Health and fitness practitioners who do yoga can attest that yoga has a lot of health benefits. But sometimes, if we’re not the ones doing it ourselves, it’s easier to be skeptical and just stick to the tried and tested like the treadmill or lifting weights. But the truth is, yoga is also tried and tested, and by science nonetheless.
There are many anecdotal stories in relation to yoga’s benefits on psychological well-being as well as on physical functions including sexual health. But there actually has been a lot of research conducted identifying not just the health benefits one can get from practicing yoga, but also detailing how it works.
For instance, a 2007 study investigated whether there’s a difference between lung functions of athletes and yogis or yoga practitioners, and if these two groups had better lung functions compared to individuals with sedentary lifestyles. With 60 male subjects, the study found that the yogis had significantly way better lung functions as compared to the other test participants. The researchers’ conclusion was that for better lung function, engaging in regular physical activity or sport, preferably yoga, can help.
So, aside from better pulmonary function, what exactly are the other benefits of yoga, according to science? Let’s take a look at these fourteen amazing benefits of yoga.
Mental Health Benefits Of Yoga
Yoga is not about just stretching your muscles or contorting yourself to follow a specific pose. Through yoga, you can learn to relax and control your breathing. Through meditation and by focusing on your own body, yoga can be calming and restorative.
- Depression – Studies show that consistent and long-term yoga practice can help improve depression as well as significantly increase the levels of serotonin in the body.
- Fatigue – Research has revealed that yoga can help you overcome fatigue. It was shown that yoga had positive effects on patients suffering from cancer, asthma, multiple sclerosis, and those undergoing dialysis.
- Stress – If you need to de-stress, yoga is one way to do it. It has been shown that yoga can be as effective in reducing stress as cognitive behavioral therapy.
- PTSD – This is one astonishing benefit of yoga. It can actually significantly reduce PTSD symptoms and lessen self-rated symptoms of stress.
- ADHD – One study focused on the effect of yoga on children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The results showed that yoga improved the children’s attentional control.
Physical Fitness Benefits Of Yoga
When you practice yoga, one of the most immediate and obvious benefits you will notice is your improved flexibility. As you continue practicing yoga, you will feel a gradual loosening of your muscles as well as your connective tissues. This is considered as the reason why yoga is linked to reduced aches and pains. But that’s not the only physical fitness benefit you get from practicing yoga.
- Physical Fitness In Older Adults – One study showed that yoga can improve physical fitness in older adults. More specifically, the study showed that older adults can achieve better balance, increased body flexibility and strength, improved gait, and even weight loss.
- Cardiovascular Endurance – One study investigated the effects of yoga on oxygen consumption and anaerobic threshold, as well as work output and blood lactate during exercise, with young athletes and untrained individuals as subjects. The results showed that the longer the subjects engaged in yoga, the better their cardiopulmonary endurance became.
- Obesity – Yoga isn’t just physical exercise for obese men. One study involved 80 obese males who went through 1½ hour of integrated approach of yoga therapy (IAYT) for 5 days in a week for 14 weeks. The results indicated that those who practiced yoga showed improvements in weight, body mass index, bone mass, obesity degree, and mineral mass, as well as better sleep quality.
- Range Of Motion – If you need increased range of motion on your right shoulder, Thai yoga can help you. One study on Thai yoga showed that it can increase body and right shoulder joint flexibility as well as range of motion.
- Hypertension – A 2005 study conducted on hypertensive patients in Thailand showed that yoga resulted in significantly lower blood pressure, body mass index levels, and heart rate.
- Musculoskeletal Functioning And Pain – Yoga can actually help you deal with pain-associated disorders. Various studies show that yoga is effective in pain management for conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, migraine or headache, back pain, labor pain, hemodialysis, and even irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The amazing thing is that one study showed that yoga may even provide more benefits over usual medical care for back pain. It is widely considered that the reason behind this is the increased physical flexibility engendered by yoga. Another explanation is that yoga helps to calm and focus your mind, which, in turn, reduces anxiety and distress, enabling you to handle stress better.
- Insomnia – For those who have trouble sleeping, yoga might just be the solution you’re looking for. One study showed that when you regularly engage in yoga, it can help you sleep faster and for longer hours.
- Substance Use – If you’re trying to quit smoking but just can’t try yoga. Studies show that yoga can actually help you get rid of your vice, at least in the short-term.
- Diabetes – One study showed that for individuals suffering from diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN), yoga has a holistic positive impact through improved body functions, activities, and participation.
There are actually thousands of scientific studies investigating the various benefits to be gained from practicing yoga. There are studies that investigated the effects of yoga on treating periodontal diseases, in childbirth size, on amygdala volume, self-efficacy, and so much more. Which goes to show that yoga is truly beneficial for one’s health.
One last tip, if you’re looking for improved fitness and physical flexibility, try asanas or hatha yoga poses. On the other hand, if your goal is to achieve greater awareness, reduced stress, and improved well-being, try pranayama practices.