What are the benefits of yoga?

Yoga has something for everyone. No matter your age or ability, practising yoga will make you feel better.

Modern media may lead us to believe that yoga is all about physical postures, however yoga incorporates many other introspective and reflective practices which include breathing techniques, mindfulness, meditation, mantra, journaling and relaxation.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the benefits of yoga.

1. Yoga improves flexibility, balance and strength

The benefits of increased flexibility include fewer injuries, less pain and improved posture.
The benefits of increased strength are weight loss, increased joint health and less injury – larger, higher quality muscles burn more calories, even whilst resting. Increased strength also means better ability to do everyday activities and better quality of life.
Improving balance can have cognitive benefits including better concentration, less confusion and increased memory. Even just a few minutes a day, or a regular once-a-week practice can be enough to see and feel an increase in flexibility, strength and balance.

2. Yoga establishes a healthy lifestyle

The physical practice of yoga gets you moving and the mental and spiritual aspects teach mindfulness and help to address intellectual and emotional issues. These tools can be extended off the yoga mat into our every-day life. Yoga can help fight stress, manage anxiety, enhance mindfulness, encourages better sleep and creates a happier, more positive outlook. All of these are a great foundation for a healthy lifestyle and for making positive and healthy choices.

3. Yoga can help with weight-loss

Even low-intensity yoga with long holds and slow stretches has been shown to burn calories and aid in weight-loss. Yoga reduces stress, builds strength both physically and mentally, enhances other forms of exercise and builds a positive mindset. These all help to increase feelings of connection with your body and give greater awareness of satiation. They can help to prevent over-eating and can improve self-esteem and self-worth.

4. Yoga improves bone, muscle and joint health

Weight bearing exercises improve bone density and health. Yoga is a form of body-weight exercise which strengthens bones and muscles, including the upper body which often gets little use in modern-day-living. Yoga’s ability to reduce the stress hormone cortisol, can also help to keep calcium in the bones. Yoga keeps joints mobile and flexible. It builds and strengthens the muscles which support the joints and can often help with conditions such as arthritis and joint pain.

5. Yoga can speed up healing

Stretching, twisting and moving the body, massages the internal organs and helps to speed up toxin removal. It also increases blood and oxygen flow and provides fresh blood and oxygen to muscles, helping them to repair and regenerate. Breathwork such as slow, concentrated breathing helps to slow the heartbeat and calms the central nervous system, providing access to the parasympathetic nervous system. This is where our body works best – our ‘rest and digest state’. It is here that our body relaxes, digests and recovers best. The more time we spend in this state, the healthier we are.

6. Can help with chronic pain including back pain

Yoga helps to stretch and strengthen the muscles that support and stabilise the spine. Yoga helps to reduce pain and inflammation and improve movement. The meditation, breathwork, mindfulness and relaxation elements of yoga can also be extremely beneficial in pain management, prevention and reduction.

7. Yoga reduces inflammation, detoxes your body and improves immunity

Many illnesses or chronic health conditions are linked to prolonged inflammation. Yoga can help reduce the inflammatory markers of many persisting health conditions especially those caused by stress and aging. Yoga supports the body’s natural detoxification and cleansing process. It increases circulation and works like an internal massage, stimulating the lymphatic system and helping the liver and other organs to work optimally. Yoga helps to cleanse the body, rid toxins, condition the lungs and lower stress hormones. It provides a gentle means for supporting the immune system naturally.

8. Provides stress relief and can help you to manage stress and anxiety

Yoga helps you to relax. It teaches you to focus on your breath and the present moment which help to lower cortisol and adrenaline levels. Yoga is a calming and restorative practice which teaches life tools. Physical postures, focused concentration, positive mantras, meditation, mindfulness, chanting, journaling and sound baths are amongst the many exercises of yoga which are great for stress relief and anxiety.

9. Yoga makes you happy and gives you more energy

Moving your body increases circulation and provides fresh blood and oxygen to your organs and muscles. This helps them to work optimally and provide you with more energy. Yoga also works to release mental and emotional blocks, helps to alleviates stress and encourages the release of endorphins – happy hormones!

10. Better Sex

Yoga makes you happier, healthier, stronger, gives you a more positive outlook and higher self-esteem. It makes you more flexible, more relaxed, sleep better and more in-tune with your body. It decreases stress, balances hormones naturally and as a result, increases sexual desire and function!

11. Yoga helps you relax more and sleep better

Yoga encourages mental and physical relaxation. It is a mind-body practice that reduces stress and regulates the nervous system. By focusing on your mind, body and breath, you build your ability to calm, balance, focus and relax yourself. This subsequently increases your ability to fall asleep, stay asleep and also improves your overall quality of sleep!

12. Yoga can improve women’s health including premenstrual and menopausal symptoms

Yoga has great healing powers and can help to balance hormones. Yoga balances the mind and nourishes the soul. It reduces stress and builds resilience, can help to keep weight in-check and supports healthy digestion. Yoga supports the organs in charge of the menstrual cycle. Regular practice can help to alleviate symptoms of PMS and menopause such as hot flushes and irritability, giving you a more positive and enjoyable cycle.

13. Connects you with a supportive community

Cultivating a sense of connection is imperative to our well-being. Yoga provides you with an instant community and a sense of safety, belonging and togetherness. The energy of being surrounded by open and like-minded fellow yogis, united in a shared love of yoga, is uplifting and provides instant comfort and warmth. Yoga means ‘union’ and facilitates the purpose and the place for the formation of community.

14. Yoga enhances quality of life

The regular practice of yoga can transform body and mind. It can reduce symptoms of anxiety and stress, make you more relaxed, sleep better, give you more energy, have better sex, help you to make better decisions and healthier choices, boosts immunity and lowers inflammation. Yoga makes you happier, healthier, stronger, more flexible, more relaxed and more connected. Yoga is good for the mind, body and soul and will improve your quality of life!

By Zoe Cust

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