Yoga is all around wonderful. While practicing it, one stretches, strengthens one’s body, and is at peace. Sometimes one can do it in nature, sometimes with friends. There’s a yoga practice a couple minutes away from almost anywhere. “But really,” the skeptic says, “what technical, scientifically proven health benefits does yoga have?”
Many, actually! Rest assured that yoga not only makes you feel an overall sense of well-being, but is scientifically shown to be good for you as well 🙂
A study from Harvard Medical School found that yoga truly does help reduce the feeling of stress. When you’re relaxed, your body is going to perform more normally instead of constantly being pumped with adrenaline, ready to fight-or-flight. That means your sympathetic nervous system (it’s technical, but that’s the division of your nervous system that gets you ready for emergency situations, making your heart beat faster and the butterflies in your tummy) will also calm down.
In a German study also discussed by the Harvard article, a group of self-described “emotionally distressed” women demonstrated that yoga helped decrease their depression and anxiety while increasing their overall well being. Half of the group took yoga treatment for about three months while the control group did not, and then on follow-up tests, all women took questionnaires to measure the effects. Compared to those that didn’t do yoga, the group that did yoga had a 50% decrease in depression, 30% decrease in anxiety, and 65% increase in overall well being! Those are some pretty impactful numbers.
Another mental benefit of yoga? It increases optimism and positive self-image! The meditation and familiarity with the limitations of one’s body that are core concepts of yoga, as well as deep breathing, help yogis think more clearly and brightly. For example, calming down in yoga helps many forget about all their anxieties and obligations for a brief while, leaving them more refreshed to think on them later.
As anybody who’s ever tried a handstand or other balancing yoga poses before can tell you, regular practice of yoga helps a lot with posture and stability! Good posture fixes everything from back pain to energy levels, and also helps one feel and look confident. While doctors sometimes prescribe muscle relaxants to help with posture problems, yogis don’t need that because their art strengthens and relaxes muscles as it is.
Besides good posture, yoga is of course an exercise that helps with cardiovascular health, muscle and bone strength, and flexibility. In this Chinese study, yoga was found to significantly decrease high systolic blood pressure and also waist size, suggesting that yoga functions well as a heart-healthy exercise. Holding yoga poses and slowly loosening through yoga poses is also like strength training in that it helps to tone muscles and promote strong bones! – facts that the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NIH) agrees with. There was also a study at our nearby CSULA that found that yoga increased bone density, decreasing chances of osteoporosis.
Yoga outdoors can give you a great boost of Vitamin D, while and yoga with friends or a puppy can boost your mood even more than solitary practice.
All in all, we’ll say that yoga is just lovely, and truly impactful an exercise!