As was stated earlier, yoga is a practice that, at its core, aims to bring the body and mind into harmony. One cannot function properly if the other is failing. By becoming proficient in both the physical and breathing exercises, the core can become stronger, in turn improving one’s balance.
Why is balance important in yoga you might ask? Balance promotes not only physical stillness but also stillness in the breath, which is, again, the entire purpose of yoga: harmony of breath and movement. Increased balance is also essential to build muscle strength and flexibility, which was discussed above.
Yoga may not involve using any outside equipment, but that does not qualify it as a lesser form of exercise. Yoga is still a fantastic way to improve your strength. If you think about it, you are using your entire weight to hold poses for an extended period, which is much more convenient than buying a home gym.
Over time, you will notice increased strength in the muscles of the arms, legs, back and, as discussed above, the core. Due to the differing nature of yoga poses, one can improve muscle strength in almost any muscle group in the body. Strength is built through holding postures for an extended period multiple times during a yoga flow.
This form of yoga is more modern, having been established in the late 1990s. With all yoga focusing on harmony, this particular type of yoga also brings spirituality into the mix.
The focus of Anusara yoga is to discover happiness not only in your practice of yoga but also in your everyday life. It is quite like Vinyasa yoga when it comes to health benefits: Anusara yoga can help with stability, strength, and flexibility.
Hatha yoga can be thought of like an older version of Anusara yoga; it again combines the mind, body, and spirit into its practice. However, what sets this sort of yoga apart is that the poses are typically held for an extended time.
Hatha yoga has some of the other purported health benefits associated with yoga; users will experience improved balance, flexibility, and strength. Stress reduction is one of the unique attributes of Hatha yoga. Let’s explore this phenomenon more in the next section.
All of us have an endocrine (hormone) system. Also, within that system are chemicals that are released during certain times of the day or specific activities. One of those chemicals in the hormone system is called cortisol, and it is released when an individual is stressed.
Scientists have discovered that in those people who regularly practice yoga, individuals have significantly reduced levels of cortisol, meaning that their stress levels are lower than those that do not practice yoga. Reports have shown that participants need only to practice for three months before the benefits can be noted.
If you are a more structured individual, this form of yoga may appeal to you. Each session consists of two breathing lessons and 26 poses. What makes Bikram yoga stand out amongst the rest is that it is practiced in a heated room.
Since Bikram is so like other types of yoga, the health benefits are also the same: increased strength, flexibility, and balance. Something unique to Bikram yoga is improved blood circulation.
Any form of stretching, in theory, increases blood flow. However, yoga is one of the best ways you can improve blood circulation. The secret is in the length of time the poses/stretches are held. Because most forms of yoga have you hold shape for an extended period, it follows that blood circulation will increase faster with this method of exercise.
If you already have a regular workout routine set into place, try adding some yoga in at the end. You will get the blood circulating back into those muscles, which can shorten your recovery time and help with muscle soreness.
Moving on to our next subset of yoga, Kundalini yoga is a little different than what we have seen so far. This type of yoga incorporates singing, chanting, and meditation in order to obtain self-awareness.
Though the practice itself might differ from previous types of yoga we have seen, the health benefits sadly stay the same. By practicing Kundalini yoga, you will notice increased flexibility and strength.
As the name implies, this type of yoga has the participant repeat mantras throughout the standard practice. The idea behind the repetitive words is that it will help you to focus on your breath and practice mindfulness.
The health benefits of Mantra yoga seem a little vague, but for what it is worth, it cannot be any worse off for you than the other kinds of yoga described above. Due to the repetitive nature of this practice, it seems that the most notable health benefit is mental clarity and focus.
This is another structured form of yoga. It focuses on the eight limbs or branches/practices of yoga. This form of yoga may seem frustrating to others because progress may not be linear. Ashtanga yoga only allows the participant to progress if they have mastered the posture of one series.
The health benefits are many and varied. Ashtanga yoga is used to improve concentration, help one learn to meditate, and can also help improve posture. Again, with all the other forms above mentioned, this form also helps with strength and stability.
Posture and strength go together. So since we already know that yoga can help increase the strength of our muscles, it makes sense that yoga can also help improve our posture. By increasing the strength in the muscles of the back and core, yoga can ultimately reverse lousy posture.
Studies have proven just this. Hyperkyphosis, which is a severe curving of the spine, is one of the conditions that can be reversed through the regular practice of yoga. Spine health is integral to the health of the rest of the body, so one may even notice other improvements once posture is corrected.
Most people today experience some form of anxiety, whether it be benign or extreme. A simple, low-effort solution to the problem might be yoga. Hatha yoga has been studied and found to relieve anxiety for a variety of people. However, it was noted that those who experienced the most stress at the beginning of the study showed the most relief in their symptoms.
How exactly does yoga have such a profound effect on the body? Scientists have shown that when a person practices yoga, they naturally increase the amount of gamma-aminobutyric acid being produced in the brain. This chemical combats the feelings of anxiety and other mood disorders; doing yoga makes you feel good overall!
The leading cause of death in the United States is heart disease. Who knew yoga could help lower your risk? While yoga does not specifically cure heart disease once you have it, it can help reduce other risk factors associated with the illness.
An interesting finding stated that Bikram yoga changed the shape of blood vessels inside the body. This finding can be associated with the fact that this form of yoga is practiced in a heated room. Whether the blood vessels changed from the poses or the heat remains to be seen.
Along with anxiety, most people also suffer from some form of depression, ranging from the blues to significant depression. Although it is typical for medication to be prescribed to those who are feeling down, exercise and yoga can be added to the daily agenda to help lift the spirits.
The action for this is the same as for reducing stress: yoga naturally decreases the amount of cortisol the body produces. Not only does cortisol increase stress, but it can also increase depression. Yoga can be beneficial to those who suffer from multiple mood issues.
The brain has control over a lot of other systems throughout the body, which means that keeping it healthy is essential for the entire body. Good news is that yoga can help with this too.
Research has promoted the idea that after only one yoga session, participants showed signs of increased memory; however, the effects were only proven short-term (right after the exercise had been done).
Back pain is nothing to joke about; it is like tooth pain in the fact that if you experience it, it stops you from doing almost everything you love. Yoga can be an inexpensive method of pain reduction in the lower back.
How is this achieved? Yoga focuses on stretching and holding those stretched poses for long periods; this can help to lengthen the spine and put strength into those back muscles to keep your body in proper alignment. Yoga is typically not useful for those who have chronic pain in the lower back, only if you suffer from some soreness or tenderness in that area.
Cancer is never an easy diagnosis to digest, and countless hours are spent receiving treatment that makes you feel like crap. However, what if yoga could help? Research has shown that, compared to a control group, men with prostate cancer who practiced yoga a few times a week were less fatigued than those who did not practice yoga.
As if that weren’t interesting enough, two more findings from yoga studies stand out. Yoga was shown to not only improve erectile dysfunction, but it also helped to better urinary function in the men who participated.
Its slower pace and deeper breathing characterize this type of yoga. The deep breath is thought to activate the body’s parasympathetic nervous system. This is the system that is responsible for bringing your body back to normal after a flight-or-fight response.
By activating this system, restorative yoga works to bring the body to its natural calm and still state. This idea goes with the other concepts mentioned in this article; by bringing the body into its calm state, one can also reduce the amount of anxiety and depression you experience.
A condition as debilitating as a stroke (blood loss to the brain) cannot stand up to the healing powers of yoga. Since we have already discussed how yoga can help the brain, it is no wonder that scientists are suggesting yoga for those who are recovering from a stroke.
Essential components of stroke recovery include movement, flexibility, and concentration, which have all been discussed previously. By incorporating the styles of yoga capable of providing these benefits, patients can now speed up the recovery from a stroke.
The people with this disease know how it is to lose flexibility; the use of the joints, particularly in the hands, is hindered. Thankfully yoga is here to save the day once again. In this instance, yoga is aimed at reducing inflammation around the joints, which in turn decreases the amount of pain felt by the person.
How is this accomplished? Again, we are looking at the brain chemical cortisol. When cortisol is up, stress is up, and inflammation increases as well. Even after just one session of yoga, cortisol can decrease, which helps alleviate joint pain.
For those who are unfamiliar with this condition, it is characterized by chronic inflammation of the bowels. As was just discussed, yoga can help reduce the overall redness of the body, depending on which areas of the body you work during your yoga flow.
Another contributing factor to this disease is stress. It is thought that if a patient is under a considerable amount of stress, the ulcerative colitis tends to worsen. By doing yoga to decrease the amount of cortisol in the body, patients may be able to lower the distress they feel from their condition.
Most people today have a problem when it comes to sleep. Whether it is hard to fall asleep or stay asleep, these days almost everyone you know will claim to have issues surrounding sleep.
As we have seen previously, some forms of yoga incorporate different breathing patterns to achieve mindfulness and introspection. There is another upside to these breathing techniques it would seem. A study performed in 2004 showed that even chronic insomniacs could benefit from the deep breathing associated with yoga practices. It may be that this deep breathing helps to activate that parasympathetic nervous system, helping the body to relax and soothe itself to sleep naturally.
The thyroid is an organ located in the front of the neck that is responsible for many different functions throughout the body. It produces several hormones that help with metabolism and mental capacity. Without the proper function of this organ, many different systems throughout the body start to shut down and function with fault.
Stress has also been shown to have an impact on this organ. One of the focuses of yoga is to reduce overall stress through deep breathing exercises and repetitive poses. According to a study done by Medical News Today, practicing yoga regularly can help improve either the over-function or under-function of this organ and all just because of the breathing techniques that are common in yoga practice.
Diabetes, specifically type 2, results from one of two things: either the body does not produce enough insulin on its own, or the body has a resistance to the insulin it does produce. This, in turn, affects the amount of sugar that is found in the blood. Usually, in patients with type 2 diabetes, the blood sugar level in the blood is too high.
In 2015 a study was conducted to see how yoga affects those who have type 2 diabetes. This study showed that those who regularly practiced yoga had a lower level of blood glucose (sugar). Patients also reported having to use their medications less often. Not only can yoga reduce the amount of sugar in the blood, but it was also shown to delay the natural progression of the disease.
Osteoporosis is a condition that causes the bones to become weak and brittle, usually because the bones are not absorbing enough calcium. The body continually builds up and breaks down bone; in this disease, the body cannot keep up with bone creation as the old bones are being destroyed.
As we know, yoga uses the body’s own weight to hold poses for extended periods. These weight-bearing exercises help the body to strengthen the bone and may ultimately prevent osteoporosis from getting worse. By reducing cortisol, yoga also helps the bones to retain their calcium, so they do not become weak in the first place.
One of the contributing factors to the development of this disease is low gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) production. When the body does not produce enough of this chemical in the brain, the brain can become faulty. Memory and other critical mental functions become diminished.
As noted above, scientists have found that regular yoga practice helps the body to make more GABA on its own, which could help slow the progression of the disease. If yoga seems too much for you, try some meditation; a meditation on its own has also proven effective at treating Alzheimer’s.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is often caused by a pinched nerve in the wrist, causing pain and numbness in the hand and arms. It is a prevalent condition that can interfere in everyday life. Yoga can help reduce the pain associated with this syndrome.
Since yoga emphasizes proper stretching, it is no wonder that sufferers feel some relief from the practice. It is important to note that not all poses are appropriate for those who have weak wrists; you should not be doing any poses that place too much weight onto the wrists. Focus more on opening and strengthening the muscles of the wrist.
Asthma, as you may well know, occurs when the airways become inflamed, making it difficult to breathe. This is another common ailment suffered by people throughout the world. Because of yoga’s focus on breathing, it can be extremely beneficial to those who have a hard time catching their breath.
The focus on breathing that yoga stresses can help to increase lung capacity. Also, like so many other diseases studied in this article, stress is another contributing factor to this ailment. By learning to control one’s breathing, hyperventilation caused by stress may be combated by skills learned in yoga.
Turning our attention to rarer conditions, multiple sclerosis causes the immune system to destroy the protective layer around the nerves, which ultimately causes problems with the electrical signals traveling between the body and the brain.
What doesn’t yoga help with this condition? Because multiple sclerosis affects the nerves across the entire body, many different aspects of the body can be improved using yoga. Patients have reported improvements in balance, posture, flexibility, fatigue and aches and pains associated with the disease.
Who doesn’t suffer from a headache from time to time? However, for those who have never experienced a migraine, the two are not the same. Those who suffer migraines often have sensitivities to light, sound, even touch. The pain is intense and often hard to combat.
Good news is that yoga can once again not only help reduce the pain as it is happening; it can also help prevent migraines from occurring in the future. As has been discussed previously, yoga naturally activates the parasympathetic nervous system using deep breathing exercises. This, in turn, can lower blood pressure, which is a cause associated with migraines.
Epilepsy is a condition that causes a disturbance in the nerve cell activity in the brain. This condition may occur naturally (meaning you were born with it) or seizures can become a common occurrence after an accident.
So how can yoga help those who deal with seizures? Studies have shown that yoga induces deep relaxation throughout the body, which helps to lower the overall stress one is experiencing. Since anxiety is a contributing factor in the onset of some seizures, finding your inner peace with yoga may be exponentially helpful.
This mental disorder is caused by an intrusion of excessive thoughts that then lead to repetitive behaviors. People who suffer from this condition often experience unreasonable fears that then lead to compulsive behaviors.
Although not all the principles of yoga help OCD sufferers, relief can be found with specific types of yoga. Any yoga that encourages chanting along with the exercises has helped to reduce obsessive thoughts and actions.
Who doesn’t have an allergy? Whether it is to a food, a drug or an animal, most of us suffer from itchy eyes and a runny nose at least part of the year. How would you feel if I told you that yoga could help you combat the side effects of having an allergy?
Yoga has a profound impact on the immune system: because it helps to stabilize this system, yoga can help the body to defend itself against allergens. As was discussed in the asthma section, the differing breathing exercises help to improve lung function, which is also imperative to fending off allergens.
All women will experience this condition during her lifetime. Menopause is a natural decrease in reproductive hormones that occurs after child-bearing years have passed. This sudden fluctuation in hormone levels causes multiple symptoms in women, the most common complaint being hot flashes.
The good news is that yoga is a natural remedy to this decrease in chemicals inside the body. In women who practice yoga regularly, blood tests have shown an increase in their estrogen levels in the blood, meaning that they suffer less from the symptoms of menopause compared to those women who do not practice yoga.
All of us have suffered this problem from time to time. Sometimes it’s just hard to go. Moreover, all those pills they have on the market to help to get things moving are often quite painful. What about a free, non-invasive solution to your number two problems?
Yoga can help in this instance, as well! We have talked over and over about how yoga activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is also known as the rest and digest system because it helps the body enter a relaxed state as well as supports the act of digestion. Practice also stimulates the process of peristalsis, which is what helps waste products move throughout the body.
Scoliosis occurs when you have any curvature to the spine. Again, this is a common condition that can cause extreme pain. What if there was a way to reduce the pain that came at no cost to you?
Look no further than yoga. Earlier in this article, we talked about how yoga can help to build up the muscles of the arms, legs, core, and back. By strengthening those muscles that run along the spine, yoga can help reduce the pain felt due to the unnatural placement of the spine.
Bronchitis is caused by inflammation of the bronchial tubes, which is what carries oxygen to the lungs. When the condition becomes chronic, it means that the swelling has lasted a significant amount of time.
Yoga helps to aerate the lungs as well as helps to lower inflammation found throughout the body. The key here is to find exercises that elevate respiration, but that also increases oxygen levels in the body; yoga can do both things.