Yoga is something that I took up some time ago after my doctor recommended it for several different health reasons. Prior to their recommendation, I had done a few sessions here and there for fun, but never anything long enough to see lasting results in my everyday life. It was something I had done from time-to-time to replace a workout at the gym. And while yoga can be a wonderful workout and is a phenomenal way to aid the process of weight loss, there are also many other ways in which yoga benefits the body. Some of these benefits can be seen instantly while others take time to appear. But, all in all, yoga is honestly life changing. So, while many of those reading this may have never had your yoga pants attend a yoga class, and would rather stay in savasana all day (aka nap), I can honestly tell you that yoga is definitely something worth exploring. Once I did, I was amazed and I don’t plan on reverting to the non–yogi life. In fact, I now rarely go a day without it. If attending a class isn’t feasible or practical, there are also several Youtube channels and smart phone apps. I recommend checking out Yoga With Adriene, and PsycheTruth on Youtube. I also recommend downloading the free app Daily Yoga. If I’ve gotten your attention at all, keep reading to discover the ways regularly practicing yoga will benefit you.
Difficulty or an inability to focus is a growing problem for our generation, with distractions so readily available right at our fingertips with the help (or hindrance) of our beloved smart phones. Practicing yoga helps to train your brain to home in on the task at hand and improve your ability to have your mind not wander. Studies have shown that practicing Hatha Yoga for just 20 minutes per day boosts brain function and improves overall concentration.
I have always been someone that has either never gotten enough sleep, or has had very irregular sleep patterns (AKA Netflix binge – watching until 4am). I have also had trouble for many years sleeping through the night without waking up several times, and yoga has done wonders for me in this aspect of my life. I can personally attest that when I began regularly doing yoga, I saw an improvement in my ability to fall asleep and my sleep quality. Prior to beginning regular yoga practices, I would need 9-10 hours of sleep to feel well rested. However, since yoga has improved my quality of sleep I can wake up only having slept 6-7 hours and feel the same as I would have when sleeping 9-10 hours – fully energized and ready to start my day. Researchers from Harvard found that 8 weeks of daily yoga improved the quality of sleep for people with insomnia.
There are many ways yoga can improve your immune system and boost your overall health. Yoga stimulates circulation and teaches your body and organs to work better together, which improves organ function. Also, according to a study conducted in Norway, it was observed that yoga results in rapid “gene expression” modifications, which suggests boosted immunity on the cellular level. What is astonishing about this finding is that the researchers came to the conclusion that these effects don’t take long to appear. Effects were found to be present while the sample participants were still on their yoga mats. They compared this to a sample control group who were sent on a hike while listening to relaxing music and the responses of those who participated in yoga were far better.
Improved Mental Health
Of course, this is preferential, but in my opinion this is quite possibly the most significant and important benefit of regular yoga practice. If you suffer from anxiety or depression, yoga will become your best friend. For everyone else, your mental health and overall mood will benefit extraordinarily as well. Yoga takes your mind into a state of calmness and allows you to learn tactics to maneuver the busy thoughts that enter your mind. It allows you to slow down, assess your surroundings, and just observe what is going on. This may seem simple but you would be surprised as to how helpful it actually is. Once you take a moment to simply observe all of the traffic entering the mind, you can learn how to halt it.
Improved Joint Function and Injury Protection
In addition to building and toning muscle from many poses done during a yoga sequence, there are also several flexibility exercises that stretch our joints and increase the flow of synovial fluid. Synovial fluid is responsible for the painless movement of joints and bones, and the overall decrease of joint pain. This also improves the ability of joint function, as synovial fluid is necessary for delivering oxygen and nutrients to cartilage that doesn’t have blood supply.
This also means you’re decreasing your chance of injury, you’re able to work on loosening them and building muscle, making them stronger and less susceptible to injury. For example, an increase in knee joint function can result in a lower chance of meniscal tears and ACL injuries.
These are some of the many ways yoga can prove to be beneficial to your overall health!