Yoga is an ancient practice that merges the body and mind. Yoga uses balance, breathing, strength, and flexibility to promote a mindful experience. Many people start yoga as a low-impact activity to improve flexibility, but it does so much more than that. Here are eight ways yoga changes your body.
Reduces Chronic Pain
According to a study by Nandini Vallath,
“Asanas bring steadiness, health and lightness of the body and optimize tissue functioning. Asanas are useful adjuncts in the maintenance phase for reconditioning the body, realignment of skeleton and for correction of postures. It opens up the vital flow of energy through the body, which is subjectively perceived as positive sense of wellbeing. Well chosen culturing and balancing asanas can strengthen muscles and correct the posture. This, coupled with relaxation, breaks the cycle and reverses the pain reinforcing forces.”Perspectives on Yoga Inputs in the Management of Chronic Pain (nih.gov)
The breathing techniques in yoga(Pranayama) help initiate relaxation and improve the body’s stress response by reducing tension in the affected areas. Asanas are the poses in yoga, and various poses help stretch and compress the body to allow better blood flow in areas of discomfort. These components of yoga combine to help to change your body’s response to pain.
Improved Athletic Performance
Yoga improves athletic performance by strengthening concentration and body awareness. Specific forms of yoga-like flow incorporate synchronized movements to bring better balance with strength exercises. This allows you to improve your range of motion with the fast and reactive movements of athletic performance. Therefore yoga movements help prevent injury and respond better to change with the knowledge of the body’s strength and limitations.
Yoga changes your body through increased lean muscle and improved metabolism. The effects of yoga may show physically in your body through weight reduction or body composition reduction. A study looked at the effects of restorative yoga and women. It found that 48-weeks of yoga practice helped overweight women lose abdominal fat. Seeing these benefits with a less intense form of yoga, you can imagine the results with more active forms.
Hot and power yoga are more intense yoga modes that help ramp up calorie burn because of the constant movement.
Improved Cardiovascular Health
Yoga uses rhythmic breathing with mind alignment to help focus the heart. Focused breathing helps to reduce stress and regulate blood flow. In addition, yoga improves blood sugar levels, blood pressure, lymphatic flow, and cholesterol. The European Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing study found yoga was an adequate complementary treatment to improve heart health. This was explicitly true with atrial fibrillation, where they saw a significant decrease in blood pressure and heart rate with 30 minutes of light yoga for 12 weeks.
In a National Institute of Health survey, people who practiced yoga daily found 55% improved sleep quality. In addition, 85% reported stress reduction, a common contributor to sleeplessness. In addition, yoga is beneficial in managing sleep-related problems like insomnia, according to a review of sleep quality in women.
Improved Muscle Tone and Strength
Yoga engages the core and uses isometric movements to help build lean muscle. Because you’re using your body weight during the poses, you will get a leaner muscle tone as you work to hold the poses. In addition, as you move through the more complicated poses, you have to hold your body weight activating muscles you may not use regularly.
The unconventional body movements through yoga allow you to build strength in areas you might not recruit with traditional weight training. Finally, yoga practice’s improved range of motion helps you perform traditional weight training workouts easier, therefore improving strength and muscle tone.
Headache and Migraine Relief
Stress triggers migraines and poses that relax the neck, body, and shoulders help provide relief. Yoga stimulates the vagus nerve, which can reduce the effects of migraines. In addition, yoga is a known stress management tool that helps loosen tightened body areas activated through stress. Finally, research found that in 161 participants, adding yoga with regular treatment was more beneficial than treatment alone for migraine headaches.
Yoga practice boosts immunity in several ways. First, it may help reduce inflammation, a critical immune response in the body that can promote disease if it becomes chronic. According to a study on 218 participants, those who practiced yoga had lower inflammatory markers in the body. Inflammation is associated with several diseases like cancer and diabetes.
In addition, yoga poses to promote the draining of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system carries immunity cells and helps to filter out the bad stuff in the body. Certain poses help activate the lymph nodes to drain and circulate these helpful immunity tools to resist disease.