77 Surprising Health Benefits of Yoga

By Meredith Walker

 

Over the past several years, yoga has experienced an upsurge in popularity in the western world among medical professionals and celebrities alike. While many associate yoga with new age mysticism or the latest fad at the gym, yoga is actually an ancient practice that connects the mind, body, and spirit through body poses, controlled breathing, and meditation. The practice of yoga has many health benefits associated with it, so read below to discover 77 benefits of incorporating yoga in to your or your patient’s fitness program.

 

Health Benefits Within

 

From lowering blood pressure to increasing pain tolerance, the following health benefits can all be discovered within the body.

 

1.Blood pressure. A consistent yoga practice decreases blood pressure through better circulation and oxygenation of the body. These two exercises can help lower blood pressure.

2.Pulse rate. A slower pulse rate indicates that your heart is strong enough to pump more blood with fewer beats. Regularly practicing yoga provides a lower pulse rate.

3.Circulation. Yoga improves blood circulation. By transporting nutrients and oxygen throughout your body, yoga practice provides healthier organs, skin, and brain.

4.Respiratory. Like the circulatory system, a lower respiratory rate indicates that the lungs are working more efficiently. Yoga decreases the respiratory rate through a combination of controlled breathing exercises and better fitness.

5.Cardiovascular endurance. A combination of lower heart rate and improved oxygenation to the body (both benefits of yoga) results in higher cardiovascular endurance.

6.Organs. Yoga practice massages internal organs, thus improving the ability of the body to prevent disease. Additionally, an experienced yoga practitioner becomes better attuned to her body to know at first sign if something isn’t functioning properly, thereby allowing for quicker response to head off disease.

7.Gastrointestinal. Gastrointestinal functions have been shown to improve in both men and women who practice yoga.

8.Immunity. Yoga practice has frequently been correlated with a stronger immune system. Read this article for more on the immune system and yoga, including some poses that specifically work on areas of immunity.

9.Pain. Pain tolerance is much higher among those who practice yoga regularly. In addition to pain tolerance, some instances of chronic pain, such as back pain, are lessened or eliminated through yoga (see below for more on back pain).

10.Metabolism. Having a balanced metabolism results in maintaining a healthy weight and controlling hunger. Consistent yoga practice helps find the balance and creates a more efficient metabolism.

Health Benefits Without

 

Just as many health benefits occur within the body, there are many benefits that can actually be experienced from without the body. From better sleep to more energy and strength, this list provides several benefits found on the outside of the body.

 

11.Aging. Yoga stimulates the detoxification process within the body. Detoxification has been shown to delay aging, among many other health benefits.

12.Posture. The very nature of yoga teaches the practitioner how to hold and control one’s body in a more healthful position. Through consistent practice, your posture will improve so that you look more confident and healthy.

13.Strength. One of the premises of yoga is that you are using the weight of your own body for overall strength. Find out more about how yoga works as an excellent method of strength training in this article.

14.Energy. Regular yoga practice provides consistent energy. In fact, most yogis state that when you perform your yoga correctly, you will feel energized after your yoga session rather than tired.

15.Weight. The benefits of a better metabolism along with the exercise of yoga work to keep your weight in check. Additionally, the stretching of muscles longwise helps to reduce the amount of cellulite that can build around muscles.

16.Sleep. Because of the many benefits to both body and mind that a yoga routine can provide, many find that their sleep is much better. Read here for more on sleep and yoga, as well as some positions for helping induce sleep.

17.Balance. An integral part of the yoga practice is balance and control over your body. With a consistent practice, you will find that your overall balance will improve outside the yoga class.

18.Integrated function of the body. Yoga is derived from Sanskrit and means "to join together and direct one’s attention." This is exactly what happens to your body after you start practicing yoga. Yogis find that their body works together much better, resulting in more graceful and efficient body movements.

19.Body Awareness: Doing yoga will give you an increased awareness of your own body. You are often called upon to make small, subtle movements to improve your alignment. Over time, this will increase your level of comfort in your own body. This can lead to improved posture and greater self-confidence.

20.Core strength. With a strong body core, you receive better posture and overall body strength. A strong core helps heal and reduce injuries. This is why a lot of athletes do yoga as cross training (boxers, MMA fighters, etc). Read how this swimmer uses yoga to strengthen her core and improve her swimming.

21.Sexuality. Yoga can improve your sexuality through better control, more relaxation, and more self-confidence. Read more about the yoga and sexuality connection here.

Emotional Health Benefits

 

Due to the strong mind-body connection of yoga, there are many emotional benefits to be gained from a consistent yoga practice. Find out how yoga can help improve emotional health with this list.

 

22.Mood. Overall well-being improves with yoga practice. The combination of creating a strong mind-body connection, creating a healthy body, and focusing inward can all lead to improvement in your mood.

23.Stress Reduction. The concentration required during yoga practice tends to focus your attention on the matter at hand, thereby reducing the emphasis you may have been putting on the stress in your life. Read more about yoga and stress management here.

24.Anxiety. One benefit to the controlled breathing used in yoga is a reduction in anxiety. Learn more about how you can use yoga breathing to reduce your anxiety.

25.Depression. Some believe the negative feelings that you may be repressing are brought to the surface during some types of yoga exercise. When this happens, the negative energy is no longer stuck within you, but released through exercise. Regularly releasing this negativity leads to a reduction of depression in many people.

26.Self-acceptance. Focusing inward and realizing through your yoga practice that perfection is not the goal, self-acceptance begins to take over. This post describes how success is not measured by perfectionism in yoga. 

 

 

 

More good info on Yoga

 

What is Yoga?

Yoga is a discipline that originated in India, dating back 5000years. The word yoga means union or yoke. This represents the union of the mind, the body and the spirit. Most yoga practiced in the West today focuses on breathing (pranayama), postures (asanas) and relaxation (meditation). Yoga was originally an oral tradition handed down from teacher to student but is now commonly practiced in a class setting or individually. A male practitioner is called a yogi and a female a yogini.

 

What are the benefits of yoga?

The benifits of yoga are numerous. Some of the more commonly reported benifits are:
* Tones the body and strengthens the bones.
* Improved sense of well-being.
* Increased mental focus and clarity.
* Decrease in back pain and increased vitality to the spine.
* Increased energy.
* Improved digestion.
* Increased flexibility.
* Improved sleep.
* Inhanced immune system

 

How many types of Yoga are there?

There are many types of yoga, however the most common in the West is Hatha yoga. Under this umbrella there are many different styles and variations. Some of the more common ones are:
* Iyingar Yoga: This style focuses on precise aligmnent
* Vinyasa Yoga: Flowing movements from asana to asana characterize this style
* Bikram Yoga: Yoga is practiced in a very hot room.
* Ashtanga Yoga: This is a vigerous strong flowing style
* Anusara Yoga: Focus is on alignment and opening the heart
Every teacher will have their own approach often using a blend of a number of styles.

 

What can I expect in a typical yoga class and what will it cost?

A typical yoga class is approximately 60 to 90 minutes long. It will include centering, breathing (pranayama), postures (asanas) and concludes with a deep relaxation. Some of the postures will be done standing and some on the floor.
The cost of a yoga class varies, however the range at most yoga studios is usually $10 to $15 for a group class and $50 to $75 per hour for individual instruction.

 

What should be worn to a yoga class and do I need to prepare in any way?

You should dress comfortably in clothes that do not restrict movement. For example, shorts or tights and a tee shirt would work well. Yoga is done with bare feet. A yoga stickey mat is usually the only equipment needed. Yoga is normally practiced on an empty stomach. It is best not to have eaten anything for two hours prior to the class.

 

How do I look for a qualified teacher and what training is required to be a teacher?

There are no nationally recognized training standards, however the National Yoga Alliance has outlined minimum requirments for teachers to become ''registered'' teachers. Yoga Alliance is a non-profit organization that registers yoga teachers who have met specific training standards and possess a broad knowledge of yoga technique and theory. Teachers registered with Yoga Alliance are authorized to use the initials RYT ( Registered Yoga Teacher} after their name or the initials E-RYT (Experienced Yoga Teacher)if they have significant teaching experience in addition to training. Recognition is given at the 200 and 500 level. Students may want to try different classes and teachers to find a style and a teacher that resonates with them.

 

Is yoga a religion?

The earliest form of yoga was a deeply introspective and meditative practice. The asanas or physical postures we come to think of today as ''yoga'' were developed to calm the body and make it easier for the practitioner to sit in the stillness of meditation.
Though the art of yoga is often associated with Hinduism, yoga is not a religion. While religion emphasizes belief structures about life and the human relationship to the Divine, yoga seeks to reveal our own deepest nature through the direct experience of our own unique beauty and goodness. One need not be religious to practice yoga, nor does yoga exclude any religious practice. Most practitioners report that the philosophy of yoga blends with and even enhances their own individual practice. All that is required to practice yoga is a desire to learn more about yourself and your relationship to the Universe.

 

Can anyone practice yoga even if out of shape?

Yes. Yoga is for men, women and children of all ages, sizes, fitness levels and shapes. Our association has an offering of teachers with a variety of teaching styles and focus. First determine what you would like to receive from your yoga experience. Are you looking for a class that emphasizes a physical workout or a class that offers the full spectrum of yoga including breathwork, relaxation and meditation? Do you want yoga as therapy? Do you have any physical limitations such as pregnancy, chronic fatigue, arthritis, back or neck injuries? What setting do you perfer, a fitness center or a private studio? Use your conclusions and ask questions of potential instructors. Try a class that feels like a fit. Often students will have to try several classes or instructors before finding one that feels like ''home''.

 

Does yoga work for weight loss?

Regular yoga can help with weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight. Rather than punishing and depriving their bodies into shape, yoga students are tought to honor and respect their bodies. Students do not have to practice the most vigerous form of yoga to lose weight. As gentle awareness of their body's capabilities and needs develop, students often find that healthier eating and exercise habits develope.
Stress is a significant factor for many people. Current research shows that chronic exposure to stress hormones stimulates weight gain, paticularly in the abdominal area. One of the benifits of a yoga practice is stress reduction. Yoga can be an important component to a long term weight managment program.