Some people mistakenly lump in yoga with pseudoscience, since it started on the fringes of the New Age movement. But the truth is that there have been real studies into the efficacy of the yogic arts, and they show there are clear benefits to the practice of various kinds of yoga. Read on for a sample of some of the benefits which have been recorded in a growing body of scientific research.
1. Promotes Anxiety Relief
Most variants of yoga are rather calming, but just saying that doesn’t necessarily show the benefits. The truth is that overall people who practice yoga will find reduced anxiety throughout the day.
One study, for instance, showed that a two-month course of yoga significantly improved women’s anxiety levels throughout the day. It also showed a smaller effect on their depression levels.
Yoga is all about flowing and breathing. It’s no wonder that it seems to carry benefits above that of other exercises when it comes to staying calm. In today’s fast-paced world resilience to stress and the ability to remain calm are more important than ever before and yoga is one way to get there.
2. Enjoy Better Heart Health
When most people think of yoga, they think of long, slow movements and poses held. It’s easy to see how it can benefit flexibility and core strength, but it can actually improve heart function as well.
One study showed significant improvements in people over 40. They had a lower resting heart rate and better blood pressure as well. These are benefits that are normally ascribed to activities like running, but it appears that yoga helps the heart out.
The jury, on that study, is still out on whether the improvement was simply a slowing of age-related deterioration, but better numbers are there in black and white for yoga practitioners.
While it may not beat training for a marathon, any sort of improvement to cardio is awesome Our heart is the organ which drives our body, and taking care of it remains a high priority.
3. Improved Joint Health
Getting into bendy positions is one way to improve your joint health, especially if you’re aware of your own limitations. The benefits for those suffering from osteoarthritis and other issues are significant.
During a study, yoga was found to help out with arthritis-related knee pain, which is a good adjunct to the mountains of anecdotes that can be found on the internet. The knee is a complicated joint, so it can be inferred that shoulders and hips will benefit as well with the right approach.
Our joints naturally wear as we age, causing pain and stiffness. The ability of yoga to help you age more gracefully is grounded in good science, and that’s only one of the myriad studies that can be found on the subject.
4. You’ll Achieve Better Sleep
Sleep is one of the cornerstones of our mental and physical health. Without sufficient sleep, we work less efficiently throughout the day. There’s a reason many of us end up on sedatives or other artificial sleep aids.
Fortunately for you, the would-be yogi, yoga seems to benefit the sleep cycle. In a self-reported study on sleep quality, length, and the amount of time it took to fall asleep some elderly practitioners came out ahead of both the control group and one treated with herbal preparations.
Of course, nearly any exercise will help you sleep better. It just appears there’s a gentler, easier way to drift off faster than hitting the weight room or track at full bore. It’s worth a shot if you suffer from insomnia!
5. It Makes You More Flexible
If there’s one thing that yoga is famous for, it’s the flexible poses that advanced practitioners work themselves into. Few people are born with the ability to turn into a pretzel, but yoga actively helps to increase your range of motion.
While it’s easy to see how young, fit yogis can benefit by working into more advanced poses… the truth is that an increase in range of motion is good for everyone. Even a minor increase can mean a reduced chance of injury, especially in elderly patients.
Unlike some benefits which can be generalized to most exercises, yoga has proven to increase range of motion more than a standard course of calisthenics. There are few better exercises for developing a better range of motion, whether your goal is the splits or just having an easier time bending over in the garden.
6. Yoga Even Promotes Better Breathing
While many people know about the asana involved in yoga, few people know about the underlying breathing methods. These methods are vital to gaining the most out of your sessions and are usually taught in person. Collectively these breathing techniques are called pranayama.
One of the main focuses of secular yoga is on diaphragmatic breathing. It’s a deeper form of breathing that fills the blood with oxygen during your exercise, making you more alert. Often people will begin to do it unconsciously throughout the day.
The end result? Improved vital capacity in practitioners. It even showed it across the board, in healthy folks and smokers, even asthmatics. The improvement was minor but significant. The study notes that it’s not sure which of the techniques improved the subjects’ breathing, but it’s likely a combination.
Breathing better can make a huge difference in your day. Yoga is an excellent way to get there.
The Scientific Benefits of Yoga!
Yoga is backed by more than just tradition: it’s backed by hundreds of studies across the board. The above are only a few of the studies that have been done, and the interested person can find dozens more for each subject. Yoga is a sacred tradition, but it’s definitely holding up in the light of modern scientific analysis!