The health benefits of yoga are both Mental and Physical
A lot of of scientific trials have been published on yoga. While there’s scope for more rigorous studies on yoga’s health benefits, most studies suggest that yoga is a safe and effective way to increase physical activity, especially strength, flexibility and balance. There’s evidence that regular yoga practice is beneficial for people with high blood pressure, heart disease, aches and pains – including lower back pain – depression and stress.
Scroll down for health benefits of yoga:
Strength, Flexibility and Posture | Chronic Backpain | Breathing and Asthma | Stress Relief and Relaxation | Anxiety and Depression | Sleep Better | Memory and Concentration | Weight Loss | Food Cravings | Irritable Bowel Syndrome | Arthritis | Immune System | Menopause | Migraines | Sexual Function | Blood Sugar in Diabetics | Heart Disease | Heart Failure | Cancer | Cancer Patients and Survivors | Breast Cancer
Practicing yoga will help you improve muscle tone. The postures are meant to strengthen your body from the inside-out, so you don’t just look good, you feel good too. Many of the poses, such as downward dog, upward dog, and the plank pose, build upper-body strength. The standing poses, especially if you hold them for several long breaths, build strength in your hamstrings, quadriceps, and abs. Poses that strengthen the lower back include upward dog and the chair pose. When done right, nearly all poses build core strength in the deep abdominal muscles.
Yoga poses work by stretching your muscles. They can help you move better and feel less stiff or tired. At any level of yoga, you’ll probably start to notice benefits soon. In one study, people improved their flexibility by up to 35% after only 8 weeks of yoga.
When you’re stronger and more flexible, your posture improves. Most standing and sitting poses develop core strength, since you need your core muscles to support and maintain each pose. With a stronger core, you’re more likely to sit and stand “tall.” Yoga also improves your body awareness which helps you notice more quickly if you’re slouching or slumping, so you can adjust your posture.
Yoga helps increase strength in very specific muscles and muscle groups. Holding positions in yoga is not intended to be uncomfortable. However, it does require concentration and specific use of muscles throughout the body. Muscle strength improves by remaining in these yoga positions and incorporating various movements.
Many of the postures in yoga gently strengthen the muscles in the back, as well as the abdominal muscles which are essential components of the muscular network of the spine, helping the body maintain proper upright posture and movement. When these muscles are well conditioned, back pain can be greatly reduced or avoided.
Yoga will help you to relax as it involves paying attention to your breathing. It may also call for specific breathing techniques. Yoga breathing exercises used together with standard pharmacological treatment significantly improves pulmonary functions in patients with bronchial asthma.
Stress creates physical response in the body and can be managed with yoga exercise. Some yoga styles use meditation techniques that help calm the mind. Focusing on your breathing during yoga can do that, too.
“Stress sends the entire physical system into overdrive,” says Garrett Sarley, president and CEO of the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Lenox, Mass. “The muscles tense, the heart beats faster, breathing patterns change, and if the cause of stress isn’t discontinued, the body secretes more hormones that increase blood sugar levels, raising blood pressure. Yoga is one of the few stress-relief tools that has a positive effect on all the body systems involved.
Available reviews of a wide range of yoga practices suggest they can reduce the impact of exaggerated stress responses and may be helpful for both anxiety and depression. In this respect, yoga functions like other self-soothing techniques, such as meditation, relaxation, exercise, or even socializing with friends.
Low brain levels of the neurotransmitter GABA are often found in people with depression. It seems yoga can boost GABA. Preliminary research out of the Boston University School of Medicine and Harvard’s McLean Hospital found that healthy subjects who practiced yoga for one hour had a 27 percent increase in levels of GABA compared with a control group that simply sat and read for an hour. This supports a growing body of research that’s proving yoga can significantly improve mood and reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Researchers from Harvard found that eight weeks of daily yoga practice significantly improved sleep quality for people with insomnia. And another study proved that twice-weekly yoga sessions helped cancer survivors sleep better and feel less fatigued. This can be attributed to yoga’s ability to help people deal with stress, says Bleier. “Sleep issues are like anxiety. Your head can’t stop spinning, you don’t know how to relax,” he says. “Breathing and mental exercises allow the mind to slow down, so you’re going to start to see yourself.
Just 20 minutes of yoga a day sharpens the mind, researchers say. Yoga was found to be more effective at boosting brain power than conventional aerobic exercise. Researchers in America discovered that a single session of yoga significantly improved a person’s speed and accuracy when tested on their working memory and concentration.
What many want! Yoga benefits here too. Vinyasa yoga classes done for 90 minutes at least 3-5 times a week will produce weight loss. Yoga keeps people more in tune with their bodies making them aware of aware of bad habits, such as eating because of stress, boredom or depression. The first study investigating the effects of yoga on weight was recently conducted by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, WA.
Regular yoga practice is associated with mindful eating, an awareness of physical and emotional sensations associated with eating. By causing breath awareness, regular yoga practice strengthens the mind-body connection. The awareness can help you tune in to emotions involved with certain cravings, and yoga breathing exercises can help you slow down and make better choices when cravings strike.
When something doesn’t feel right in your gut, it’s usually a sign that something isn’t right in your life. Gut feelings can be a message from txhe brain as much as from the belly. If you are one of the many people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), this message manifests as more than an occasional discomfort. It is a chronic experience of abdominal pain and digestive distress that reflects the intimate link between the mind and the body. But yoga can relieve your symptoms by reducing stress and teaching you how to listen to your body.
Joint Health: People with arthritis often see marked improvement in their pain and mobility with regular gentle yoga practice.
As many longtime yogis can attest, asana practice provides a gentle, natural means of supporting the immune system on a day-to-day basis, no matter how hectic your schedule might be. Yoga helps lower stress hormones that compromise the immune system, while also conditioning the lungs and respiratory tract, stimulating the lymphatic system to oust toxins from the body, and bringing oxygenated blood to the various organs to ensure their optimal function. “Yoga is unlike other forms of exercise that focus only on certain parts of the body,” says Kathleen Fry, M.D., president of the American Holistic Medicine Association in Scottsdale, Arizona. “Yoga works on everything.”
A preliminary study at the University of California, San Francisco, found that menopausal women who took two months of a weekly restorative yoga class, which uses props to support the postures, reported a 30 percent decrease in hot flashes. A four-month study at the University of Illinois found that many women who took a 90-minute Iyengar class twice a week boosted both their energy and mood; plus they reported less physical and sexual discomfort, and reduced stress and anxiety.
Research shows that migraine sufferers have fewer and less painful migraines after three months of yoga practice. The cause of migraines isn’t fully understood, but it could be a combination of mental stressors and physical misalignment that create migraines and other issues. Hunching over a computer or cell phone with your shoulders up and head forward causes overlifting of your trapezius and tightening of the neck. This pulls the head forward and creates muscle imbalances that can contribute to headaches and migraines.
Studies have found that 12 weeks of yoga can improve sexual desire, arousal, performance, confidence, orgasm and satisfaction for both men and women. How? Physically, yoga increases blood flow into the genital area, which is important for arousal and erections, and strengthens the “moola bandha,” or pelvic floor muscles. Mentally, the breathing and mind control involved with the practice can also improve performance.
An increasing number of people with diabetes are turning to yoga in an effort to keep their condition under control and improve overall quality of life. It is well known that regular practice of yoga can help reduce levels of stress, enhance mobility, lower blood pressure and improve overall wellbeing. It is these benefits that many health experts believe can improve diabetes management and protect against other related medical conditions such as heart disease.
One of the major problems from long term diabetes is nerve damage due to constant high sugar levels in the body. This nerve damage leads to the slowing of nerve impulses, decreased sensation, numbness of the feet, and poor bowel function. Scientists at Guru Tegh Bahadur Hospital, in Delhi, India, studied a group of 20 type 2 diabetic subjects between the ages of 30-60 years. Their aim was to see whether Yoga asanas had any effect on nerve conduction. The Yoga exercises were performed for 40 minutes every day for 40 days in the above sequence. The subjects continued their normally prescribed medicines and diet. Blood sugar and nerve conduction velocity of the median nerve (in the hand) were measured and repeated after 40 days of the Yogic regime. At the end of the 40 days, those who did the yoga had improved the nerve impulse in their hands.
The word “yoga” comes from a Sanskrit word indicating a joining of the body and mind. For those at risk of developing heart disease, this union may help relieve the everyday stresses that can — over time — contribute to heart disease. The deep breaths that are the foundation of yoga could help to lower blood pressure and calm the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for producing stress hormones.
“The stress reduction from yoga can help to turn off our fight-or-flight impulse, which in turn further reduces stress,” Elizabeth Kaback, MD, a cardiologist and member of the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine. “Additionally, gently exercising helps strengthen your muscles and helps them become more resistant to insulin, which is important for controlling blood sugar.
A regimen of yoga is safe for patients with chronic heart failure and helps reduce signs of inflammation often linked with death. Researchers at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta who measured the effects of an eight-week yoga regimen on heart failure patients found the yoga routine improved exercise tolerance and quality of life.
Yoga Benefits for Cancer Patients Yoga’s gentle exercises have numerous well-known health benefits. Practicing yoga can lower blood pressure, improve coordination and reduce stress. For those coping with a chronic illness such as mesothelioma or other types of cancers, a yoga routine can be added to a treatment regimen, whether it is holistic or traditional treatment. Like any treatment, yoga should be individualized to meet specific needs. Unsurprisingly, cancer patients often do not have enough energy and do not feel well enough for much physical activity.
Especially during treatments such as chemotherapy, even simple tasks like making dinner can become daunting chores. Cancer patients often suffer from fatigue and muscle soreness, as well as various other ailments like shortness of breath caused by mesothelioma of the lung. These problems often can be relieved by implementing a gentle yoga routine. For patients who may have trouble integrating physical activity into their lives during treatment, yoga stretches and poses provide a low-impact, low-stress technique for rejuvenating and re-energizing the body.
Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years to improve physical and emotional well-being. Empirical research on yoga has been ongoing for several decades, including several recent studies conducted with cancer patients and survivors. Cancer can be a devastating disease that saps energy often due to radiation and chemotherapy. Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York assigned more than 400 cancer survivors to one of two groups. Most had been treated with chemotherapy for breast cancer. The first group did gentle Hatha yoga and restorative yoga twice a week for a month. The other group did not engage in such activity. The individuals who did yoga were able to cut back on sleeping pills and slept better. Yoga also increased their energy levels and improved their quality of life.
Research is becoming clear on this: Women who do yoga during and after treatment experience less physical discomfort and stress. Earlier this year Duke University scientists reported results of a pilot study in which women with metastatic breast cancer attended eight weekly yoga sessions. The doctors found that the women had much less pain and felt more energetic and relaxed.
sources used on this page come from: National Health Service, Yoga Health Foundation, Harvard Health Publications, WebMD, The Art of Living, Daily Mail, Yoga.About.com, Yoga Journal, Life by Daily Burn, Diabetes.co.uk, PubMED.com