There are thought to be over 300 million yoga practitioners worldwide and that number is growing year on year.
But really it’s no surprise, yoga has so many benefits, some expected, others surprising and many just simply amazing!
Yoga Benefits for Your Physical Health
1: Improves Flexibility
The results demonstrated how the flexibility of the skeletal muscles was increased following regular yoga practice.
2: Improves Balance
It’s proven that yoga can also improve your balance. A review of all research surrounding balance and yoga was carried out in 2015.
The findings highlighted how yoga can help to improve balance within a healthy population however it was felt that further investigation was required to reinforce this conclusion.
3: Increases Strength
Strength, most notably core strength, can be built through practicing yoga.
4: Improves Posture
Strike the right pose in yoga and you can improve your posture.
More research around yoga and posture benefits still needs to be done, however early studies have highlighted that it can improve posture stability.
For people over 65 it is thought that regular yoga practice could result in less trips and falls.
5: Improves Lung Function
As well as the physical practice of yoga there are also the benefits of the breathing exercises. Research which looked at competitive swimmers and how they could enhance their respiratory endurance.
The results included significant improvements following yogic breathing with test subjects shown to increase their number of strokes per breath.
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Yoga Benefits for Your Mental Health
6: Cultivates Mindfulness
One of the cornerstones of yoga practice is mindfulness, the state of being completely conscious or aware of the moment you’re living in.
Those living with depression trialled mindfulness-based cognitive therapy in a 2014 study. Results showed that the practice helped prevent the reoccurrence of a depressive episode.
7: Encourages Spirituality
Spirituality is having a strong belief or focus, and it sits at the core of yoga practice.
It doesn’t necessarily have links to any religion, yoga enthusiasts simply believe that it gives you a stronger sense of self and the focus and strength to handle difficult situations as they arise.
8: Helps with Anxiety
Encouraging findings from a systematic review of Yoga for Anxiety findings demonstrated the impact it can have on the condition.
Yoga Nidra in particular, which is a deep form of meditation, has been shown to significantly reduce anxiety and depression.
Kamini Desai, PhD, is a leading educator in to the practice at the Amrit Yoga Institute. Her book Yoga Nidra: The Art of Transformational Sleep explains how the practice:
“Brings you to deep states of non-doing that help you sleep better, neutralize excess stress and restore profound peace, relaxation and rejuvenation to the body”.
9: Treats Depression
Yoga is not only good for your physical health but for your mental health too. A study at the University of Cincinnati found that yoga was effective for treating clinical depression.
10: Decreases Stress
If you’re feeling the stress then it seems that yoga can help. A 2005 study looked at 24 women who were experiencing mental distress.
The women took part in 3 months of lyengar yoga and huge improvements were seen in their stress levels following the practice.
11: Improves Memory
Though evidence is currently limited, a study funded by the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease did find that yoga had a positive influence on memory.
In fact it was concluded that yoga might be as impactful as memory training in terms of improving brain connectivity.
12: Improves Self-Esteem
The yoga poses you choose can have a big impact on your self-esteem.
It was these feelings that led to a high level of self-esteem.
13: Stabilizes Mood
A controlled study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine compared yoga to walking as a way to control your mood.
Subjects in the study who practiced yoga gained improvements in their mood and decreased anxiety levels.
14: Improves Mental Clarity
Yoga practitioners report improved mental clarity following regular sessions.
Data published by the Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance reported that a huge 86% of yogis describe themselves as having a strong sense of mental clarity.
Yoga Benefits for Different Conditions
15: Treats a Number of Different Conditions
One of the most significant findings relates to how yoga has been shown to stop the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
The findings published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Research found that yoga as well as meditation could delay the cognitive impairment that is normally the first indicator of the development of Alzheimer’s.
16: Helps Heart Health
The British Heart Foundation recognises the benefits of yoga for the heart. Though they do acknowledge that the evidence is still quite limited, emerging studies deliver promising findings.
The European Journal of Preventative Cardiology also promotes how yoga can help with improving your heart health. They believe it can help to lower the risk of heart disease just as much as brisk walking.
17: Improves the Quality of Life for Cancer Patients
Yoga is recommended as a tool for cancer care, however it is felt that further analysis still needs to be done.
Research in 2010 focussing on patients with breast cancer looked at how yoga could help them with both their mental and physical health.
Results did demonstrate that yoga was valuable in helping patients to relax and reduce their stress levels.
Patients also reported a general improvement in their quality of life and their ability to perform daily tasks.
A further study in 2015 also looked at breast cancer and showed how yoga could help with the depression, pain and fatigue often associated with the condition.
Anticancer: A New Way of Life by David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD, is a book that has been well received by those living with cancer.
Yoga practice is one of the alternative therapies recommended and many readers of the book identified yoga in particular as helping them manage their symptoms.
18: Reduces Headaches and Migraines
Yoga can be used to manage the impact of headaches and migraines.
The US National Library of Medicine published a study which looked specifically at migraines and how using yoga could replace high-cost migraine medications.
Results showed that it enhanced the vagal tone, the nerve which when stimulated can reduce the frequency and intensity of migraines.
The study concluded that yoga should be utilized in line with other treatment options for migraine patients.
19: Reduces Inflammation
Yoga practice has been proven to reduce inflammation. The publication Frontiers in Human Neuroscience looked at respondents on a three month yoga retreat.
Participants enjoyed controlled breathing exercises, meditation and practiced physical poses.
The results concluded that inflammation and stress within the body was reduced.
20: Reduces Blood Pressure
Patients with prehypertension or hypertension (also known as high blood pressure) have been shown to enjoy benefits from yoga.
A major systematic review of yoga for hypertension demonstrated that yoga was responsible for a significant reduction in blood pressure.
21: Lowers Pulse Rate
It takes only one month of yoga practice to reduce your pulse rate, according to research conducted in India in 2013.
50 respondents underwent one month of yoga training and showed a reduction in heart rate by an average of 22.2 beats per minute.
22: Reduces Blood Glucose Levels
Those suffering from Type 2 Diabetes could benefit from regular yoga sessions.
In fact in a project published in the US National Library of Medicine yoga was found to be highly effective at reducing blood glucose levels delivering what researchers referred to as “a highly significant result”.
As well as reducing blood glucose levels, a 2016 study published in the Journal of Diabetes Research, proved it had additional benefits.
It was concluded that regular yoga practice would be beneficial in managing the condition including lipid levels and body composition.
23: Improves Digestion
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is significantly impacted by yoga practice.
In a 2015 study yoga showed itself to be an affordable and effective way to manage the symptoms of IBS as well as the associated problems such as fatigue and depression.
Another study looked at IBS in young people in particular. Their condition improved following the sessions.
Plus feedback from the adolescents included in the study was that it had been helpful and that they would continue to use it.
Yoga Benefits for Pain
24: Reduces Chronic Pain
It’s shocking to read that chronic pain is the leading cause of disability in the US, however research shows that it can be positively impacted by yoga.
Published in 2010, the Perspectives on Yoga Inputs in the Management of Chronic Pain journal looked at how yoga could improve the quality of life of people dealing with chronic pain.
Results were gauged on the “gap theory” the space between how an individual wishes to live their life and the way they feel it’s actually being lived.
The gap was significantly reduced following yoga sessions. The conclusion drawn was that yoga could be used as a tool to help patients manage their pain.
25: Relieves Back Pain
Back pain is a real problem for society, with 8 out of 10 Americans experiencing back problems at some point in their lives.
A further study published in 2017 reinforced these positive findings for those suffering from moderate to severe lower back pain.
It looked at those who live in underserved communities, rather than those from middle class backgrounds which the research had previously focussed on.
They attended classes for 12 weeks and reported relief from their pain.
Yoga Benefits for Children and Young People
26: Helps with Childhood Conditions
As well as being great for adults, yoga practice has been shown to have a number of positive benefits for children, too.
A study carried out in Spain looked at children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and how physical exercise could alleviate some of the symptoms.
It was through this study that they found that yoga was particularly good at helping to manage the condition.
Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) also responded well to yoga practice.
Passionate yogi Uliana Klepinina has created a fun book of games, Yoga and Mindfulness for Kids: 25+ Fun Activities to Stay Calm, Focus and Peace.
Those who purchased the book felt it was a fun way to introduce the practice to their children, and that their family had responded well.
27: Leads to Better Academic Performance
Yoga can even help you perform better at school! 800 students were monitored in a study by the MGN College of Education.
It reported that students who completed the yoga module performed better academically than those who didn’t.
28: Increases Focus and Concentration
Those with a short attention span should also benefit from a yoga session or two!
A study initially published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health demonstrated how just a single yoga session helped respondents perform better in speed and accuracy tests and improved overall cognitive performance.
It showed respondents could maintain their focus better and also absorb new information.
General Yoga Benefits
29: Boosts the Immune System
We know that yoga can reduce inflammation within the body however research published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine identified that it can also help with your immune system.
This 2018 systematic review deemed though further investigation is required, yoga is shown to boost your immune system particularly for individuals dealing with diseases with inflammatory components.
30: Improves Sleep
The number of people suffering from sleep conditions, particularly insomnia, is growing fast. Yoga has been proven to improve sleep.
In fact a report published by the US Department of Health and Human Services has shown that nearly 60% of yogis found that practicing yoga helped to improve their sleep.
Not only that, it also highlighted that yoga helps people to fall asleep quicker.
31: Aids Weight Loss
Weight loss is also a key benefit of practicing yoga, however not simply because it’s exercise.
A study by the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center confirmed that yoga can help you to lose weight.
Respondents took part in Iyengar yoga, an approach to yoga which suits people whatever level of fitness and experience they have.
Conclusions drawn showed weight loss but more notably a changed mindset that made them eat healthier.
32: Promotes Healthy Eating
Enjoying regular yoga sessions can also encourage you to eat healthier.
In 2018 the University of Minnesota conducted a major project that looked at the eating habits and activity levels of young adults.
Researchers spotted a pattern in the results that those that practiced yoga reported better eating habits. This compelled researchers to look in to the research further in the second wave of the study.
It was found that the young yogis ate more fruit and vegetables and less fast food. Conclusions stated that the concept of mindfulness, that is such a pillar of yoga practice, supported this approach to eating.
33: Increases Energy Levels
The University of Waterloo attributed one reason that yoga increases energy levels to the fact that yoga helps you to remove unwanted and unnecessary thoughts and information from your mind.
34: It’s Low Risk
Yoga is a low risk form of exercise, making it accessible to many. In fact statistics show that the incidence of yoga injuries is just 1.18 injuries per 1000 hours of yoga.
It was also found that of those injuries they tended to impact the lower extremities most notably the hip, hamstring, knee, ankle, foot and toe.
35: It’s Accessible
With 36 million Americans practicing yoga, it’s unsurprising that yoga is now really accessible. You can find classes in your local area, tons of instructional videos online and a wide range of different accessories sold at many outlets.
36: It’s Affordable
One of the major benefits of practicing yoga is that it’s affordable to practice. Yoga mats can be obtained cheaply, starting at just $10.
Classes again range in cost, however YouTube contains a number of instructional videos (like the one below) that you can access for free.
Surprising Yoga Benefits!
37: Makes You More Environmentally Conscious
As well as looking after yourself when you practice yoga, statistics show that yogis are concerned with looking after the planet too!
A paper published about Yoga in America in 2016 reported that those that enjoy yoga are more likely to volunteer in their local community, live green and eat sustainably.
Yogis can even demonstrate their respect for the environment by purchasing an eco-friendly yoga mat like Heathyoga’s Eco Friendly Non Slip Yoga Mat that contains no toxic or harmful chemicals.
38: Improves Productivity
If you’re struggling to stop procrastinating then you can improve your productivity with a little yoga.
In fact research conducted by the CDC showed that practicing yoga in the workplace not only helped to improve an employee’s level of productivity but also improve their wellbeing.
39: Slows the Aging Process
One of the most surprising findings from yoga research has been the fact that yoga has been shown to slow down the aging process.
The 2017 study conducted in India followed healthy individuals as they undertook 12 weeks of yoga and meditation.
Findings showed that DNA damage and telomere shortening, which are the caps that protect our chromosomes, was reduced.
Conclusions stated that by adopting a lifestyle that involved both yoga and meditation you could slow down cellular aging.
40: Improves Your Sex Life
Results were gauged using the Female Sexual Function Index which looks as six different areas, desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction and pain.
Results evidenced that roughly 75% of the respondents reported improvements in their sex life after 12 weeks of yoga.