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I've written before about why I started yoga and how it has helped me, but I wanted to discuss in this post about the evidence-based benefits of yoga. There are a lot, and I'll do my best to break them down.
Yoga aims to bring together the mind and the body, so the benefits of yoga are not limited simply to "weight-loss" or "flexibility." The benefits are innumerable from a whole-body perspective. Yoga combines breathing practice and meditation with asanas, or the physical postures of yoga that we all typically think of when we think of yoga.
Benefits of Yoga for the Mind
Yoga has been shown to decrease stress and promote relaxation by decreasing cortisol, the primary stress hormone
A study in 2005 of 24 females showed a significant improvement in perceived stress and trait anxiety, fatigue after a 3-month yoga program
Yoga has been found to be as effective as relaxation in reducing stress, anxiety, and improving health status after 10 weekly sessions.
By emphasizing being present in the moment and grounding in the body, yoga can help ease the symptoms of anxiety.
By decreasing cortisol levels, yoga may help decrease depression symptoms
Benefits of Yoga for the Body
Decrease Inflammation While inflammation is normal for an immune response, chronic inflammation is linked to various chronic illnesses such as heart disease and cancer.
A 2015 study found that participants who practiced yoga had lower levels of inflammatory markers than those who did not. The study also found that regular yoga practice can decrease levels of cholesterol and triglycerides.
Yoga could improve heart health by decreasing cholesterol and triglycerides as mentioned above, but yoga has also been shown to decrease blood pressure, which is one of the major causes of heart problems. Lowering your blood pressure can reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
As a physical therapist, I'm akin to the havoc that chronic pain can have on people's lives, and yoga can help that. Various studies have shown that yoga practices of different sorts can decrease pain in those with things such as osteoarthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome
Even 15-30 minutes of yoga could help to improve flexibility and balance
Yoga may help improving breath function by improving a person's vital capacity, or how much air can be expelled from the lungs
Yoga can increase strength- a 2015 study found that 12 weeks of yoga practice led participants to have an improvement in endurance, strength, and flexibility
1. Michalsen A, Grossman P, Acil A, et al. Rapid stress reduction and anxiolysis among distressed women as a consequence of a three-month intensive yoga program. Med Sci Monit. 2005;11(12):CR555-CR561.
2. Smith C, Hancock H, Blake-Mortimer J, Eckert K. A randomised comparative trial of yoga and relaxation to reduce stress and anxiety. Complement Ther Med. 2007;15(2):77-83. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2006.05.001
3. Vijayaraghava A, Doreswamy V, Narasipur OS, Kunnavil R, Srinivasamurthy N. Effect of Yoga Practice on Levels of Inflammatory Markers After Moderate and Strenuous Exercise. J Clin Diagn Res. 2015;9(6):CC08-CC12. doi:10.7860/JCDR/2015/12851.6021
4. Bhutkar MV, Bhutkar PM, Taware GB, Surdi AD. How effective is sun salutation in improving muscle strength, general body endurance and body composition?. Asian J Sports Med. 2011;2(4):259-266. doi:10.5812/asjsm.34742
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