4 Unexpected Health-Promoting Benefits of Yoga

Health

For 5,000 years, hardcore yoga practitioners have been touting yoga’s mental and physical powers. Luckily, you don’t have to be an expert to reap the benefits — adding just a few poses to your daily routine can help your health in all kinds of unexpected ways.

“On a physical level, yoga helps improve flexibility, strength, balance, and endurance,” says Linda Schlamadinger McGrath, founder of YogaSource Los Gatos in California. “On an energetic level, yoga teaches you how to cope better with stress by cultivating a sense of ease in both active or passive poses. On a psychological level, yoga helps to cultivate mindfulness by shifting your awareness to the sensations, thoughts, and emotions that accompany a given pose or exercise.”

All exercise has been shown to help people with depression feel better, and yoga is no exception. In fact, a study from Duke University Medical Center suggested that yoga could benefit those living with depression, schizophrenia, other psychiatric conditions, and sleep problems.

“Practicing in a group setting, such as a yoga class, stimulates the production of oxytocin, the love and bonding hormone,” McGrath says. “Practicing mindfulness through yoga and meditation also results in higher serotonin levels (the happiness hormone), and long-term practitioners have shown more mass in the areas of the brain associated with contentment.”

Multiple studies have found yoga to be a more effective treatment for chronic back pain than usual care. In a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, people living with chronic lower back pain reported better back function, though similar levels of pain, after a few months of practicing yoga.

In another study of 80 individuals with chronic lower back pain, the group that participated in just one week of yoga showed less disability and greater flexibility than patients who completed other physical exercises. Even if you don’t have chronic pain, yoga’s stretching exercises can improveyour spinal flexibility.

In recent years, couples have increasingly turned to yoga as a means of decreasing stress and increasing their chances of conceiving a child. And though there are few studies that indicate that yoga benefits include enhancing fertility, it has been shown to reduce stress and could indeed play a role.

“Yoga can help with infertility in a variety of ways,” says Bethany Grace Shaw, founder and president of YogaFit, Inc. “Yoga allows the mother-to-be to relax, de-stress, and open up energetic channels, thereby improving chances of conception.” Yoga may also allow for better blood flow to reproductive organs, improving organ function and improving hormone function

Hangover Relief

After a night of drinking, yoga may be the last thing on your mind, but Shaw says it’s exactly what you should do.

“Yoga is a great way to detox your entire system,” she says. “Yoga also helps with metabolism. The poses ‘shoulder stand,’ ‘plow,’ and ‘fish’ work on the thyroid gland and improve metabolism, thus getting rid of a hangover faster. Reversing blood flow and bringing more blood to the brain creates balance in the body.” Another benefit of a higher metabolism? It helps you burn fat, and the increased blood flow from yoga might even help blast cellulite away.

Leave a Reply