15 Amazing Health Benefits Of Yoga

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who do yoga and those who don't do yoga…yet. With tons of styles of yoga, from a fast-paced vinyasa flow to easygoing restorative yoga, and just as many benefits to gain from this ancient-turned-mainstream practice, there's no reason not to do yoga (or at least just give it a try!).

"In addition to a rockin' body, yoga creates endurance and confidence both physically and mentally," says Kathryn Budig, the author of The Big Book of Yoga.

Think yoga isn't for you? If you suffer from even one of these 13 health issues, we think you should reconsider your "yog-aversion."

1. Lower Back Pain
"I've worked with students ranging from the young and athletic to the older and mellow," says Budig, "and the most common complaint is back pain. It can stem from overuse or under-use, improper posture, or lack of core strength."

While you might think that all that bending, twisting, and arching would put more strain on an achy back, research shows otherwise.

Practicing yoga twice a week helped reduce back pain better than conventional treatments like painkillers, according to a study published in the journal Spine.

If you're unsure about yoga, consider this tip from Budig: "Keep a slight bend in your knees when you work on folding postures, and be careful not to overstretch."

2. Food Cravings
Ever notice how yogis have that long, lean, slim physique? It might be the exercise, but it might also be because yoga helps fight food cravings, according to a study of 15,500 adults.

The researchers found that people who practiced yoga gained three fewer pounds annually over the course of four years by doing 30 minutes of yoga every week.

They speculate that the relaxed muscles and mind-body connection helps you identify if you're really hungry or just having a craving that will pass.

Related - Science Explains Why Being Hangry Is A Real Thing

3. Impaired Mobility
Yoga isn't only for the young and bendy. If anything, it's the stiff and immobile who can gain the most out of yoga. "Saying you're not flexible enough to do yoga is like saying you're too dirty to shower," says Budig.

A study conducted by the Hospital for Special Surgery gave seniors an eight-week exercise routine that included yoga. Not only did their pain decrease, but so did their everyday mobility: 69 percent more participants could climb stairs; 83 percent more participants could bend, kneel, or stoop; and 50 percent more participants could carry or lift groceries.

4. Reduced Brain Function
Another age-related concern is cognitive decline, but, you guessed it, yoga gives seniors a brain boost, according to research from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The study found that practicing hatha yoga three times a week for eight weeks improved participants' working memory capacity. Working memory allows people to update their knowledge and interact with the information in a present situation.

The researchers found that the focus on breathing required for hatha yoga translated to sustained attention outside of the practice. Also, previous research has shown that stress can disrupt cognitive performance, so the relaxing effects of yoga may also have played a role.

Related - 8 Yoga Poses to Soothe Sore Muscles

5. Lowered Immunity
Stress is a major immunity killer. Research from the National Academy of Sciences found that 55-year-old caregivers with the most stress had immune systems that were comparable to those of 90-year-olds.
Yoga doesn't just get rid of the occasional cold; it can even alleviate chronic bronchitis.

6. High Blood Pressure
Unsurprisingly, yoga is a great way to relax. But, what you might not realize is that doing so can be an effective way to lower your blood pressure. "Stopping tension with a period of deep calm turns off stress hormones, and the breathing techniques associated with yoga allow tight arteries to relax," explains Sarí Harrar, author of Lower Your Blood Pressure Naturally.

"Your cardiovascular system gets a break. And if you bust stress regularly, you're also teaching yourself how to get back to a state of relaxation easily and quickly. That's better for your blood pressure, your heart, and your whole being."

7. Metabolic Health Issues
You probably don't associate cholesterol and blood sugar with Downward-facing Dog and Child's Pose. But maybe you should, according to a scientific review published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. They found that yoga has some definite short-term improvements for fasting glucose and cholesterol levels—metabolic measures that certainly underlie more major illnesses.

Related - 8 Relaxing Yoga Sequence To Beat Bloating

8. Type 2 Diabetes
These benefits for metabolic health appear to hold true for those with type 2 diabetes, as well. A pilot study with 80 diabetics published in Alternative Therapies found than an hour per day of yoga for a month improved blood glucose levels and these benefits held for six months after the month-long program was completed.

9. Cardiovascular Disease
You can add yoga to your list of exercises that can protect your heart. Research published in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology found that yoga is just as effective as brisk walking or biking for reducing heart disease risk factors, including BMI, blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

Yoga is generally considered a safe exercise for those with heart disease, but consult your doctor and follow these other heart safety tips if you know you have a heart condition.

10. Lowered Sexual Performance
"Yoga is the total trifecta: It unifies and improves the body, mind, and soul. Sex (or, I should say, really satisfying sex) is also a combination of all three," says Budig. Physically, yoga demands balance, core strength, and flexibility—some useful skills when it comes to getting romantic.

It also encourages overall body awareness and boosts your body confidence, making you a more giving and receptive lover. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that yoga improved female desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, and sexual satisfaction.

Related - Longer Sleep Time Linked With Greater Sexual Desire In Women

11. Urinary Incontinence
While less sexy, the same underlying mechanisms of yoga that boost sexual performance also may also with general pelvic health, a finding supported by research published in Female Pelvic Medicine & Reconstructive Surgery.

The researchers pointed out that regular practice may help women strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor that support the bladder and protect against leakage. Also, the meditative elements of yoga can help address the anxiety and depression associated with urinary incontinence.

12. Pregnancy
"I've worked with plenty of women who have turned to yoga when they were expecting," says Budig. "A [mama-to-be] discovered that yoga helps to keep her chest open, improve her breathing, relax her shoulders, and increase her leg circulation, which may be reduced by all the additional weight a pregnant woman bears."

Not only does yoga help keep expecting moms physically fit, but it also helps them stay mentally healthy. Stress during pregnancy has been associated with negative health outcomes for both the mom and baby, so keeping relaxed is critical.

Researchers from Manchester University, UK, found that a single session of yoga reduced self-reported stress by a third and reduced stress hormone levels by 14 percent.

13. Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is an illness characterized by extreme high, manic periods followed by extreme depression, but early research shows that yoga may be an effective therapy. In a survey conducted by Brown University of 70 people diagnosed with bipolar disorder, about one in five said yoga was "life-changing." Twenty-nine others said that it helped decrease anxiety and promote calm feelings, especially when they faced mania symptoms.

14. PTSD
Another illness marked by heightened anxiety is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The characteristic symptom is being hyperaroused, or feeling "jumpy" or constantly on guard. Fortunately, researchers have found that Sudarshan Kriya yoga, a practice of controlled breathing, helps reduce measures of hyper-arousal, such as eyeblink startle rates and respiration rates, even after just one week of training in this practice.

15. Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that attacks the brain and central nervous system. While this disease is debilitating, a pilot trial conducted by Rutgers University gives hope that yoga can help MS sufferers regain their strength and independence. The researchers found that patients with MS who participated in a yoga program were able to walk for longer, had greater balance, more fine motor coordination, and were better at sitting and standing. Plus, perceived mental health, concentration, bladder control, vision, and a decrease in pain and fatigue were also reported.

From Rodale News

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  1. Do you not see the problem with this?

    A study conducted by the Hospital for Special Surgery gave seniors an eight-week exercise routine that included yoga. Not only did their pain decrease, but so did their everyday mobility: 69 percent more participants could climb stairs; 83 percent more participants could bend, kneel, or stoop; and 50 percent more participants could carry or lift groceries.


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