone’s violent personality.
Yoga helps us stay calm even in stressful or hostile situations. It does this through its relaxation and meditation practice.
Plus, it improves overall self-control as well. This lets you keep your temper in check when anger creeps up.
Researchers learned that yoga helps students reduce their violent personality traits. It also improves their balanced personality trait.
Additionally, yoga reduces verbal aggressiveness. This is when you attack a person instead of their position or argument. Some examples of verbal aggressiveness include bullying and criticism.
A study shows that 8 weeks of integrative yoga helped cut down verbal aggression.
7. Yoga Helps Keep You Calm
Yoga helps calm and relax us.
It does this through meditation, breathing and poses.
During yoga, you concentrate on the here and now. This lets you shift your mind away from your stresses, anxieties, and fears.
The shift helps slow your breathing and heart rate. Also, it lowers blood pressure and increases blood circulation.
An experiment done at the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons proves this. They found that yogic breathing helps shift one’s balance from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system.
This helps relieve stress.
The reason is that our sympathetic nervous is related to our stress and anxieties. Our parasympathetic nervous system meanwhile, is what calms our stress response systems.
A Boston University study also notes that yoga increases our brain’s GABA levels. This results in a calming effect that helps improve our mood.
For their experiment, they compared yoga and reading. This allowed them to see which activity affected GABA levels more.
Surprisingly, reading for 1 hour didn’t have any effects on GABA. But, a similar 1 hour yoga session increased GABA levels by 27%.
8. Yoga Practitioners are Happier
Want to cheer yourself up?
Skip the fridge.
Try yoga instead.
Yoga improves our mood and upping our GABA levels. Plus, it has other positive effects on our brain as well.
- It affects the area of the brain that’s associated with having a more positive outlook.
- Yoga lowers your cortisol levels. This is the hormone that heightens our stress response.
- Practicing yoga increases your body’s serotonin levels. Serotonin is often called the “happy hormone”. This is because it aids mood regulation and prevents depression.
Do note that these effects are only temporary if you only do one session here and there.
But, for long-term practitioners it’s different. There’s proof from their brain scans.
Scans reveal that yoga effected changes in their brain structure. It did so helping them be more resilient to stress. And it gives them a happier outlook on life.
Research also shows that those who did yoga meditation were happier. They were more satisfied with themselves compared to those who didn’t do yoga or meditation.
The University of Maryland School of Nursing confirmed this in a large survey. It found that 86.5% of those who did yoga agreed that it improved their level of happiness.
It helped them stay healthier and sleep better. Yoga also improved their social relationships and weight maintenance.
9. Yoga Helps Give You Inner Peace (Peace of Mind)
Yoga helps us gain inner peace and calmness. It does this by unifying our body, mind, and spirit.
In doing so, it reduces our emotional and psychological stresses and anxieties. These include fear, anger, regret, frustration, and desire.
Researchers found that yoga’s therapeutic effects cover a wide range of conditions. It affects many aspects of living that help improve our well-being and quality of life.
In short, yoga helps us physically and mentally. Plus, it lets us achieve inner peace.
One of the best things about it is that you can practice anywhere.
You can do yoga at home, while traveling or the park.
10. Yoga Improves Emotional Resilience
What do Navy SEALs know about being successful?
It’s all about being resilient.
These specially trained individuals are always ready to handle physical and mental challenges.
Resilience or having “grit” is the best predictor of success. This is according to University of Pennsylvania researcher Angela Lee Duckworth.
It gives you the ability to see things through, even in tough times. This way you’re ready for the long haul.
Duckworth observed this by analyzing West Point Military Academy students. She learned that grit was a better predictor of success. It was better than SAT scores, class rank, leadership ability and physical aptitude.
Yoga also helps develop our level of resilience. It does so by fostering tolerance to stress and emotional well-being.
A study by the Dru Education Centre in the U.K. confirms this.
Participants in the yoga group saw improved mood profiles and positive psychological attitudes. Yoga allowed them to cope better with work stress. And, they did so with more composure, confidence, and a clearer mind.
The good news is, anyone can use yoga to be more resilient to stress. This is true for when you’re at work, or at home.
It helps you cope with relationship stress as well. These include dealing with your boss or in family life.
11. Yoga Promotes a Sense of Well-Being
Researchers at the University of Mississippi state that yoga’s benefits are holistic.
This means it doesn’t only affect one aspect of our lives. Instead, it brings all of them together. The benefits they saw ranged from being able to treat health conditions to pain relief.
It also aided in physical, mental and emotional conditions. Additionally, practicing yoga improved well-being and quality of life.
Another study offers evidence on yoga’s positive effects on overall well-being.
It found that doing yoga lets us keep that feeling of well-being and vitality as we get older. This is something that’s often lost as our bodies slow down.
It also discovered that the number of hours spent doing yoga correlates your psychological well-being.
The study focused on female yoga practitioners who were 45 years or older. Here, the level of psychological well-being was linked to the total lifetime hours of yoga practice.
12. Yoga Improves Self-Confidence
Self-confidence is the trust or belief in oneself.
This can be either in your own abilities or your capacity to engage with others.
Part of self-confidence is based on what you can do. The better you are at something, the more confident you get.
But, there’s a more important part. This has to do with being satisfied with your own self-value.
Yoga teaches us to be in tune with our bodies. It helps us understand it and accept it for what it is. This is what leads to a higher level of self-satisfaction.
Yoga’s benefits to health and body image contribute to improving your self-confidence.
Australian researchers noted this in beginner and experienced male yoga practitioners. They were more satisfied with their body image than those who trained with weights.
By improving overall well-being, yoga boosts your self-confidence. This encourages you to go out and meet others.
Mind & Performance Benefits of Yoga
Practitioners are well aware of the mind and performance benefits of yoga.
But, we’ve only been able to see its effects on the brain more recently.
Thanks to technology we can now understand how and why yoga affects the brain.
Here are yoga’s benefits on the mind and performance.
13. It Increases the Brain’s Gray Matter Volume
Gray matter is the section of the brain that controls our sensory perception. This includes our sense of sight, speech, and hearing.
It is also involved in muscle control, memory, self-control and decision making.
Needless to say, it plays a large role in our movement, senses, and cognitive function.
Science proves that yoga increases the volume of gray matter in our brains.
Duke University researchers noticed this in long time yoga practitioners. This group had more gray matter volume in many areas of the brain compared to the non-yoga group.
The volume of gray matter was also directly linked to how long they’ve been doing yoga.
A National Institutes of Health’s study has similar findings.
Using MRI scans, it saw that yogis didn’t have the same gray matter decline that’s related to aging.
Here, yoga experience was correlated with gray matter volume in the brain’s left hemisphere. This is the side that’s responsible for our positive mental state. It also handles the parasympathetic mode, which helps calm and relax us.
14. Yoga Improves Concentration
Concentration plays a vital role in success. This is true in the office or school.
Most people see yoga as a form of physical exercise. But, it offers more.
Yoga improves our ability to concentrate. This is something all of us can benefit from.
A study of 69 men between the ages of 18 and 48 years old proves this.
Here, participants did 2 different yoga techniques, cyclic meditation, and supine rest. After yoga, the results of their concentration tests improved.
Each subject did 6-letter cancellation tests. This exam tests concentration and visual-spatial scanning abilities.
To see the differences, subjects did the tests before and after each yoga session.
Both tests showed significant score improvements after yoga. Of the two, cyclic meditation showed bigger score increases (+24.9%) compared to the supine rest (+13.6%).
15. Yoga Helps Increase Your Attention Span
Above, we saw how yoga increases our ability to concentrate.
As a bonus, it also helps us improve our attention span.
Being able to concentrate is great. But, if you have a short attention span, you won’t be able to learn much in full detail.
The reason is your mind will be wandering off after a few minutes.
A sustained attention span lets you stay on one matter without your mind wandering away. This lets you finish what you started.
Doing so helps us finish reading a book or complete projects and assignments.
Also, being attentive allows us to notice changes around us. We’re able to notice even minute details.
Researchers note that students who did integrative yoga did better in tests. This was seen in a digit vigilance test. The test measures alertness, visual tracking ability, and accurate selection.
Results show that the students’ scores were higher with yoga.
After doing yoga, they were also able to complete the test in less time. Plus, they had 31.9% fewer errors compared to before yoga.
16. It Improves Your Focus
Along with better concentration and attention, practicing yoga helps you focus better.
One of the things yoga teaches us is to focus on the present. This involves not worrying about the past or wondering about the future.
Doing so gets rid of unnecessary distractions. It also lets you focus what you’re doing right now.
To prove this, researchers enlisted 77 firefighters to a 6 week experiment. All the participants didn’t have any prior yoga experience.
The subjects spent 6 weeks doing postures, breathing, and relaxation. In the end, they noted feeling more focused and less stressed. They also felt a reduction in pain symptoms.
17. Yoga Boosts Your Memory
A big part of mental performance is remembering things.
After all, knowledge needs to be retained in order for anyone to use it. This is why memory is such an important part of learning.
Being able to remember what you’ve read, seen, and learned lets you use that knowledge later on.
Yoga’s ability to increase the volume of gray matter in the brain helps boost your memory. It also helps you remember things by clearing your mind and giving it a more peaceful, calm feeling.
A review of database entries on yoga’s effect on cognitive function verifies this. Researchers found that doing yoga boosts memory. It also improved our ability to process things faster.
Additionally, yoga boosted attention and executive function as well.
18. It Makes You Smarter
Want to have a sharper mind?
Yoga improves your memory, attention span, and concentration. Plus, it helps make you smarter.
Studies show that yoga helps the brain process and complete mental challenges faster. Plus, it does this with better accuracy as well.
Even better, it protects our brain’s cognitive processing center from deteriorating with age.
We can see its benefits in a study involving 20 girls between the ages of 10 and 13 years old. Those who did 15 minutes of yoga daily were able to plan and execute moves in the Tower of London test with less time. Their results were better than those who did physical exercise.
The Tower of London is a test that assesses planning and execution abilities.
This result shows that yoga helps improve mental performance. And it does so in both simple and complex tasks.
We can see yoga’s effects on mental performance and cognitive function in this study. Here, researchers used brain wave coherence recordings.
What they learned was after yoga, the brain’s:
- Delta waves increased by 43%.
- Alpha waves also went up by 58%.
- Beta waves decreased by 18%.
- Theta and Gamma brain waves went up by almost 10%.
What does this all mean?
The increase in Alpha waves indicates more calmness and a level of relaxation.
These waves also assist in total mental coordination, creativity, memory and concentration. All help with learning and mind/body integration.
Delta waves meanwhile are related to external awareness and empathy.
They’re also associated with our body’s healing process and rejuvenation. These are factors that help revitalize our brains.
Delta waves are the waves involved during sleep.
Finally, the Beta waves are engaged in deeper mental activity. This includes judgment, problem-solving and decision making.
All were depressed after yoga. This was to help save energy and let the brain recover.
Too much of beta waves leads to stress and anxiety. This is what most of us are guilty of due to our hectic and busy lifestyles.
19. Yoga Ups Your Game to the Next Level
Practicing yoga has been shown to increase athletic performance.
In recent years, yoga has made its way to professional sports.
Athletes, both recreational and elite, benefit from it. It affects them in physical, mental, emotional and spiritual ways.
Among the things yoga can do for sports performance are:
- Improve strength and power (see #27)
- Help with mental toughness (see #10)
- Increase muscle function (see #21)
- Improve your recovery time and the body’s repair of muscles.
This is why NBA basketball players and NFL football players are turning to yoga. It helps them improve their game and athletic performance.
As far as scientific evidence goes, a study on short track speed skaters offers proof. It noted better efficiency on skating technique thanks to yoga. The skaters also showed improvements in 11 of the 14 angles done in postural tests.
20. Yoga Improves Reaction Time
Part of being mentally sharp is having good reaction time.
One’s ability to notice changes and stimuli then process them is important.
At the same time, the speed at which your eyes and brain do the processing makes a big difference in performance.
This is true in both mental and physical tasks.
A study in India involving 27 high schools students offers proof. The students achieved better visual and auditory reaction times thanks to yoga. Also, their breathing capacity and muscle grip strength improved.
We see the same results in a similar experiment. This time, on healthy individuals between 18 to 25 years old.
Here, auditory, cutaneous and visual reaction times all went down post yoga. Also, the participants saw improvements in both right and left sides of the body.
In each of the tests, the subjects pressed a button as fast as they could in response to a stimuli. The tests went through the following stimuli:
- sound through headphones (for auditory)
- light bulb (visual)
- touch of the skin (cutaneous)
Reaction times for all decreased after doing yoga.
21. Yoga Practice Improves in Dexterity & Agility
Besides strength, flexibility, and endurance, another important aspect of performance is agility.
Being agile and having dexterity lets you move faster. It also lets you be swift and efficient in doing things.
Yoga helps in both dexterity and agility.
A study in India found that those who did 1 month yoga training had better dexterity in small tasks.
The researchers split the participants into 4 groups.
- One group were those who volunteered for the yoga training.
- Another that did yoga because it was part of their job.
- And, 2 other groups that didn’t receive yoga training.
The test involved the participants inserting metal pins into holes using tweezers. This tested their dexterity. The test also had a limit of 4 minutes. This made speed and precision important.
Results show that those who voluntarily did yoga improved their scores. The other 3 groups, including those forced to do yoga, had the same before and after scores.
This study shows that yoga does improve small skill dexterity. But, the proper motivation to practice the art should be there.
In the same manner, yoga improves agility in sports.
A study reveals that 6 weeks of yoga asanas (poses) improves agility and strength.
Here, participants were able to cut their shuttle run times by close to 1 second even without extra running training.
An extra benefit was that the yoga group also saw increases in the number of sit-ups they could do.
22. It Increases Endurance & Stamina
At first glance, yoga doesn’t seem to involve much cardiovascular activity.
After all, you’re either doing poses or sitting down breathing and meditating.
Compared to swimming or running, there’s definitely less physical activity going on.
Because of this, it’s easy to think that yoga doesn’t offer any stamina or endurance benefits.
Research shows that this isn’t true.
A study notes that 12 weeks of yoga increased VO2max significantly.
VO2max is a measure of oxygen consumption and usage. It a test often used in endurance athletes like rowers and cyclists. This measures their cardiovascular and aerobic endurance.
Additionally, the yoga group had bigger improvements in muscular strength, endurance, and flexibility.
If you’re looking to ramp things up, many classes offer high intensity variations. Hot 8 Yoga, one of the best yoga studios in California, offers over 200 classes a week. These include Hot Yoga, Power Yoga and Yoga Sculpt with weights.
23. You’ll Have Better Hand-Eye Coordination
Unlike many other forms of exercise, yoga involves both mind and body.
This not only improves coordination and motor skills but also hand-eye coordination.
Researchers learned that 1 month of yoga increased hand-to-eye coordination. It also improved accuracy in speed. The experiment involved a mirror-tracing task. Participants had to trace shapes including circles and stars. In the end, those who did yoga improved in the task for both hands.
There’s a similar study. This one involved holding and inserting a metal stylus into holes. The results show that yoga helps boost motor skills as well.
24. You’ll Become More Flexible
Anyone who has attended a yoga class knows that it helps with flexibility.
Before yoga, you may not have been able to do back bends. Or, reach your toes.
The gentle bending and stretching in yoga helps loosen tight muscles and joints. This includes the hips, hamstrings, thighs and back.
These changes and lengthening help everyone, especially desk jockeys. Athletes also see improvements in sports performance due to the added flexibility.
As a bonus, the bending and stretching fix some of our posture problems.
All in all, it makes you feel better.
Brazilian researchers observed yoga helps elderly individuals be more flexible. In fact, they note that yoga was more effective than calisthenics. This is due to its gentle and passive movements.
A study involving men and women between the ages of 65 to 85 years old saw similar results. Participants enjoyed better flexibility, balance and muscle strength thanks to yoga.
This improved their your quality of life.
25. It Builds Core Strength (and Better Abs)
A strong core is important.
This is true whether you’re an athlete or work a desk job.
For most of us, good core strength lets us do day to day activities without experiencing any pain. This is especially true for our lower back and joints.
A strong core also helps us maintain a good posture. In doing so, it prevents future aches and pains from arising.
Yoga not only strengthens your core, it allows you to get the flat stomach everyone desires.
So which poses help most?
University of Miami scientists used EMG (Electromyography) testing to give us some answers. In their lab, they ran tests to see which yoga poses affected core muscles the most.
What they found was:
- For the external oblique abdominal muscle. The downward facing dog, the high plank and the low plank did best.
- The gluteus maximus (butt) benefited most from the chair and warrior 1 poses.
- For the longissimus thoracic, the muscle in the middle of the back. It was the halfway lift and chair poses.
To summarize, practicing yoga strengthens your abdominal, back and hip muscles.
26. Yoga Improves Sexual Function, Performance & Satisfaction
This one’s for couples looking to improve their sex life.
Adding yoga to your regular exercise routine will give it a boost.
The practice of yoga helps promote self-awareness. And, it also improves blood circulation. Combined, they give you higher libido and sexual energy.
Yoga has been proven to help both men and women improve their sex lives.
A study of 65 men between the ages of 24 and 60 years old backs this up. Participants saw significant improvements in various facets of their sex lives. This included their level of desire, sexual intercourse satisfaction, and performance. They also had better orgasm, erection, and control.
All were benefits seen after attending yoga camp.
Likewise, research shows that women benefit too.
This study involved women with sexual dysfunction due to metabolic syndrome. Results show that 12 weeks of yoga increased their levels of arousal and lubrication.
27. Yoga Makes You Stronger
In yoga, you use your own bodyweight as resistance.
Unlike lifting weights, you don’t need any equipment. Thus, you can do yoga anywhere.
Because you use your body’s weight, yoga focuses on relative strength.
This is how gymnasts train. They are very strong relative to their own body weight.
As you would guess. this makes the strength gained from yoga more functional.
The slow controlled movements and postures also decrease the risk of injury. This is one of its advantages over high-intensity workouts.
Finally, its low impact nature makes it something anyone can do. This includes those with joint or bone issues.
A study by Wayne State University confirms this in 118 sedentary healthy adults. It found that yoga was as effective as stretching and strength training.
At the end of the study, both groups improved strength, balance, mobility and flexibility.
28. It Increases Energy Levels & Fights Fatigue
Instead of feeling tired and worn out after a class, most yogis will tell you they feel more energized.
This is an extra benefit that comes along with the peace and calm experienced while doing yoga.
Yoga also improves vitality and energy levels. Plus, it combats fatigue.
Researchers at the University of Oxford compared relaxation, visualization, and yoga. The goal was to see how yoga compared to other mood improvement techniques.
When it comes to boosting energy, results showed that:
- Relaxation made participants more sluggish and sleepy.
- Visualization made the subjects more sluggish, upset and less content.
- Yoga improved both physical and mental energy. And, it had the added benefit of making the subjects feel more positive.
The benefits don’t stop there…
Yoga is also proven to be effective in bringing relief for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). We see this in a study by Kyushu University in Japan. It involved 30 patients who didn’t have any success with conventional CFS therapy.
Here, half of the participants went to a yoga group. The rest received conventional therapy.
To measure fatigue scores, they used the Profile of Mood Status questionnaire. This was in combination with Chalder’s FS score.
In the end, results show that the fatigue scores in the yoga group decreased significantly.
Compared to coffee or energy drinks, this is a much healthier way to boost your energy level.
General Health Benefits of Yoga
This section covers the different health effects brought about by regular yoga practice.
We include the things that happen to your body and blood chemistry. Also, yoga’s effects on your organs.
29. Yoga Lowers Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is called the “silent killer”. This is because it doesn’t present any symptoms until much later. By then, the condition is serious or has affected your organs.
Due to this, many people who have high blood pressure are not aware of it.
High blood pressure affects your heart and blood vessels. It disrupts blood circulation and negatively affects how much oxygen reaches your organs.
This increases your risk of stroke, heart attack, kidney disease and heart failure.
As a result, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) estimates close to 1,000 deaths each day related to hypertension.
Yoga is something you can add to your lifestyle to prevent hypertension.
It helps you relax. And, it slows down your heart rate. It does this by relieving stress and anxiety. Altogether, they help lower blood pressure.
You also get its aerobic benefits. Studies prove it to be similar to cardiovascular exercise.
A review and meta-analysis involving blood pressure reduction and yoga offer proof. Researchers found that practicing yoga lowers both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. On average, systolic BP went down by 4.2 mm Hg. Diastolic BP meanwhile decreased by 3.6 mm Hg.
They noted combining all 3 elements of yoga produced the best results. This meant doing postures, meditation, and breathing together.
30. It Improves Blood Circulation & Flow
Blood circulation is vital for our bodies to function properly.
Good blood flow is important because it’s what carries oxygen to our organs and tissues. Without enough oxygen and nutrients, our organs can’t function normally.
The lack of blood to our organ is what causes deadly conditions like stroke and heart attacks.
Yoga increases blood circulation to our brain, heart, muscles and extremities. It does this through the various poses.
The more oxygen our tissues and organs receive, the better they function.
This is why athletes like Lance Armstrong, used illegal methods to boost hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the oxygen-carrying component in blood.
For evidence, we turn to research from the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center. It observed that 12 weeks of Iyengar yoga had a training effect where blood flow to the brain changed.
They verified the findings by using brain scans before and after the 12 week yoga program. The scans revealed changes in the right amygdala and prefrontal cortex. The right dorsal medial frontal lobe was also affected.
31. Yoga Improves Respiratory Function & Oxygen Intake
The various breathing techniques done during yoga class helps bring a calming effect. It also increases oxygen efficiency.
Some examples include prolonged inhalation and exhalation as well as alternate nostril breathing.
These techniques allow you to take fewer breaths with greater volume.
In 20 students who were between 12 and 15 years old, those who did 6 months of yoga saw improvements in lung function. They also gained stronger inspiratory and expiratory muscles. To measure results, the researchers used various pulmonary function tests like FEV.
Meanwhile, we all know that aging causes a natural decline in our lung function (among other things). The good news is yoga can be used to improve respiratory function even as we age.
A study notes that healthy elderly individuals benefited from 4 months of yoga. After yoga, their maximum expiratory and inspiratory pressures improved. Plus, their heart rates slowed down as well.
32. It Helps Your Gastrointestinal Function
Men and women who practice yoga also experience better gastrointestinal function.
Among the issues proven to benefit from yoga are GERD or acid reflux, and pancreatitis.
A study by the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey backs this up. Researchers found that yoga, when used with proton pump inhibitors helps relieve GERD. This combination was effective even when medication didn’t bring relief.
Researchers in the U.K. also note that yoga helps with chronic pancreatitis. Patients who did 3 months of yoga improved their quality of life and appetite. They also had less dependence on alcohol, fewer stress symptoms, and mood changes.
33. It Boosts Your Immune System
Yoga improves our immunity along with its response to stress and health issues.
In a study involving exam stress, students benefited from 35 minutes of yoga daily for 12 weeks. It found that those who did yoga were less affected by stress from their exams.
These individuals also showed little changes in heart rate and blood pressure from the exam stress. The control group meanwhile, showed significant increases in both parameters.
Lastly, students in the yoga group had lower levels of perceived stress. Their cortisol levels only increased a bit as well.
Similar results were found in breast cancer patients who were undergoing surgery.
Those who did yoga therapy after surgery had fewer effects of postoperative distress. This helped keep their immune system stay strong.
They also had lower levels of depression, anxiety and better quality of life.
34. Yoga Increases Cardiovascular Fitness & Endurance
About 610,000 people in the U.S. die each year from heart disease. This is according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
This places the figure at around 25% or 1 in every 4 deaths that’s related to cardiovascular disease.
It also puts it as the leading cause of death for most ethnicities in the U.S.
Yoga can help reduce your risk of heart disease. It does this by increasing your cardiovascular endurance.
Cardiovascular endurance refers to the improved rate of oxygen delivery to the body. This is often accompanied by a lower heart rate.
To see how yoga fares compared to aerobic exercise we refer to a study. The research reveals that 1 hour of yoga daily was better than 7 hours of aerobic exercise weekly. Plus, those who did yoga also had lower BMIs.
To test for cardiovascular endurance, stress tests were done. This physical exam puts you on an exercise bike while an EKG monitors your heart.
35. It Helps Relieve Thyroid Symptoms
Our thyroid is a gland that’s located in the front portion of our necks. It is part of our endocrine system.
As such, it produces and stores hormones. These hormones affect almost all our body’s organ functions.
Among the thyroid’s main functions is regulating our energy levels and metabolism.
This is why anyone with thyroid issues often has weight control problems and low energy.
Research shows yoga helped women with hypothyroidism. It does this by improving their quality of life. It also helped them manage their thyroid symptoms better.
Note that yoga isn’t a primary therapy for thyroid dysfunction. But, it is effective as a complementary therapy for thyroid disorders.
36. Yoga Helps Regulate Metabolism
Metabolism covers the different chemical reactions that happen in the body.
- Catabolism. The body breaks down molecules to use as energy.
- Anabolism. Chemical reactions in the body that builds new molecules or synthesizes them.
Together, they allow our body to break down food to use as energy.
An example is when our bodies build new cells and tissues to make muscle. Or, when it replaces and repairs old or damaged tissues.
A balanced metabolism lets you maintain a healthy weight and control food cravings. Additionally, it supplies you with the energy to go about your regular days.
So where does yoga come in?
It helps regulate our body’s metabolism.
Often, people want to have a high basal metabolic rate. This is because it helps burn more calories. But, calories aren’t the whole story.
Having too high or too low a rate is harmful to health.
For example, when we are stressed or sick our basal metabolic rate is high. In the same manner, certain diseases like diabetes keep it elevated.
Researchers observed that long-term yoga practitioners have lower basal metabolic rates. This is true when compared to people who don’t do yoga. This is due to better metabolic efficiency and their ability to cope with stress better.
37. Yoga Regulates Our Adrenal Glands
Our adrenal glands secrete hormones.
These hormones work to regulate our body’s use of fat and protein. They’re also key in blood sugar control.
It is most active during stressful situations. This includes situations when you’re nervous or during emergencies.
One of the most important hormones it releases is cortisol. This stress hormone increases our awareness. It also gives us extra strength and mental ability to handle the stressful situation.
In the process, our immune system gets a boost as well.
But like inflammation, high levels of cortisol should only be temporary.
If it stays high for long periods, it can lead to health issues. Among these are high blood pressure, high blood sugar, osteoporosis, and depression.
For scientific evidence, we turn to the researchers at the Harvard Medical School. They found that classroom yoga improves behavior in 2nd and 3rd graders. It also helps with stress management by causing the students’ cortisol levels to go down.
We see similar results in patients with depression. Scientists observed that yoga helps reduce cortisol levels in admitted patients.
38. Practicing Yoga Lowers Blood Sugar
Science offers proof that yoga helps lower blood sugar levels. It also aids in regulating it.
Researchers noted that an 8-day yoga-based lifestyle modification program works. It was able to improve blood sugar levels in adults with normal glucose levels.
These individuals experienced lower levels of fasting blood glucose after the yoga program. Plus, their blood sugar 3 to 4 hours after eating also dropped.
The benefits didn’t stop there.
The study shows that the subjects’ lipid profiles also improved. LDL cholesterol and triglycerides dropped while HDL cholesterol increased.
For diabetics, getting into yoga helps as well. It keeps blood sugar from spiking or staying high all the time.
Researchers found that 40 days of yoga reduces fasting blood sugar in diabetics. It allowed their fasting glucose to drop from 190 mg/dl to 141.5 mg/dl.
Maintaining blood sugar within normal levels is important. It prevents type 2 diabetes and its complications.
39. Yoga Lowers Cholesterol Levels
Doing yoga regularly helps lower your cholesterol.
A study shows that doing yoga for a year reduces total cholesterol from 206.6 mg/dl to 193.6 mg/dl.
It notes that the lowest levels were during week 14. At this time, total cholesterol averaged at 176 mg/dl.
Researchers say that yoga’s effects began during the 4th week and lasted for 14 weeks. After that, it started to level off before reaching the final result.
They also found that all lipid variables decreased except for HDL cholesterol.
A similar, shorter study echoes yoga’s ability to take effect almost immediately.
In this one, 98 participants went through an 8-day yoga program. Blood tests were done before and after the yoga program. This allowed the researchers to see the difference between pre- and post-yoga therapy.
Results show that total cholesterol, triglycerides, HDL and LDL cholesterol all improved. It also notes that those who had high cholesterol before the therapy showed bigger improvements.
In these subjects, triglycerides dropped from a mean of 151.5 mg/dl to 132.7 mg/dl. For those who had normal cholesterol, there was a more modest drop from 113 mg/dl to 110 mg/dl.
40. Yoga Helps Regulate Endocrine Function
Our endocrine system is made up of a series of glands. These glands secrete hormones when needed and store them for later use.
While its work may sound simple, its effects are more complex.
The hormones act as signal messengers from the brain. They tell our organs and tissues to do more of this or less of that.
It is one way our brain controls all our organs even if it isn’t connected to some of them.
The hormones produced by our endocrine system regulate everything from our sleep balance to our moods and metabolism. It also controls our growth as well as bone formation.
Needless to say, a healthy endocrine system ensures proper functioning of our body. When it goes awry, everything from excessive weight gain to brittle bones can happen.
A review of yoga’s health effects shows it helps balance our hormone functions.
41. Yoga Increases Oxytocin Levels
Oxytocin is one of the hormones produced by our endocrine system.
This is done by our hypothalamus. And, it is stored in the pituitary gland.
The hormone is responsible for our ability to bond socially with others.
It also gives us that feeling of being close to someone and intimacy.
For this reason, oxytocin goes by many names. Among them are the “love hormone” and the “trust hormone”.
Research shows that spending a few minutes playing with your pet dog causes a surge in oxytocin. This is why we feel so comfortable and close to our dogs.
Yoga therapy also causes this effect. For this reason, yoga helps you build better relationships.
A study of schizophrenic patients found that doing yoga improved their oxytocin levels. These patients suffer from social cognition deficits. This makes it difficult for them to blend in with others.
Besides the higher oxytocin levels, the yoga group also experienced better socio-occupational functioning.
42. Yoga Boosts Parasympathetic Nervous System Activity
The parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) is part of our autonomic nervous system.
It is responsible for the body’s activities during rest. This includes digestion, sexual arousal, tears, and urination.
It works to help conserve our energy by slowing our heart rate and relax some of our muscles.
Our PSNS works in tandem with the sympathetic nervous system. The latter is what handles our “fight or flight” response.
Yoga, for its part, stimulates our parasympathetic nervous system. In doing so, it helps slow down our heart rate, lower our blood pressure and regulate our breathing. This lets us rest, relax and heal.
Researchers observed this in 11 healthy yoga practitioners. In the study, Iyengar Yoga led to a deep physical and mental relaxation. The relaxation was associated with increased cardiac parasympathetic nervous modulation.
Yoga has a balancing effect on our autonomic nervous system. It does this by increasing activation in our parasympathetic nervous system. For this reason, yoga is helpful in conditions like PTSD and ADHD.
It also helps us “put on the brakes”. This is useful when things get too busy or stressful at work or life in general.
That way we don’t find ourselves over stressed or reaching a breaking point.
43. Yoga Increases Your Red Blood Cells
We’ve seen earlier that yoga helps promote healthy blood circulation (see #30).
Besides this, it also aids in increasing red blood cells (RBC) in our bodies.
Red blood cells are what make our blood their color.
Together with white blood cells and platelets, they make up around 45% of our blood.
RBC is important because hemoglobin is inside these red colored cells. Hemoglobin is the oxygen-carrying component in blood. This makes it vital for all our organs.
If you have good blood circulation but only few red blood cells, your organs may still not get enough oxygen. This can cause your heart to work harder to compensate.
Lack of red blood cells often leads to low hemoglobin levels as well. This is called anemia. Anemia results in weakness, lethargy, and always feeling cold.
Yoga helps as it increases our body’s red blood cells. Doing so helps lower your risk of stroke and heart attack.
With yoga, doing inverted and twisting poses help bring oxygenated blood to your organs.
As far as science goes, researchers saw increases in RBC in 10 athletes who did 8 weeks of yoga. Their RBC levels went from a mean of 4.46 x 1012/L before the yoga program to 4.59 x 1012/L after yoga.
44. It Lowers Your Triglycerides
When it comes to cardiovascular risk, a lot of attention focuses on cholesterol.
But, another component of lipid profile worth mentioning are your triglycerides.
Triglycerides are a kind of fat found in our blood. Our body converts excess calories it doesn’t need into triglycerides.
Later on, when it needs them, hormones signal the release of triglycerides from our fat cells. This gives us more energy.
Too many triglycerides increase your risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. This is why it is important to keep an eye on it.
Yoga, makes the body use up energy and burn calories. In doing so, it helps reduce the level of triglycerides in our blood.
A study shows this. Here, 87 men and women saw reductions in their triglycerides thanks to yoga. As a bonus, their fasting blood sugar and other metabolic risk factors decreased as well.
45. Yoga Fights Inflammation & Oxidative Stress
Inflammation is the body’s way of protecting, healing and repairing itself.
When we get an infection or suffer an injury, our immune system goes to work.
It fights off any bacteria or foreign microorganisms. Then, it begins the repair process. Here, it replaces any damaged tissues or cells.
During this time, the area may become red, sore and painful. Then it starts healing.
This process is meant to be short term and temporary.
Poor diet and lack of physical activity can cause a more chronic form of inflammation. This long-term inflammation increases your risk of more serious diseases.
Additionally, oxidative stress also leads to systemic inflammation. This time, it is the free radicals that cause it. This type of stress damages cells leading to inflammation.
Yoga helps reduce both inflammation and oxidative stress in our bodies.
It does this by adhering to a healthier lifestyle and lowering stress.
Research gives us evidence. It found that an integrated yoga program improved inflammation markers in 86 patients. Better yet, they saw results in as little as 10 days.
The participants had lower levels of cortisol after the yoga program. They also saw a reduction of IL-6 (Interleukin 6) and TNF-α levels. Both are indicators of inflammation.
At the same time, they saw endorphins increases.
46. Yoga Can Help with Fertility
Earlier, we saw how practicing yoga improves your sex life (see #26). It does this by increasing your sexual drive and satisfaction.
For parents trying to conceive a child, yoga helps in many ways too.
- It reduces stress.
- Helps you relax more.
- It promotes better blood flow to the reproductive organs.
The improved hormone secretion, including testosterone, also helps with overall reproductive function and health.
Physical Benefits of Yoga
These are among the first things you’ll experience after you start practicing yoga.
Here are yoga’s physical benefits.
47. Yoga Slows Down the Aging Process
It may not turn back the clock to you get back to your 20’s. But, yoga can help preserve your youth by slowing the aging process.
Additionally, it can shave a few years off your current body age.
Throughout our lifetimes, our cells keep dividing. This allows our body to replace dying or damaged cells.
Each time they divide, certain structures called telomeres get shorter and shorter. Telomeres are small components located at the end of our chromosomes. They protect our cells.
When they get too short, the cell loses its capacity to further divide. Then dies.
A published study notes that yoga can reverse signs of aging.
The specific case involved an obese man who had issues with fatigue. After 90 days of yoga training, researchers saw some of his age markers reverse. These included an increase in telomerase levels and lower levels of oxidative stress.
Besides its anti-aging effect on the body, yoga also helps preserve brain function.
Researchers observed that fluid intelligence declined slower in yoga and meditation practitioners.
Yogis and meditators also had a more resilient brain functional architecture. This made their brains and its cells less prone to damage.
48. Yoga Improves Your Posture
We spend long periods of time slumped over our desks.
This is why many people have poor posture.
Among the most common is the hunching of the upper back or kyphosis. Kyphosis and bad posture are results of weak back and shoulder muscles.
Often, it’s easier to sit in this hunched position, especially when you’re tired.
Problem is, this posture leads to neck, back, and other muscle pains. This is because other parts of the body are compensating for the curving of the neck and upper back.
Yoga helps fix your posture issues.
It does this by strengthening the back, shoulder and neck muscles. This is done through the different poses.
Additionally, yoga also lengthens your chest and stomach muscles. This is from the stretching.
Together, they counter the effects of a rounded back that’s a result of sitting all day.
The good news is, it’s never too late to start.
Researchers at UCLA observed that yoga helps improve kyphosis in elderly individuals. It lessened the curvature in patients whose kyphosis angles were over 40 degrees. In comparison, those who didn’t do yoga did not see any improvements.
49. Yoga Helps with Weight Loss & Weight Management
Yoga doesn’t let you burn as many calories as running or high-intensity exercise.
The reason for this is that you don’t reach as high a target heart rate doing yoga.
But, yoga does reduce your stress levels. And, it improves hormonal balance.
By controlling cortisol, yoga helps prevent overeating caused by stress.
The exercise you do during yoga and its effects after help you lose weight and keep a healthy BMI.
People with normal BMI who practice yoga are less likely to gain much weight. This is according to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Washington.
It also noted that yoga’s weight loss effects are more pronounced in overweight individuals. In this group, those who did yoga were more likely to maintain their weight or lose it.
Another study notes that healthy individuals lost more than 12.5 lbs. from 3 months of yoga.
50. You’ll Sleep Better
According to the CDC, between 50 to 70 million adults in the U.S. have sleep-related problems.
Whether you can’t sleep or wake up often at night, not getting enough sleep is harmful to your health.
Here, yoga can help.
A study shows that 12 weeks of meditation and postures helped older adults with insomnia. It improves their sleep quality, amount of sleep and sleep efficiency.
This led them to have a better sense of well-being and more vitality. Plus, they experienced less stress during their waking hours.
A related study shows us that yoga helps pregnant women as well. Here, weekly meditation and prenatal Hatha yoga classes improved sleep efficiency. It also reduced the number times they woke up at night.
51. You’ll Have Better Balance
One of the most basic features of yoga practice is balance.
Balance was something we were all good at as kids. But, lack of physical activity as we got older has made us less than adept at this basic skill.
In fact, according to the CDC, there are more than 700,000 cases of hospitalizations due to falls. Most of which result in head injury or hip fractures.
Yoga poses like the Tree pose, or the Warrior poses help improve in-place balance. This helps lessen your risk of falling.
A review of studies found many studies linking yoga to better balance.
These studies used different types of yoga, duration, and other factors. But, the results were similar. All showed improvements in balance thanks to yoga.
Also, yoga decreased the fear of falling. And, improved flexibility in adults over 65 years old. These were results of a study that used 12 weeks of yoga to help reduce falls by elderly individuals.
Thanks to its low-intensity movements, yoga is something elderly individuals can do. It will help lower their risk of falls and injury.
52. It Improves Body Awareness
Yoga helps build self-awareness. It does this by allowing us to feel what our body is telling us.
With mindfulness, we pay attention to the different signals we are feeling. This includes the physical, mental and emotional.
Doing so lets us know if there’s something wrong with our body. It also lets us notice if we’re getting too mentally stressed out. Or, we’re letting our emotions get the better of us.
In 2 studies, researchers observed that those who did yoga had better body awareness. They were also more responsive to their sensations compared to the non-yoga groups.
This allowed them to be less affected by disordered eating and self-objectification.
All in all, the yoga group was more satisfied with their bodies.
53. Yoga Helps Keep Your Bones Healthy
Maintaining strong, healthy bones is important.
This is because our body’s skeletal system is what holds up our muscles and gives us from.
Yoga is a weight-bearing form of exercise. Thus, it helps us maintain and increase bone mineral density.
This keeps our bones strong even as we get older. Doing so reduces our risk of fractures.
Also, by lowering our body’s cortisol levels, it helps keep calcium in our bones.
In postmenopausal women, researchers note that yoga helped slow down bone resorption. This is the natural process of breaking down of old bone to make way for building new bone.
This helps prevent osteoporosis.
54. It Improves Your Joints’ Range of Motion
As we get older we lose our flexibility.
This results in our hips, shoulders, and ankles having much less range of motion than they used to.
By spending a lot of time sitting behind a desk we make this worse.
Yoga helps improve and reinstate our body’s range of motion. It does this through its series of postures and gentle stretches.
For most of us, this can promote better movement and bring pain relief. For athletes, it gives them an edge in mobility and flexibility so they perform better.
A study found that in women over the age of 50, yoga helps. A 20-week yoga course improved their spinal mobility and hamstring flexibility. Better yet, the improved joint range of motion resulted in better quality of life.
The study also reveals that no matter what age you are, yoga can help improve joint range of motion. The study included participants who were as old as 79 years old.
This is because of its low impact nature and gradual, controlled movements. Thanks to this it something anyone at any age can do.
This makes it a safer and more accessible form of exercise for everyone.
55. Yoga Has a Low Rate of Injury
Besides its many health benefits, yoga has a very low rate and risk of injury.
The same can’t be said for many other forms of exercise.
- Yoga does not involve any high impact activity.
- It doesn’t put your joints or nerves at risk.
- You don’t need to take any medication or supplements.
The gradual and controlled movements also let you increase your physical activity slowly.
All this, without increasing your level of risk.
56. Yoga Keeps Joints Healthy and Prevents Cartilage Breakdown
Our joints connect our bones together. They are what allow us to move and bend every which way.
Yoga, through its movements and poses, helps keep our joints healthy.
It does this by strengthening the muscles, ligaments, and tendons around the joint. Doing so make it more stable.
The slow, gradual stretching motions also improve joint flexibility. It allows them to maintain their full range of motion. This way they don’t become stiff.
The extra weight you lose doing yoga also reduces the amount stress on your joints. This is true, especially for our knees.
Additionally, practicing yoga increases the circulation of synovial fluid in the joints.
Synovial fluid is the thick, slippery fluid that fills the space between almost all our bones. This fluid acts as a frictionless surface that lets joints bend, move and rotate smoothly.
The fluid also provides nourishment to cartilage. These are the rubbery cushions at the end of our bones. Cartilage act as shock absorbers when we do impact movements.
Thanks to the synovial fluid, our cartilages stay healthy and don’t wear down. This prevents osteoarthritis from developing.
Researchers tell us that yoga helps maintain healthy joints. It does this by gradually loosening and strengthening the connective tissues and muscles that surround the joints and bones.
It is also why yoga helps reduce pain and disability in osteoarthritis.
One such study shows us yoga helping 118 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. It did this by decreased pain, knee disability, joint tenderness, and swelling.
It also increased their range of motion in both knees.
57. Regular Yoga Promotes Spine Health
Between each vertebra in our spine, there are spinal discs that act as shock absorbers. These discs also hold the vertebrae together.
The discs are what allow our body to bend and twist in various directions without pain.
To keep them strong and healthy, we need to be active. This allows them to get the nutrients they need.
Yoga provides us with a gentle, controlled way to exercise our back muscles. It also helps keep our spinal discs healthy. Yoga asanas (postures), which include twists and back bends help prevent disc degeneration.
Researchers from Taiwan’s Cathay General Hospital suggest this. Here, they compared the spine scans of 18 long time yoga instructors with those who didn’t practice yoga. What they found was the yoga practitioners had much less spinal disc degeneration.
58. Breathing Exercises in Yoga Let You Reduce Oxygen Consumption
One of the things that yoga instills in the body is the efficient use of resources.
This includes reducing the level of oxygen consumption.
Lowering your oxygen consumption is actually opposite of what most physical activity does.
Other forms of exercise, including sports, increases our level of oxygen consumption.
We see this in a study involving men between the ages of 20 and 46 years old who did yoga based breathing techniques. Doing yoga caused a big decrease in oxygen consumption and an increase in breath volume.
59. Yoga Regulates Your Heart Rate
For healthy individuals, doing yoga on a regular basis helps lower your heart rate.
This is like the effects that occur in elite level athletes. Many of whom have resting heart rates ranging from anywhere from 30 beats per minute to 40 beats per minute.
This compared to the regular individual’s 70 beats per minute.
Why does this happen?
Yoga helps strengthen the heart muscle. Thus, allowing it to pump more blood with each contraction. Because it is stronger, it doesn’t have to work as hard and beat as much.
Yoga also reduces stress, lets you relax more and relieves you of anxieties. Together, these make its effects even more pronounced.
We see yoga’s effects in 50 healthy volunteers who have been practicing yoga for around 2 years. Researchers observed that engaging in a yoga session immediately lowers their heart rate.
The study uses 2 testing periods. This way they can compare pre-yoga and post-yoga pulse rates.
What they found was after the yoga sessions, the heart rate of the participants decreased. In trial 1 it dropped by 19.6 beats/minute. In trial 2, it decreased by 22.2 beats/minute.
60. Yoga is Comparable to Aerobic Exercise
If you’ve seen or done yoga, you’ll know that there isn’t much “action” going on.
Unlike the gym, you won’t see people doing strenuous movements in the yoga studio.
Yet, it still raises your heart rate.
While it’s able to do this, yoga doesn’t quite match up to cardio exercises like running.
If you don’t take our word for it, you can go through the numbers in this study.
The study tells us that as far as cardiovascular capacity goes, doing yoga is like walking on a treadmill at 2 mph. This amounts to something a bit slower than brisk walking pace (3 mph).
The good news is, this doesn’t tell the whole story.
Also, the relaxation and behavioral modification from yoga make it beneficial for anyone. This is especially true for those with heart disease.
As mentioned, most traditional yoga classes won’t get your heart pumping as hard as when you’re on a treadmill. But, some power yoga classes have this ability.
61. Yoga Works Well for Injury Rehabilitation
Yoga is a great tool for rehabilitating from injury or surgery. It uses slow and controlled movements that help you recover range of motion. Plus, it improves flexibility while strengthening muscles and joints.
It has similarities to physical therapy. But, there’s less of the boredom and aggravation. This is why many medical professionals use it for rehab.
A study tells us how it aids patients who had suffered traumatic brain injuries.
Eight weeks of yoga help the patients improve their balance by 36%. It also doubled their lower body strength while boosting endurance by 105%.
Best of all, it not only helped them physically but also mentally and emotionally.
62. It Helps Mothers During Pregnancy
Pregnant mothers go through many changes during the 9 months they’re with child.
These include everything from physical issues like pain to psychological effects and stress.
Here’s where yoga’s holistic approach comes it.
It helps lower stress levels, provides peace of mind and offers pain relief.
Plus, it does this during pregnancy, labor as well as after giving birth.
A review of controlled trials shows us yoga’s therapeutic effects during pregnancy. It reveals that maternity yoga helps reduce pain levels. Yoga also puts mothers in a better mental condition. It does this by reducing stress, anxiety, and depression.
As a bonus, yoga helped with perinatal outcomes. It decreased delivery time and lowered the number of complications.
Yoga’s Benefits in Our Relationships
Below we look at what yoga can do for your relationships. This includes relationships with others as well as yourself.
63. You Learn Self-Acceptance
Learning to accept ourselves for who we are is essential. We need to to do this first before we can improve our relationships with others.
Only when we accept ourselves can we foster meaningful relationships with others.
Yoga helps us look inward. This lets us realize who we are and learn to love ourselves for it.
Practicing yoga also aids us in accepting that we aren’t perfect. It makes us understand that perfection, as much as it is ideal, isn’t the main goal.
When we accept ourselves, we can then learn to care for ourselves and build self-esteem.
A study shows that 8 weeks of yoga helped women with major depressive disorder (MDD). It improved their levels of stress, ruminations, and isolation.
Researchers learned that yoga helped the patients by promoting self-care techniques. They gathered this from recorded interviews and logs kept by participants. These techniques included self-acceptance, mindfulness, coping with stress and empowerment.
It also helped with relational techniques. Some examples include getting out of the house and shared experiences with others.
64. It Promotes Self-Control
One of the most important things that practicing yoga teaches you is self-control. This is in part through its very deliberate movements and in holding the poses.
There’s also the calming effects of breathing. And, the self-awareness gained from meditation.
Altogether, yoga helps foster self-control in various aspects of life. These include controlling your anger, impulsiveness, and overeating.
We see this in a study involving elderly individuals between the ages of 65 and 92.
Those assigned to chair yoga experienced bigger improvements in psychological health. This is especially true compared to those who did not take part in any kind of yoga.
The yoga group saw improvements in self-control. It also helped reduce their anger levels, feelings of depression and anxiety.
Most importantly, it improved their feeling of well-being and self-efficacy.
65. Yoga Increases Your Self-Esteem
Self-esteem refers to our own valuation of what we’re worth.
How high or low your self-esteem affects how you feel about others and yourself.
It also involves what you believe others think of you.
Ultimately, it affects the way you act.
Having low self-esteem makes us act differently than we normally would. It also makes us treat others in different ways.
Studies also show that it affects our health negatively. This is because it makes us lean on certain things like overeating or alcohol. For some, it’s money or social standing that boosts self-esteem.
Yoga promotes a better perception of ourselves. This improves our self-esteem.
In its practice, we learn gratitude, forgiveness, and empathy. This applies to our relationships with others and ourselves.
A study in the International Journal of Yoga tells us about 226 subjects between the ages of 18 and 71 years old. The study divided the individuals into a yoga group and a physical exercise group.
Here, the yoga group went through an integrative module. This included meditation, breathing, notional corrections and doing poses.
Compared to the exercise group, the yoga group had bigger improvements in self-esteem. This included global self-esteem, moral self-esteem as well as social and family self-esteem.
It also improved their feeling of well-being and self-efficacy.
66. Yoga Helps Improve Your Social Skills
For introverts, communal yoga classes are a great way to get out and meet new people.
It helps you meet like-minded individuals who are into a healthy lifestyle.
Attending yoga sessions can put you in a more social situation. Meanwhile, practicing yoga changes the person within.
A study by University of Maryland’s School of Nursing shows this. It observed that yoga improves a person’s social and spiritual life.
The community aspect of yoga is intangible. But, it affects the practitioner in that it changes how they behave.
The study notes that yoga helps make you more patient, mindful and self-aware. Those who practiced it were also kinder.
All these traits helped improve their interpersonal relationships.
67. Practicing Yoga Promotes Better Interpersonal Relationships
Being more aware of yourself and understanding of others makes you a better person.
It helps you build more meaningful relationships. It also makes people like you more.
In addition, the compassion and calm mind gained from yoga let you relate better with others.
In this aspect, a published study shows that yoga helps pregnant women. After yoga, they saw improvements in quality of life and interpersonal relationships.
68. It Promotes Emotional Sensitivity
Emotional Intelligence, or EQ, deals with being able to understand and manage emotions. Doing so lets you lower stress. It also helps you face challenging situations, communicate and empathize with others.
Being sensitive to your own emotions and those of others is important. It makes you more aware of your own and others’ emotions.
This lets you regulate your own emotions so you don’t get overwhelmed by them. In the same manner, it allows you to empathize with others.
Yoga helps improve your sensitivity to emotions. Researchers observed this in university students who did yoga.
Yoga’s Role in Disease Prevention
In this section, we focus on yoga’s ability to help prevent chronic diseases.
We also include how it works to prevent these conditions.
69. It Aids in Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease
Yoga improves our memory, concentration, and cognitive ability. It also protects us against age-related degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia. It causes behavioral, thinking and memory problems.
This means it affects your ability to remember things. And, it interferes with everyday life. The bad thing is, it gets worse over time.
Science tells us that the meditation done during yoga is valuable. It aids to combat declines in memory and cognitive function. This is in part due to its ability to reduce your stress.
Cortisol is the hormone that helps us deal with stressors. Unfortunately, it also happens to be toxic to our brain cells.
One of the areas of the brain it affects is our hippocampus. This region plays a vital role in our memory’s proper functioning.
Brain studies link high levels of cortisol to worsening Alzheimer’s disease.
Like exercise, yoga helps lower our body’s cortisol levels.
In a study of 54 patients, those who did yoga saw reductions in their cortisol levels. The findings also showed that yoga worked better than antidepressant medication.
In a similar fashion, GABA or gamma-aminobutyric acid therapy is now being used to help fight Alzheimer’s.
Yoga’s ability to increase our brain’s GABA levels makes it protective against the disease.
70. Yoga Lowers Your Risk of Heart Disease
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women.
According to the CDC, 25% of all deaths in the U.S. are related to heart disease.
Part of the reason for this is that other conditions also increase your risk of heart disease. These include diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity.
If you already have it, these conditions worsen it.
Yoga helps reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. It does this by improving blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides.
Also, its ability to lower and regulate blood sugar helps prevent or control diabetes. This is another condition that contributes to heart disease and stroke risk.
A review and analysis of past trials found that yoga helped bring down:
- Systolic blood pressure by a mean of 5.85 mm Hg.
- Diastolic blood pressure by 4.12 mm Hg.
- Reduced heart rate by 6.6 beats/minute.
- Decreased waist circumference by 0.8 inches.
Additionally, yoga practitioners saw improvements in their lipid profile. Total cholesterol, HDL, VLDL levels and triglycerides changed by -13.1 mg/dl, +3 mg/dl, -5.7 mg/dl and -21 mg/dl, respectively.
Lastly, blood sugar and as insulin resistance got better as well.
Altogether, yoga was able to improve many risk factors to reduce the risk of heart disease. Among them were weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar.
71. Yoga Helps in COPD
COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is a condition that affects the lungs. It progressively makes it harder and harder to breathe.
In COPD, damage to the air sacs or wall of the lungs obstructs air flow. This makes it hard for anyone with COPD to breathe normally.
Research tells us that yoga improves breathing function in COPD patients. This is from a review and meta-analysis of studies in the Journal of Thoracic Disease.
They learned that yoga training improved FEV1 and FEV1% predicted. Both are measures of pulmonary function.
- FEV1 refers to forced expiratory volume in one second. It measures the maximum amount of air a person can force out, in 1 second after taking a deep breath.
This gives physicians an idea of how good your lung function is.
Additionally, yoga also improved how far the COPD patients could walk in 6 minutes.
72. Practicing Yoga Reduces the Risk of Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a condition that affects everyone. This includes both men and women.
But, it is more prevalent in women due of the onset of menopause.
After the age of 30, the rate at which bones break down start to outpace the rate at which our body rebuilds them. This makes getting the proper amount of calcium and vitamin D important.
Another proven way to prevent bone loss is by doing weight bearing exercises.
Bones need to be jarred to get stronger.
Yoga is a good way to keep muscles strong and improve your bone mineral density. This helps you ward off osteopenia or osteoporosis later in life.
Research led by Dr. Loren Fishman observed that a 10 minute daily yoga program improves spine and hip bone density. The study was done on 18 patients who had osteoporosis or osteopenia.
In the end, the participants gained 0.76 and 0.94 points respectively on the T-scale.
Results were based on DEXA scan imaging. This is a kind of x-ray scan that’s done on bones. It is used to see how strong or dense they are.
Many other studies show yoga’s benefits on bone turnover and quality of life. But, it bears noting that it is important to know which poses should not do if you have osteoporosis.
Here is Dr. Fishman’s yoga program for osteoporosis for those who want to follow it.
It includes the poses and alternatives for those who have osteopenia and osteoporosis. This way you can improve bone strength safely.
73. Yoga Protects Against Type 2 Diabetes
According to the American Diabetes Association, over 29 million Americans have diabetes.
In addition, 86 million more adults are considered pre-diabetic.
This puts them at very high risk of becoming diabetic in the future. Especially if they don’t take measures to reverse their current lifestyle and diet.
Type 2 diabetes comes as a result of the Western lifestyle and diet. This diet is one that’s high in sugar and carbohydrates. Plus, it is low in physical activity.
Yoga helps reduce the amount of excess glucose circulating in our bloodstream. It does this by making you use up energy by doing the poses.
Additionally, yoga also helps improve insulin response by reducing stress.
In patients with non-insulin dependent diabetes engaging in 40 days of yoga helps. It reduced fasting blood sugar from 208 mg/dl to 171 mg/dl.
It also lowered one-hour post-meal blood sugar from 295 mg/dl to 270 mg/dl.
The study likewise observed improvements in insulin levels. Lastly, it reduced their waist-to-hip ratio.
74. Yoga Lowers Your Risk of Stroke
A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is cut off.
Our brain, like other organs, needs oxygen to function properly.
When blood supply is cut off for too long, brain cells die. Along with them, we lose the abilities controlled by those cells.
This is why a stroke can affect memory and the ability to move certain parts of the body.
How much stroke affects a person depends on the extent of damage to the brain. Its effects can range from temporary weakness to something more serious like paralysis. This is according to the National Stroke Association.
Yoga can be a way to help prevent stroke. It improves overall blood circulation in the body (see #30).
Practicing this art is also helpful in stroke rehabilitation. This includes both physical and mental.
Researchers note that 16 sessions of yoga helped improve neck and hip range of motion. It also decreased pain levels for those recovering from a stroke.
Yoga therapy also increased upper limb strength. And, it improved their 6-minute walk scores.
The best part is yoga offers more than just physical benefits for post-stroke victims. It improves their levels of depression and anxiety as well. This is according to a study by the University of South Australia.
75. Yoga Can Help You Quit Smoking
Smoking is an unhealthy habit.
Yet, over 42 million Americans are cigarette smokers. This is because of nicotine’s addictive properties,
It’s worth noting that smoking kills over 480,000 people a year. Nearly 10% of that from secondhand smoke.
With smoking, our brain knows that it’s important to stop. But, the chemical effects of nicotine and other components in them make it very difficult to do so.
Yoga is a way that’s proven to help people quit smoking.
A study by The Miriam Hospital in Rhode Island offers proof. It notes that 8 weeks of yoga improves smokers’ abstinence rate compared those who didn’t do yoga.
Yoga for Pain Relief
In this section, we discuss how yoga helps bring relief from aches and pains.
It not only reduces the amount of pain but also lets you go about your life better.
76. Yoga is Effective for Pain Relief
Many people use yoga to help prevent and manage pain.
The slow movements let you do postures while loosening up tight areas of your body. This includes your neck and back.
The University of Exeter in the U.K. analyzed 7 databases on studies related to yoga and pain relief. They learned that yoga significantly reduced pains of various types.
It also produced greater reductions compared to other forms of pain management. This includes self-care, therapeutic exercises, standard care, touch, and manipulation.
But, do note that one session isn’t going to produce significant relief from pain.
You need to practice it regularly for it to be effective. This was an observation by researchers at the Bern University Hospital in Switzerland.
77. Yoga for ADHD and ADD
Earlier we touched on the effects of yoga on concentration, attention span, and focus.
These are all aspects of the yogic practice that helps those with ADHD.
To clarify, ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) are related.
But, ADHD is a broader term. It encompasses ADD and hyperactive impulsive.
To define each:
- ADD is being inattentive or too easily distracted. But, not hyperactive nor impulsive.
Hyperactive-impulsive is being both hyperactive and impulsive. But doesn’t have attention deficit.
- ADHD covers both. Those who have a combination of ADD and are also hyperactive and impulsive.
ADHD is prevalent in children.
It affects over 6 million kids in the United States. This is according to data from the CDC.
The meditation and breathing used in yoga help reduce these attention deficits. It also calms you down. This makes it beneficial for ADHD patients.
Researchers observed that yoga meditation helped with ADHD behavior in children. It also improved their self-esteem and interpersonal relationships.
The study noted that the children slept better after yoga. And, it reduced anxiety levels while letting them concentrate better in school.
Note that in this study and others, yoga is recommended as a complementary treatment for ADD and ADHD.
78. It Improves Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory condition. It that affects the small joints. This includes our wrists, fingers, and feet.
Unlike osteoarthritis (see #97), it is an autoimmune disorder. And, it affects the lining of our joints.
Thus, the condition not only causes pain but over time can lead to deformity and erosion of our bones.
Yoga helps offer relief from RA symptoms. This is because it is low impact and done with slow, deliberate movements.
Performing the poses helps loosen our joints and muscles. It also exerts gentle pressure to help anyone with rheumatoid arthritis.
A study found that twice a week Iyengar Yoga for 6 weeks helps young adults with RA. It reduced their pain symptoms and disability. The yoga sessions also helped improve their vitality, mental health, and self-efficacy.
Researchers at A.T. Still University found similar results. Ten weeks of yoga improved participants’ balance. It also reduced their level of disability, pain, and depression.
79. It Helps Relieve Asthma Symptoms
Over 25 million individuals in the U.S. have asthma. Of this number, close to a third are children. This is according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
With asthma, the tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs become inflamed. This thickens the walls within them. It also narrows the airways.
So, there’s limited air flow.
This results in coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing. All due to the swollen and sensitive airways.
A study by an asthma clinic found that yoga therapy helps patients.
The participants experienced a higher degree of relaxation and positive attitude after yoga. Plus, they had better exercise tolerance and relied less on inhalers.
Another study observed 8 weeks of yoga reduce symptoms in mild to moderate asthma. It also lowered the frequency of medication.
80. Yoga Provides Back Pain Relief
Many people use yoga for back pain relief.
It is one of the most helpful benefits for us all.
Around 80% of all people will experience back pain at some point in our lives. This is according to the American Chiropractic Association.
Because it can be debilitating, taking preventive measures is important.
Yoga strengthens the spine as well as the lower and upper back muscles. It does this through its series of postures. Doing so helps prevent back pain and offers relief.
Also, by improving our posture, yoga helps prevent unnecessary strain or pressure. This helps reduce or prevent back pain.
Research shows that doing yoga decreases pain levels and back-related disability. This was the result of a review and analysis of yoga’s effectiveness for lower back pain.
Another study notes yoga’s role in helping long-term back pain sufferers. Here, all participants in the study have had back pain for over 10 years.
In it, doing Iyengar yoga reduce the level of pain. It also decreased functional disability caused by back pain. Best of all, it cut down medication use.
The results were seen right after the yoga program and even 3 months after the end of the program.
81. Yoga Helps Cancer Patients
Yoga can’t cure cancer.
But, it may help stave off this dreaded disease.
Yoga fights inflammation (see #45) and reduces oxidative stress. Both of which contribute to the development of cancer cells.
It also plays a role in cancer recovery. It does so by helping the body get stronger after chemotherapy.
An extra benefit is yoga’s effects on the mind and our well being. It helps cancer survivors do well after they’ve beaten the disease.
A review of research on yoga and cancer shows this.
Here, researchers looked at 25 yoga studies between 2004 and 2011. From that, they observed that practicing yoga helped survivors improve their well-being. Also, it improved their quality of life and limited their symptoms.
Researchers in Turkey likewise noted that yoga reduces stress. It allowed patients who were being treated for breast cancer to relax better. Plus, it helped them do day to day activities.
82. It Offers Relief in Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome causes numbness, tingling and a feeling of swelling. The latter happens even when there isn’t any swelling there.
This condition occurs when the median nerve gets compressed at the wrist area.
This nerve runs from forearm to the palm of our hand. It controls sensation in our fingers, thumb, and hands. As such, this condition can limit our wrist, hand and finger function.
A study by the University of Pennsylvania shows us how yoga brings relief to carpal tunnel syndrome. In fact, researchers observed that yoga offered better relief than splinting the wrist.
Study participants went through an 8 week yoga program involving 11 postures. Thanks to yoga, they experienced significant improvements in grip strength and had less pain.
Yoga also let them regain wrist flexibility. They saw improvements in their ability to make the Phalen sign.
83. Yoga and Chronic Bronchitis
Chronic bronchitis is a pulmonary disease that makes it difficult to breathe.
As such, increasing oxygen without making the patient breathe hard helps this condition.
Yoga’s is unique in that it is one of the few forms of exercise that does this. It is able to increase oxygen in the body without increasing your respiration rate. This makes in beneficial for anyone with chronic bronchitis.
This unique feature also makes it distinct from other modes of exercise.
A study found that 4 weeks of yoga that included asana and pranayama works well. During this time, chronic bronchitis patients saw improvements in lung function. This included FEV1, PEFR (peak expiratory flow rate) and vital capacity.
It also reduced sudden shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing.
84. It Helps Reduces Epilepsy Seizures
For those who have epilepsy, yoga reduces the frequency of seizures.
Among the triggers of these seizures is stress. This is something yoga helps lower.
Prior studies on epilepsy also show that yoga complements existing anti-epilepsy medication. Together, they cut down the frequency of epileptic seizures.
But, due to the limited data, more research needs to be done.
85. Yoga and Fibromyalgia
Yoga reduces the symptoms of fibromyalgia. This can include fatigue, pain throughout the body and depression.
Researchers noticed that patients with fibromyalgia benefited from 2 different yoga techniques. These were relaxing yoga and relaxing yoga plus touch.
The study divided the patients between the 2 yoga programs. Then asked them to answer a Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ) and a visual analog scale (VAS). The FIQ and VAS helped researchers measure pain levels the patients experienced.
In both groups, pain scores decreased after yoga.
During treatment, the yoga with touch group experienced more pain relief. But in the end, it was the yoga without touch group that had better results.
86. Yoga Can Reduce Your Medication
As we get older, the potential number of medication we need increases.
This often includes pills for controlling blood pressure and cholesterol.
Others may have prescriptions for blood sugar lowering drugs and the like.
Taking medicine is often a simpler fix compared to lifestyle changes. It works faster and is more convenient. All you need to do is pop a pill.
The problem is, these medicines can have side effects.
Yoga is one way you can reduce the medication you take. This saves you money. And, it lets you avoid their possible side effects.
An article in the International Journal of Yoga noticed this in long-term yogis. Compared to non-practitioners they had lower BMI and used less medication.
It also saw an inverse relationship between yoga experience with BMI and medication needed.
This shows that yoga can help you get rid of some medication. This can include pills and tablets for sleeping, weight control or anxiety relief.
87. It Improves IBS Symptoms
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can cause gas, bloating, cramping and abdominal pain.
These issues are due to many different things. Among them are the food you eat, existing conditions, stress, and hormones.
Yoga helps relieve stress that can lead to IBS. It also reduces constipation due to IBS.
A study by the Pediatric Pain Program at UCLA offers proof. It found that doing yoga lessened symptoms in young adolescents and adults with IBS. It also let them sleep better. Plus, it reduced their disability while improving physical functioning.
The British Columbia Children’s Hospital in Canada observed similar results.
Here, 25 adolescents with IBS went through 4 weeks of home yoga practice. At the end of the period, they had less gastrointestinal symptoms. They also had lower levels of functional disability.
88. It Assists in Treating Insomnia
Yoga is known for its ability to help us relax and reduce anxiety and arousal.
This makes it useful for anyone with insomnia or has problems sleeping.
Performing yoga poses right before bed will help you sleep. Additionally, it improves sleep quality.
This was observed by researchers at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Here, 8 weeks of daily yoga let participants sleep better. This helped treat their insomnia.
At the end of the study, researchers found that yoga improved many aspects of sleep. This included sleep efficiency, total sleep time and sleep onset latency. It also reduced wake time after sleep.
89. It Helps Women Cope with Menopausal Symptoms
Menopause is part of the natural biological process for women.
But, it comes with some symptoms that can be disruptive in your day to day life.
Many women use yoga to cope with these symptoms. Among them are hot flashes, sleep difficulty, lower energy, anxiety and mood swings.
Researchers at the University of Washington observed this in postmenopausal women. Here, 10 weeks of yoga improved well-being. They also saw big improvements in symptoms. These included hot flashes, sleep efficiency and quality.
While yoga does not lessen the frequency of hot flashes, it improved the women’s perception of it. This resulted in better well-being.
An analysis of past yoga trials on menopausal symptoms made the same observation. Data showed yoga was effective for dealing with psychological symptoms related to menopause.
90. Reduce Your Migraines with Yoga
Migraines can be debilitating. Their pain can last for hours or even days.
Thus, when migraine attacks strike, it disrupts our normal way of life.
Research reveals that 3 months of yoga helped participants experience fewer migraines. When they did get migraines, the intensity of the headaches was lower as well.
Many things can cause migraines. Among them are stress, poor posture, and sleep issues.
Yoga can reduce the symptoms by addressing these and other issues as well.
91. It Encourages Mindful Eating
Mindful eating is when you pay attention to your senses as you eat. You also eat with intention.
This means you don’t put junk into your body even if it tastes good.
Instead, it involves eating with the intention of caring for yourself, your body and health.
It also involves paying attention and enjoying what you’re eating.
This makes you more aware of the food you eat and understand what the food is for.
Practicing mindful eating also fosters the feeling of satisfaction. At the same time, it curbs hunger cravings.
A study reveals that yoga improves mindful eating. Researchers used a mindful eating questionnaire to compare how different activities affected mindfulness. Here, yoga practitioners scored higher than those who walked or did moderate to intense exercise.
Yoga helps increase our mind to body connection through breath awareness.
This connection allows us to be more aware of our body. This includes our cravings and our emotions. It also fosters the understanding of what we eat ultimately affects our health and how we feel.
92. Yoga’s Effects on Eating Disorders
While we’re on the topic of eating, it’s worth noting that yoga helps with eating disorders as well.
Researchers at the Seattle Children’s Hospital in Washington noted this. They reveal that anyone who suffers from this condition can turn to yoga to lessen its effects.
The team did an experiment to see how yoga helps treat this condition. To do so they recruited participants who went through 12 weeks of yoga.
After the program, participants had less preoccupation with food. They also did better in the Eating Disorder Examination.
93. It Helps Patients with Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple Sclerosis affects balance and coordination. It also does a number on your muscles and memory. The reason is that it affects the brain and the spinal cord.
Thus, the condition presents physical, mental and emotional symptoms. When the symptoms get serious, they can prevent you from doing things you used to normally be able to do.
A study in the Journal Neurology tells us yoga is useful for MS patients. It indicates that 6 months of yoga reduced their fatigue levels. It also notes that yoga’s effect was comparable to other forms of exercise.
This is similar to the findings of an analysis of past studies on yoga and MS.
In this one, researchers saw that yoga improved mood and fatigue levels in people with MS.
Unfortunately, yoga isn’t able to improve cognitive or muscle function.
94. Yoga Can Improve Muscle Function in Muscular Dystrophy
Muscular dystrophy is a genetic condition affecting our muscles. With this condition, muscles progressively get weaker and lose muscle mass.
Because of this, it gradually leads to not being able to use certain parts of the body.
Muscular dystrophy comes in different forms. Some forms affect muscles. Other forms affect swallowing or breathing.
Yoga can help depending on the symptoms.
Here’s one example from the University of São Paulo in Brazil. It found that yoga improved pulmonary function in children with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. This was thanks to yoga’s breathing exercises.
The breathing exercises provided significant improvements in FEV1 (Forced Expiratory Volume). It also boosted FVC (Forced Vital Capacity). Both are lung function tests that measure the amount of air a person can exhale.
95. It Helps Relieve Neck Pain
If you have chronic neck pain, yoga can bring relief. It will give you better range of motion as well.
A study in Germany indicates that Iyengar yoga helps those who have chronic neck pain. It does this by reducing the amount of pain experienced during both rest and in motion.
Those who performed yoga also experienced better quality of life. They had less disability and showed improved psychological outcomes. Their neck range of motion got better too, according to researchers.
Even more important is that what the study noted during a 12 month follow-up. It saw that maintaining the yoga practice kept the pain away. It also improved functional neck disability and quality of life.
96. It Reduced the Symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Those who suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) experience excessive thoughts and behaviors. For them, this happens so much that it gets in the way of going about their everyday life.
Some studies link this behavior to our fears and anxieties.
Yoga can decrease the level of OCD by letting us relax. Plus, it reduces our anxieties.
A study at UC San Diego notes this. Participants treated using a yoga breathing pattern saw significant reductions their symptoms. Even better, the results happened within a 12 month period.
Additionally, it reduced their level of perceived stress. This helped some participants get off medication or have it reduced.
97. Yoga Helps Osteoarthritis Symptoms
We’ve mentioned earlier that yoga is beneficial for rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
It gets better.
The practice also improves mobility. Plus, it brings pain relief for those with osteoarthritis (OA).
Note that there’s a difference between RA and osteoarthritis. OA is a result of wear and tear of our joints. Meanwhile, RA happens when our immune system experiences some type of malfunction.
OA occurs when the cartilage that acts as cushioning between the bones in our joints break down. This results in pain and swelling. It also causes limited range of motion on that joint.
OA often affects our hips, knees, fingers and feet.
The CDC estimates that 50% of people may develop knee OA by the time they reach 85 years old. Similarly, 25% will get hip arthritis by this age.
Here’s where yoga can help.
Research shows yoga reduces morning stiffness and pain in patients with knee OA. They also concluded it provided better results than physiotherapy exercises.
The University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Rheumatology notes similar results. Here, an 8 week program of 90 minute weekly yoga classes improved the symptoms from knee OA.
98. It Improves PTSD Symptoms
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a condition that can disrupt your life.
The reason is that you’re always at heightened alert. Or, fear of something that may pose danger to you.
Yoga helps ease some of that anxiety and fear. This way, the PTSD doesn’t control your life.
A study at Stanford University examined how yoga can help with PTSD. It looked at the effects of Sudarshan Kriya yoga on PTSD in veterans from the Afghanistan war.
Results revealed that breathing-based meditation reduces hyperarousal and anxiety. It also decreased their PTSD scores.
This makes yoga’s role in helping military personnel cope with PTSD very useful.
But it isn’t limited to veterans. Anyone with PTSD can benefit from it.
This is because yoga also helps regular men and women deal with PTSD. It allows them to regain a better quality of life.
Research in the Journal of Traumatic Stress shows this. It reveals a 12 session yoga program helped reduce PTSD symptoms in women.
99. It Can Reduce PMS Symptoms
Yoga is one way women can reduce the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
Research has shown that attending yoga classes help.
This is true when done during the follicular phase and the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle.
Doing so makes you feel better. It also lets you achieve a more peaceful mental state.
Also, practicing yoga not only affects your brain waves but also your body chemistry.
A study notes that those who did yoga during their menstrual cycle had lower blood pressure. It reduced their heart rate. And, lowered their anxiety, depression and anger levels.
Together, this makes you feel better during that time of the month.
100. Yoga Provides Sciatica Pain Relief
The sciatic nerve is a large nerve in our back. It starts at our lower back and goes through our hips and buttocks down both our legs.
This nerve plays a large role in day to day life. It connects our spinal cord to the muscles in our butt, legs, and feet.
This allows us to feel sensation in our lower limbs. It also lets us have reflexes.
Sciatica is often caused by issues in the spine. Some examples include a herniated disc, which compresses the nerve.
When this happens, you can lose feeling, experience numbness or weakness in your legs. The pain can also become so serious that it prevents you from going about your day.
A study in the U.K. reveals that yoga works as sciatica therapy. Yoga reduces pain and disability caused by lumbar disc bulges and extrusions.
In a related study, researchers found similar conclusions.
Yoga relieved rigidity, tenderness, pain and walking difficulty. Patients with sciatica showed significant improvements thanks to the cobra and locust poses.
101. Yoga Can Improve Your Scoliosis Curve
Scoliosis is the sideways curvature of the spine. It can affect the lumbar or thoracic spine.
When this happens, it affects your posture.
Mild scoliosis isn’t something to worry about.
But, when the curve gets more severe, it can affect your confidence in public. This is because you will lean towards one side even when you’re standing straight up.
Scoliosis can also produce uneven shoulders, hips, and waist.
If the condition progresses, it can make life difficult. The curvature of the spine can lead to back pain and breathing difficulty.
Studies show that scoliosis from thoracic curvature reduces lung function. It makes it more difficult to breathe, especially during exercise.
Yoga can decrease your spine’s scoliosis curve.
Dr. Loren Fishman and colleagues proved this. They observed that the side plank helps reduce spine curvature in scoliosis patients. In their study, this exercise lessened primary scoliotic curves by 32%.
On average, the participants, all with scoliosis, did the yoga pose 6 days a week for close to 7 months. They held the pose for around 90 seconds daily on the convex side of the curve.
102. It Helps Soothe Your Sinuses
Yoga is often associated with its poses.
But, one important aspect of the practice is pranayama. This is a breathing technique in yoga.
This control of breathing regulates our mood and improves our ability to relax. It also “extends our life force”.
Pranayama uses different methods of inhalation and exhalation. Among them are lengthening our breath duration and alternative nostril breathing.
These techniques clear up clogged nasal passages so you can breathe better.
Research shows that nasal breathing reduces the effects related to Allergic Rhinitis. It also soothes your sinuses, letting you breathe easier.
103. Practicing Yoga is Effective for Dealing with Chronic Pain
The studies we’ve mentioned above show how yoga helps us deal with various kinds of chronic pain. This ranges from back to neck pain. It even includes those related to arthritis.
Plus, yoga offers benefits related to muscle strength, flexibility, and range of motion. All of which play a part in alleviating pain.
As an extra bonus, it gives us higher pain tolerance levels.
To see its effects on pain, the Centre for Research on Pain in the National Institutes of Health did some tests.
It found that doing yoga lets you tolerate the same amount of pain twice as long as those who don’t do yoga.
To learn more, the researchers used MRI and sensory testing.
Doing so helped them discover that yoga increases the gray matter in many areas of the brain. They saw a difference in the size of the insular gray matter.
They also noticed an important relationship. The longer you practiced yoga, the more gray matter you had and higher pain tolerance as well.
This led them to conclude that practicing yoga alters our brain composition. It does so such that it increases your tolerance to pain.
This allows you to deal with chronic issues with less discomfort.
104. Yoga Helps Relieve Vision Discomfort
Most of us sit in front of the computer screen all day long. This is especially true for work.
At some point, you’ve probably noticed your eyes getting tired from looking at the screen too long.
Here’s where yoga comes in.
Doing yoga can reduce discomfort from computer vision syndrome.
Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) is an umbrella term for a set of eye problems. These problems come from staring and focusing on your screen for long periods of time.
When using computers, our eyes focus on small text and images that are very near. Additionally, we do this for long durations.
Doing this often leads to eye strain and discomfort.
While the discomfort is temporary, regular computer use leads to other symptoms. These include dry or red eyes, blurred vision, and eye irritation. You may also have some headaches and neck or back pain.
Researchers observed that computer users benefit from a 5 day a week yoga program. Those who did yoga had less visual discomfort after 60 days.
There’s something worthwhile noting, though.
Yoga can help combat eye strain. But certain postures may be harmful if you’re prone to glaucoma. These include the Sirsasana or headstand,
Studies have found that standing on your head increases the flow of blood to the head. This temporarily increases intraocular pressure. Doing so can contribute to the progression of glaucoma in those at high risk to the condition.
Wondering whether yoga is good for you? Or, if you should start doing yoga?
Science confirms what many yogis have been telling us all along.
Yoga is good for you.
What’s even better is that it offers holistic benefits.
I’ll be updating this list of yoga benefits from time to time to keep it updated.
If you have something to add or share about your yoga experience, we’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.
Also, if you’ve found this article useful, please share this post with your friends. So they too can benefit from yoga.