Whether you’re a yoga beginner or an experienced yoga guru, you may find yourself wondering about the specific health benefits of regularly practicing yoga. You may have heard from friends that yoga can help you …
The 5 Most Important Health Benefits of Yoga
Whether you’re a yoga beginner or an experienced yoga guru, you may find yourself wondering about the specific health benefits of regularly practicing yoga. You may have heard from friends that yoga can help you to feel strong, refreshed, and relaxed—but could it also help us live longer or lead happier, healthier lives?
In fact, yoga has so many health benefits that we could easily fill many pages of our blog with them. Instead, we’ve decided to whittle that list down to the five health benefits we feel are most important. At PMR, we’re all about holistic treatments. Much like acupuncture, nutrition, or massage therapy, yoga is one of many ways to improve your overall health, mood, and bodily functioning. We won’t claim that regular yoga will instantly fix your physical or mental issues, but a long-term commitment to practicing yoga can be an incredibly effective supplement to other forms of care.
Though Westerners often see yoga as a purely physical exercise routine, yoga is traditionally a broad discipline with many schools and components. With that in mind, we now present the five most important benefits of yoga for holistic physical, mental, and spiritual wellness.
- Yoga Improves Bodily Flexibility
The many different poses involved in yoga exercises allow those who regularly practice it to increase their flexibility in many areas of the body. At first, you might find the flexibility required to do yoga very difficult to muster. However, as your skills develop, you may realize that you’re becoming more flexible than you ever thought possible.
At PMR, we often recommend yoga (and other similar forms of exercise) to our chiropractic patients. Flexibility is extremely important for muscle and joint health, especially for those dealing with painful conditions or rehabbing from an injury. By supplementing your care with yoga, you can help to ensure that the area surrounding your joints remains strong, which in turn may improve range of motion and reduce the likelihood of injury.
- Yoga Can Help You to Shed Extra Weight
There are a few different theories regarding yoga’s effect on weight loss, but studies have shown that there is in fact an effect on weight. In one trial of thousands of middle aged men and women who completed a 30 minute yoga session once per week over a period of years, and were then compared to those who did not practice yoga over the same period, a clear difference in weight patterns emerged. Those who practiced yoga either lost weight or maintained their weight, while those who didn’t gained about 14 pounds on average.
Yoga is not as intensive a form of exercise as running or playing sports, for example, though it can involve significant physical exertion. Researchers involved in the aforementioned trial noted that yoga’s emphasis on mindfulness and paying attention to the physical aspects of the body may have helped yoga devotees to monitor their appetites and avoid overeating. In any case, extra weight can negatively impact joint health, so shedding those pounds is in your best interest if you’re overweight and experiencing joint pain.
- Regular Yoga May Boost Cardiovascular Health
There’s some debate as to whether or not yoga truly counts as cardiovascular exercise. After all, even an intensive hour of power yoga probably won’t strain the heart and lungs to the same degree as a brisk run of the same duration. Still, research suggests that yoga does increase the heart rate and may boost overall cardiovascular health.
For those looking to stay in tip-top shape, we recommend combining yoga practice with more strenuous cardiovascular exercise, but for those with physical limitations, yoga alone may be beneficial enough. If you’re concerned about exercise and overall health, you should also know that yoga has been shown to improve coordination, balance, and strength in addition to flexibility—which is one reason why it’s become so popular among athletes in recent years.
- Practicing Yoga Promotes Calmness and Improves Mental Health Through Mindfulness
Even if you’ve never practiced yoga once in your entire life, you probably know from pop cultural images and associations that yoga is linked to meditation and Eastern concepts of mind-body consciousness. It’s important to understand that in contemporary America, many different types of yoga are practiced. Among these, some have stronger links to mindfulness and meditation than others.
With that in mind, almost all types of yoga emphasize concentrating on the breath as you go through poses, which is one of the core components of mindfulness meditation. And the benefits are clear: Yoga has been shown to reduce blood pressure and levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, in the body. In other words, a regular yoga routine is a great way to reduce stress and let your worries melt away while you focus in on the here and now.
- Spiritual Yoga Practice May Bring Feelings of Greater Energy, Clarity, and Vitality
Skeptical about whether yoga can give you a true energy boost and help you to live with more clarity and natural vitality, as so many yogis claim? Though these benefits are difficult to prove scientifically, that doesn’t mean you can’t find out what they might mean for you. Try incorporating morning yoga into your weekly routine and see if your own fatigue and mental fog begin to drift away, as so many yoga fanatics claim.
For more information on the health benefits of yoga and how supplementing your chiropractic care with yoga (or other forms of physical exercise) can help you to heal faster and more effectively, give our specialists at PMR a call today!