Every practicing yogi, and even most laymen, recognize and are aware that yoga leads to a slew of health benefits: increased balance and flexibility, a stronger, firmer body, a heightened sense of self-awareness and weight loss are the most commonly-recognized benefits of yoga. Most doctors encourage yoga practice because it is a healthy form of exercise that even borderline obese people can practice safely (in gentle classes, of course). But this simple list of benefits only serves to scratch the surface. Extensive research of yoga on total health has unearthed a ton of additional benefits you will be happy to know about:
- Therapeutic for alleviating symptoms and side effects of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Veterans have been giving yoga a shot-- reducing stress, flashbacks, hypervigilance, and anxiety.
- Increases cortisol production in the body. This chemical regulates stress and our "fight and flight" response. Yoga has been clinically found to reduce rash/impulsive behaviors.
- After yoga class, you will find yourself cooling off even further because yoga stimulates the sympathetic nervous system. What does this mean? You handle/recover from major stressors more expeditiously. Heart rate and blood pressure are lowered.
- When cortisol is reduced, the body's immune system is boosted, increasing your ability to fight illness by immobilizing some white blood cells.
- No more inflammation! If chronic inflammation, a pain-inducing health issue which can lead to pain killer addiction, diabetes and heart disease, isn't addressed, it can lead to death. Yoga prevents many potentially deadly problems -- prolonging life span in many cases.
- PMS or hormonal imbalances? Yoga to the rescue! Yoga can kill those pesky monthly cramps and improve mood. Also, nasty side effects of menopause (hot flashes, general uncomfortability) can be alleviated without medication through restorative or yin (passive) yoga.
- Meditation and connecting movement with the breath leads to mindfulness. A regularly practicing yogi learns to slow down, think before reacting and their outlook on life (as well as actual behavior) is positive -- addressing problem issues head-on and with a positive attitude. Mindfulness actually changes the structure of the brain. This leads to healthier relationships and increased happiness. Which leads us to the next obscure yogic benefit …
- Yoga practice leads to a better sex life. Obviously, the increased limberness and endurance will please your partner. Add a little sizzle to the bedroom with higher levels of arousal, increased libido, and better/more intense orgasms -- all yogic benefits as reported by the the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
- Major mental health disorders: substance use disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar and ADD are just a few major life obstacles that yoga practice has shown to help. It's important to note that yoga, in SOME cases cannot completely replace medicated-assisted therapy but it certainly helps when coalesced.
- Eating disorders. Modern society tragically has inadvertently increased the number of individuals (mostly women) who suffer from some form of eating disorder each year. An astonishing 65% of women have reported struggling with this horrific health problem at some point in their life. Yoga strengthens the relationship between body, mind and spirit. Practicing yoga lessens the desire to eat, reduces stress eating and can lead the practitioner to a healthier view of their body, becoming more comfortable in their own skin. Yoga teaches us how to love our body and treat it like the temple it is.
- Improved sleep. Check out my archived blog on how yoga before bed is better than a warm glass of milk. New studies show that low-intensity yoga also helps get rid of insomnia in cancer patients.
- Deep breathing, pranayama, and Ujjayi breath can soothe sinus pressure away.
- Yoga to combat bad breath might seem a little ridiculous or extreme, but research suggests a few yoga poses can decrease embarrassingly unpleasant breath if you are without a toothbrush and in a stitch.
- If you've ever attended a yoga class, you know that this fitness regime certainly gets the blood pumpin'. Yoga improves circulation, preventing discoloration and desensitized extremities as well as varicose veins and cold limbs.
How has yoga affected your health? Let us know how yoga has improved your quality of life - there might just be a little bit of science behind it!