Wellness » 12 Proven Benefits of Yoga on Your Body and Mind

12 Proven Benefits of Yoga on Your Body and Mind

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If you’ve tried a yoga class before, you may have noticed a relaxed, glowy feeling at the end of your session. Or maybe yoga’s new to you, but your friend is obsessed and begging you to join. Yoga fans have known for a long time that breathing through some asanas can feel amazing, and scientific research is taking notice. If you need a reason to make time for a yoga session in your wellness routine, we’ve got a dozen to get you started.

What’s yoga?

We know you don’t live under a rock, so you’ve probably at least heard of yoga before. What sometimes gets buried under inspirational pictures of gorgeous women on a mountain, lifting a leg up to here, is that yoga is a lot more than just a beautiful pose.

Yoga originated more than 5,000 years ago in India. It’s a multi-faceted practice, and in the United States, the main components are:

  • Different physical poses, or asanas
  • Breathwork
  • Meditation

Yoga delivers some distinct benefits compared to other forms of exercise because of its emphasis on integrating physical and mental components. Here are some of the benefits of doing yoga.

1. Relieve stress

Yoga has a reputation for being a peaceful way to get your body moving, and the science backs this up. A review of 12 articles on yoga and stress found that almost any form of yoga (e.g., Hatha, Bikram, Kundalini yoga) has a stress-relieving effect by building the mental tools to respond to stressful situations.

2. Develop flexibility

The cool backbends, twists, and extensions in advanced poses make yoga stand out from activities like walking or biking. But do you need to be naturally flexible to strike a perfect pose? Research shows that a consistent yoga practice can help improve your flexibility. Benefits of being limber include easier movement in everyday life and lower risk of injury, as well as being able to impress your friends.

3. Get stronger

As anyone who’s tried to balance in Crow Pose can tell you, yoga can improve balance and strength. Yoga is a full-body activity, allowing you to work your muscles in all four limbs, your abs, and your back.

4. Breathe easy

You naturally breathe all the time, but did you know that you can get better at it? An eight-week study found that yoga helped improve respiratory function in healthy, inactive adults. Breathing exercises can ensure your body receives a literal breath of fresh air to feel and function at its best.

5. Mitigate low back pain

If you spend much of your day sitting, lower back achiness may be all too familiar. Yoga’s emphasis on moving your body through different postures and shapes at a speed that feels natural for you may help reduce low back pain.

6. Reduce inflammation 

Chronic inflammation can lead to a host of other health problems, even heart disease or some cancers. Your yoga teacher may talk about particular poses that help reduce inflammation, and there’s something to that promise. A review of 15 studies found that yoga can positively affect inflammation, benefitting your short- and long-term health.

7. Boost mental health

Depression and anxiety are two of the most common mental health conditions. Mental health is complex, and treating conditions can be complicated. But sometimes, solutions may involve therapy interventions, medical treatment, and lifestyle changes that promote mental health. Yoga can play a part in reducing the effects of depression and anxiety to help put you in a better mental state.

8. Improve metabolism 

Yoga practitioners swear by regulating and harmonizing mind and body. Several studies found a connection between yoga and better regulation of aspects of your metabolism. This is helpful for any of us who like to, you know, digest our food smoothly, but it’s especially important for people at risk for conditions like diabetes.

9. Sleep better

The next time it’s late, and you’re wide-eyed, try unrolling your mat instead of counting sheep. Yoga may be a good way to relax before bed (go for a soothing practice rather than an intense flow). It can also help improve sleep quality, so the time you’re snoozing (even if it’s not that much time) is more restful.

10. Increase blood flow

Many kinds of exercise get your heart pumping. Having a healthy blood flow is good for your organs, energy levels, and overall health. One study found that an hour of morning yoga for a month can help improve blood pressure.

11. Support healthy pregnancy

Perhaps because of benefits like healthy blood flow, yoga may be a worthwhile activity if you’re expecting a baby. A study on the benefits of yoga for high-risk pregnancies found that the yoga group showed better blood flow to the baby and better fetal growth. You should ask your doctor about any physical exercise program if you’re expecting, but yoga may be one way to have a healthier nine months.

12. Get better quality of life

Yes, your whole life could be better if yoga’s a part of it. Yoga can help you feel stronger and more flexible. It’s good for your mental health and can improve your sleep. It’s no wonder that yoga is connected with overall improved quality of life

How to get started

Yoga studios or gyms in your area may let you try a drop-in class to see how you like it. You can also access yoga classes for free at home from popular YouTube yogis, like Yoga with Adriene or Yoga with Kassandra).

A mat and yoga pants are helpful, but as long as you have space and comfy clothes, you can get started. You don’t need to be a master at it. Just get comfortable, try some new poses, and see if breathing and stretching in a yoga class or at home takes you somewhere new.