Honestly, I wasn’t a fan of yoga at first, but it has become one of my favorite activities. Why? I realized the tremendous change yoga had in my life. Yoga is now an integral part of my exercise routine. As I practice more, I realize how beneficial it is for my mind and body. If you are still unsure, here are seven astonishing reasons to practice yoga.
1. Relieves Stress and Anxiety
One of the top reasons I turn to yoga is to feel better mentally. The stress hormone cortisol is reduced with regular yoga practice. The main emphasis focuses on being present and clearing the mind, so consistent practice is shown to have a calming effect. Over time, anxiety levels reduce.
In another study, yoga helped improve participants’ moods by increasing thalamic GABA levels in the body. Low GABA levels are associated with mood disorders like depression and anxiety; medicine is typically used to increase these levels for these patients. Yoga had a 27% increase in GABA levels after 60 minutes of practice. Over 12 weeks, yoga was more beneficial than walking for mood improvements.
2. Benefits The Heart
Yoga has positive outcomes for cardiovascular risk factors. The reduction in stress decreases blood pressure and heart rates, and this is especially true for hypertensive individuals. One study looked at hot yoga and found it significantly improved vascular health. Better vascular health promotes circulation and the opening of the artery, preventing and improving cardiovascular disease risk factors.
3. Increases Flexibility and Balance
The yoga poses stretch the muscles and improve their range of motion. An improved range of motion is essential to reduce age-related decline and improve quality of life. The poses challenge your body to move in functional ways that may cause discomfort but, over time, becomes more effortless. As you increase your flexibility, you’re less prone to injury while performing other activities like high-intensity exercise.
Certain poses even promote strength with the isometric holds and balances they require. These poses tap into muscles not typically recruited with other activities, increasing strength in new ways. The emphasis on core engagement improves your posture making you more synergistic overall.
4. Benefits Weight Management
Yoga encourages mindfulness, which has trickle-down effects on your lifestyle. Researchers found overweight individuals who practiced regular yoga lost significant weight with consistent practice. Overall, those who practice regularly tend to weigh less than those who do not. The body awareness yoga promotes encourages you to think twice before committing unhealthy behaviors, benefitting weight loss.
5. Improves Breathing
A core component of yoga is focusing on your breath. The breathing techniques help center your body and still the mind. Beyond that, it’s essential for improvements in lung health. When you inhale deeply, you are encouraged to hold the air in your lungs before releasing it. Therefore, training your lungs increases vital capacity. Vital capacity is the amount of air released from your lungs. As vital capacity improves, it increases the endurance and performance of the lungs. This is an added benefit for those with lung-related conditions. One study found that continuously practicing rhythmic yoga breathing improved lung function in asthmatic individuals.
6. Decreases pain
There are several ways yoga reduces pain. Chronic stress can manifest in our bodies as tension, leading to pain. When our stress is reduced, the tension ceases, reliving the pain. Also, yoga is recommended as a complementary treatment for arthritis, fibromyalgia, low back pain, migraines, and a slew of other chronic pain conditions.
7. Improves The Mind
Along with anxiety improvements, yoga boosts other brain functions. Yoga increases GABA, a hormone that prevents the brain from becoming overly excited. This hormone allows you to let your guard down and focus on your movement. Also, yoga increases happiness hormones, including dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins. These elevated hormones leave you with a better overall sense of well-being and pleasure.
Areas of the brain responsible for memory, decision-making, planning, and emotional regulation are found to be larger in yoga practitioners than in their peers. These areas of the brain are the first to shrink with age or cognitive diseases. Therefore, yoga can be a preventative tool for age-related cognitive decline.
Yoga is For Everyone
For thousands of years, yoga has stood the test of time. With all of these benefits, I can see why. Yoga has several different types, so there is something for everyone. It is easy to get started, and it can be practiced almost anywhere. For yoga beginners, my advice is to keep working at it, and you may find a method you love.
Note: With every form of activity, there are associated risks, and it is essential to consult your doctor before trying something new.