International Yoga Day - 21st June! Here are 21 'evidence-based' health benefits of yoga!

International Yoga Day
International Yoga Day

From honing flexible muscles to building mental fortitude, the benefits of yoga encompass both mind and body. The best bit? You don't have to practice for hours on end to achieve them! In fact, the benefits of yoga are so potent, that, even a simple 15-minute daily routine is enough to totally transform your health.

Derived from the Sanskrit word yuj, which means 'to join', yoga is a combination of mental, physical and spiritual practices that, when woven together, deliver a potent dose of wellbeing. Not convinced yet?

Here are 21 evidence-based benefits of yoga that'll make your time on the mat worthwhile:

1. Improved flexibility and mobility

Improved flexibility is one of the most frequently-touted benefits of yoga. You don't have to be super flexible to start your practice – the beauty of yoga is that it can be adjusted and progressed across all ability levels.

When male college athletes took part in biweekly yoga sessions for 10 weeks, they experienced 'significant gains' in flexibility and balance compared to a control group who didn't practice at all, US researchers found.

2. Build strength

Lifting heavy weights isn't the only way to build muscle – it's entirely possible to boost your strength with a daily yoga practice.

In a study by The Chinese University of Hong Kong, men and women who participated in a 12-week Hatha yoga course demonstrated 'significant improvements' in muscular strength compared to the control group.

3. Correct posture

Daily yoga helps improve your posture, making you walk taller and sit up straighter at your desk.

In a study of 80 women published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science, a programme of intense, short-term yoga posture sessions contributed more to improving spine mobility, than any other conventional exercise programme.

4. Support heart health

It's one of the lesser-known benefits of yoga, but yoga is heart-healthy. Studies show that making time for the mat can reduce your cholesterol levels and even slow the progression of heart disease when combined with dietary changes and stress management. It also improves your circulation.

People over 40 years who'd practiced yoga for five years had lower blood pressure and pulse rate than those who didn't, one study found.

5. Weight loss

If weight loss is your goal, you don't have to practice intense Hot Yoga every day to see results. After all, when it comes to shedding excess fat, exercise is just a small piece of the puzzle.

In a study by the University of California, restorative yoga – practiced at a very slow pace with long holds and lots of deep breathing – helped overweight women lose belly fat.

6. Cultivate self-awareness

Since yoga strengthens your mind-body connection, it helps you manage unpleasant emotions rather than reaching for external distractions to suppress those feelings.

In a small study of 20 people who had lost weight through yoga by the National Institute of Health Clinical Centre in the US, 90 per cent reported an increase in mindful eating, positive changes in food choices, and decreased emotional eating.

7. Increase your energy

From a spiritual perspective, a daily yoga practice is said to awaken the main energy centres (called chakras) in your body. Great poses for extra energy are those that extend the spine and open the chest encouraging the intake of more breath.

Scientific research suggests that yoga can, indeed, invigorate your mind. Practicing 25-minute sessions of Hatha yoga can improve your energy levels 'significantly', according to research by the University of Waterloo.

8. Reduce stress

Yoga is a bona-fide stress buster, so there's good reason to squeeze in a lunchtime session. Not only does yoga improve internal bodily markers of stress, but it also improves your subjective wellbeing, which means you actually feel better, too.

This is according to research published in Frontiers, which assessed participants on a three-month yoga and meditation retreat. Research has shown that people who practice yoga regularly have low levels of cortisol, one of the key stress hormones.

9. Sleep better

Another of the more everyday benefits of yoga involves a better night's kip.

In a study by the Swami Vivekananda Yoga Research Foundation, participants who practiced yoga fell asleep quicker, slept for longer and felt more well-rested compared to people who didn't.

10. Breathe better

Yogic breathing techniques (called pranayama) focus on slowing down the breath and breathing from the pit of your stomach to the top of your lungs.

These exercises have been shown to increase vital capacity, which refers to the total amount of air your lungs can exhale.

இதையும் படியுங்கள்:
World Yoga Day - June 21 - யோகாவின் குறிக்கோள் என்ன? யோகம் எனும் தத்துவம் கடவுளை ஏற்று கொள்கிறதா?
International Yoga Day

11. Reduces inflammation

While inflammation is a normal – and necessary – immune system response, the chronic kind is associated with serious health conditions like heart disease, diabetes and cancer. A regular yoga practice improves chronic inflammation in the body by lowering the levels of pro-inflammatory markers like cytokines.

A systematic review published in the Journal of Behavioural Medicine found it also appears to enhance immunity, the researchers wrote.

12. Be happier

One of the most mind-blowing benefits of yoga is that it can change your brain chemistry in under an hour.

Just one session of yoga is enough to increase the amount of mood-boosting gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) – a calming neurotransmitter that decreases activity in your nervous system – by 27 per cent, researchers from Boston University found.

13. Be more mindful

The benefits of yoga and mindfulness are intertwined. Practicing yoga directs your attention to any sensations, thoughts, and emotions that accompany a given pose. That awareness will bring the mind back to the present moment, which is the main aim of mindfulness.

People who perceive themselves as being mindful have greater emotional stability and described better control over their emotions and behaviours during the day, research from the University of Utah found – resulting in improved wellbeing.

14. Improve concentration

Yoga poses require you to concentrate on your breathing. The process of observing your breath calms your mind and makes you more mentally relaxed. As a result of this mental stability, you'll able to recollect and retain more information.

In a study by the University of Illinois, just 20 minutes of Hatha yoga significantly improved participants' ability to maintain focus and retain new information.

15. Think clearer

By boosting your brain's amygdala, a set of brain regions associated with your sense of 'self', yoga practice works miracles on your cognitive functioning.

Yoga enhances many of the same brain structures that benefit from aerobic exercise, a review published in the journal Brain Plasticity found.

இதையும் படியுங்கள்:
யோகா - ஆரோக்கியத்தின் திறவுகோல்!
International Yoga Day

16. Improves life quality

Practicing yoga can seriously improve your quality of life.

According to a six-month study by Oregon Health and Science University. Participants aged between 65 and 85 years old were asked to complete were assigned to Hatha yoga. Not only did the yogis experience physical health-related improvements to their quality of life, but their general sense of well-being and vitality also rose.

17. Live longer

The various benefits of yoga don't just have a profound effect on your quality of life – they can even add valuable years to it.

Intensive practice counteracts the cellular effects of ageing, according to research from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences.

18. Reverse chronic pain

Chronic pain is associated with a reduction in grey matter in the brain, but yoga can help to prevent – and even reverse – these effects. This is because yogis have been observed to have more grey matter in the brain regions involved in pain modulation.

'Mind-body practices seem to exert a protective effect on brain grey matter that counteracts the neuroanatomical effects of chronic pain,' said scientific director Catherine Bushnell, PhD.

19. Reduce anxiety

If you suffer from anxiety, a session on the mat can help to calm your mind.

Practicing yoga helps to alleviate the symptoms of generalised anxiety disorder according to a study by Georgia State University, and it's particularly effective for quelling feelings of worry, the researchers found.

20. Manage depression

While medication and psychological therapies are the formal choices for treating depression, multiple studies show that yoga can be an immensely useful complementary tool.

Elevated cortisol levels decrease your body's ability to make serotonin, the happy hormone (plus other neurotransmitters like dopamine – the reward and motivation hormone). Yoga helps to dampen cortisol levels.

21. Treat lower back pain

A regular yoga practice offers a wallet-friendly, convenient way to get some relief from chronic back pain – in fact, one study found it to be as effective as traditional physical therapy.

Research by the University of California revealed that participants with chronic low back pain experienced significant decreases in pain intensity after completing a 12-week yoga programme.

COMPILED BY: DR.RP

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