Yoga is an ancient practice that has been around for as long as 5,000 years. It’s one of the most popular forms of exercise today due to the various benefits yoga is claimed to have for both our minds and bodies.
But tons of people are still skeptical about the health benefits of yoga.
Some claim that yoga is just another fitness fad and that it provides no real benefits other than to look cute in some yoga pants. But, science shows something different. Several studies have been conducted to evaluate the different health benefits of yoga. Although some areas still need more research, a majority of these are proven to be true.
Of course, like any other form of exercise, yoga can be counterproductive to your health if done incorrectly.
But as long as you continue practicing yoga at your own pace, without forcing yourself into uncomfortable positions, and with proper guidance from an instructor, you will find improvements in your health.
So what improvements can you expect exactly? In this blog post, we’ll go through all the scientifically proven health benefits of practicing yoga. Let’s dive in, shall we?
The Benefits of Regular Yoga Practice
There are so many health benefits of yoga that we don’t really know where to begin. So, we’ll start with the most obvious – strength and flexibility!
Develops Strength and Flexibility
There are tons of yoga poses that require us to carry the weight of our bodies and stretch our muscles. A lot of the poses in yoga are actually similar to normal body-weight exercises and stretches.
The chaturanga yoga pose, for example, is similar to a push-up. It can help develop your upper body and core muscles. Headstands and the different handstand poses also require a lot of overall strength and flexibility.
Just like with any body-weight exercise, we are bound to gain more strength and flexibility from practicing yoga. A randomized trial conducted on 32 healthy adults that practiced Bikram or hot yoga for eight weeks found that the yoga classes helped improve their deadlift strength 1.
This same study also found that they improved the flexibility in their lower back, shoulders, and hamstrings. These are the muscles that contribute to deadlift strength.
Alleviates Chronic Lower Back Pain
A lot of yoga poses are great for relieving chronic back pain. Poses such as the cat-cow pose, downward-facing dog, extended triangle, and sphinx pose all help reduce spinal compression and help improve the overall alignment of our bodies which leads to less back pain.
One study compared the benefits of using the conventional exercises in a self-care book for patients with chronic low back pain to the effects of regular yoga practice for alleviating their chronic pain. This was one of the first high-quality trials conducted on yoga.
It concluded that practicing yoga was more effective than using the conventional self-care book for improving lower back function and reducing chronic lower back pain. They even found that the benefits were long-term and persisted for several months 2. With consistent yoga practice, you can help relieve yourself of lower back pain for much longer or even permanently.
Reduces Inflammation in the Body
One of the most important benefits of yoga is its ability to reduce inflammation in our bodies. This is important because reducing the inflammation in our bodies also helps reduce the risk of other diseases, particularly heart disease and high blood pressure.
A meta-analysis conducted in 2014 on different mind-body practices such as tai chi, meditation, and yoga was found to boost our immune system by reducing inflammation-based blood markers 3. What’s interesting is that in most cases, one would need to undergo vigorous exercises to reduce inflammation in their body.
But a study in 2015 found that yoga specifically was capable of reducing inflammation even without much intense activity. Even slow-paced yoga poses and practices such as Iyengar made huge impacts on the inflammation in our bodies 4.
Increases Mind-Body Awareness
What is mind-body awareness? It’s being aware of the sensations inside us. The ability to be more mindful and to listen to our bodies. This might seem trivial but not everyone can master full body and mind awareness.
When was the last time you felt stressed or tired and actually made the mindful decision to give yourself rest? How many times have you allowed yourself to just burn out completely because of work or school? Increasing our awareness allows us to keep ourselves from abusing our own bodies.
Yoga and meditation have been proven to increase one’s body awareness. It often leads to better self-care practices and even more mindful eating habits. Two qualitative studies conducted in 2005 and in 2013 found that yoga not only increased the participant’s body awareness, but it also increased their body satisfaction as compared to those who didn’t do yoga (5,6).
Relieves Stress and Anxiety
In general, any physical activity can help with stress reduction and anxiety because of the endorphins that are released during the process.
But studies that evaluated yoga, in particular, showed that regular yoga practice helped lower our stress hormone cortisol. It also helped with high blood pressure and lowering our resting heart rate 7. A study evaluating the benefits of yoga in managing PTSD symptoms also showed similar results 8.
Yoga’s ability to relieve stress can also be connected to its ability to increase body awareness. Part of body awareness is being able to acknowledge when we’re feeling stressed which may help us with stress management.
Helps You Get Better Sleep
Depending on the kind of yoga that you practice, it may help you get better sleep. It is usually not recommended to do any kind of strenuous physical activity at least 2 hours before bedtime. This will make it harder for you to fall asleep. So Ashtanga and Vinyasa are definitely out of the question!
However, doing some Hatha or Nidra yoga that focuses on very slow-paced and gentle poses can actually help you calm your mind and relax. The Sleep Foundation associates yoga’s ability to relieve stress as a way to also improve people’s sleep problems. One study found that women who practiced yoga were more likely to combat their insomnia as compared to women who didn’t practice yoga 9.
Eases Arthritis Pain
Just like any exercise, yoga can help make our joints more flexible. But people with arthritis are not able to do just any exercise because exercises such as cardio or resistance training tend to put more stress on the joints. Yoga is a great way for people with arthritis to stay active and build strength and flexibility in their joints without adding too much stress to them.
Yoga not only helps them stay active while protecting their joints, but studies have also shown that yoga is actually capable of easing arthritis pain 10. There may even be potential for using yoga to help with carpal tunnel syndrome.
Yoga is no cure for asthma. But, breathing techniques during yoga can help those who suffer from respiratory-related conditions. Specifically, studies have shown that breathing exercises during yoga can help improve the quality of life and symptom management of those with asthma 11.
Just like those with arthritis, people with asthma can’t do intense and physically demanding exercises. Yoga can be a great alternative for them to stay active while helping to improve their breathing through the various breathing exercises in yoga.
Does each type of yoga practice have different benefits?
Yoga comes in all forms and styles, but they usually involve a combination of poses, controlled breathing, meditation, and music. Some classes mix all of these together, while others focus on one thing.
Certain styles of yoga are also more strenuous than others. For example, Vinyasa and Ashtanga yoga are more athletic types of yoga. They are more dynamic and fast-paced and involve a lot of different poses in one cycle.
Yoga practices such as Yin and Restorative yoga focus on slow-paced postures and are more about finding inner peace and relaxation. So to answer the question, yes, each type of yoga practice has different benefits.
Is practicing yoga more beneficial than other forms of exercise?
Depending on your own personal situation, yoga may be more beneficial to you as compared to other forms of exercise.
For example, those with arthritis and asthma who can’t do more aggressive exercises may find yoga more beneficial to them because it won’t be strenuous enough to trigger their conditions.
It also depends on what kind of yoga you plan to practice. If your definition of beneficial means getting your heartbeat up, athletic types of yoga such as Bikram, Vinyasa, or Ashtanga will benefit you.
In general, yoga is just as good for your health as other types of exercise. But depending on your personal goals and perspectives, it might not apply.
Final Word On The Health Benefits Of Doing Yoga
Yoga works. Although not all yoga practices are equal. Some yoga practices are more beneficial for our overall health, while others only improve certain aspects of our health.
Of course, you wouldn’t gain any cardiovascular benefits from practices such as Yin yoga. You’ll want to practice more dynamic styles of yoga, such as Bikram or Ashtanga if you want to up your cardio.
But that’s the great thing about yoga. There are so many different styles to try. So whatever personal health goal you’re trying to reach, whether to improve overall health or simply focus on reducing anxiety and improving your mental health, there is a yoga style for you.
All you have to do now is get yourself a mat and practice yoga.
Find All Your Yoga Essentials at Pureful Yoga – The #1 Yoga Brand
Planning to start your personal yoga practice? You’re making the right choice. You won’t only get physical benefits from practicing yoga, you’ll also gain emotional health benefits along the way.
But before you can start your yoga practice, there are a couple of items you’ll need to prepare for your journey. If it’s yoga essentials you need—look no further than Pureful Yoga!
We provide some of the best quality and eco-friendly yoga essentials to start your new healthy lifestyle. Our cork yoga mat and alignment yoga mat are both made from sustainably sourced cork from the bark of the cork oak tree.
Our yoga mats are not only 100% organic, the cork also makes them look incredibly minimalist and aesthetically pleasing. But we don’t stop there, we made sure to combine style and functionality into one. How? Our cork yoga mats are completely anti-slip which is crucial for any yoga mat.
If you’re the type to get sweaty palms, the risk of slipping during your practice is high. But with our cork yoga mats, you don’t have to worry about messing up your yoga pose. In fact, the sweatier you get, the better!
That’s because the wetter cork gets the more traction it builds—isn’t that amazing? You just can’t say the same for other mats. Cork is also a naturally antimicrobial material. This means you don’t have to wash your mats that often because it kills all the germs, microbes, and fungi themselves.
Want to know the best part? We have a cork yoga block and cork yoga mat bag to match perfectly with your cork yoga mat! With that, all your yoga essentials are complete. So, are you ready to start your practice and gain all the benefits of yoga?