10 Reasons to do Yoga

1. Stress Relief

The practice of yoga is well-demonstrated to reduce the physical effects of stress on the body.

The body responds to stress through a fight-or-flight response, which is a combination of the sympathetic nervous system and hormonal pathways activating, releasing cortisol – the stress hormone – from the adrenal glands. Cortisol is often used to measure the stress response. Yoga practice has been demonstrated to reduce the levels of cortisol. Most yoga classes end with savasana, a relaxation pose, which further reduces the experience of stress. According to the Mayo Clinic, a number of studies have shown that yoga can help reduce stress and anxiety. It can also enhance your mood and overall sense of well-being.

2. Pain Relief

Yoga can ease pain.

Studies have shown that practicing yoga asanas (postures), meditation or a combination of the two, reduced pain for people with conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, auto-immune diseases and hypertension as well as arthritis, back and neck pain and other chronic conditions. According to the Mayo Clinic, yoga can help reduce risk factors for chronic diseases, such as heart disease and high blood pressure. Yoga might also help alleviate chronic conditions, such as depression, pain, anxiety and insomnia.

3. Better Breathing

Yoga includes breathing practices known as pranayama, which can be effective for reducing our stress response, improving lung function and encouraging relaxation.

Many pranayamas emphasize slowing down and deepening the breath, which activates the body’s parasympathetic system, or relaxation response. By changing our pattern of breathing, we can significantly affect our body’s experience of and response to stress. This may be one of the most profound lessons we can learn from our yoga practice.

4. Improved Fitness

According to the Mayo Clinic, practicing yoga can lead to improved balance, flexibility, range of motion and strength.

And this means you’re less likely to injure yourself in other physical endeavors or in your daily activities.

5. Flexibility

Yoga can improve flexibility and mobility and increase range of motion.

Over time, the ligaments, tendons and muscles lengthen, increasing elasticity.

6. Increased Strength

Yoga asanas use every muscle in the body, increasing strength literally from head to toe.

A regular yoga practice can also relieve muscular tension throughout the whole body.

7. Weight Management

Women who practiced regularly rated their body satisfaction 20 percent higher than did those who took aerobics, even though both groups were at a healthy weight*.

While most of the evidence for the effects of yoga on weight loss is anecdotal or experiential, yoga teachers, students and practitioners across the country find that yoga helps to support weight loss. Many teachers specialize in yoga programs to promote weight management and find that even gentle yoga practices help support weight loss. People do not have to practice the most vigorous forms of yoga to lose weight. Yoga encourages development of a positive self-image, as more attention is paid to nutrition and the body as a whole. A study from the Journal of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine found that regular yoga practice was associated with less age-related weight gain. The lifestyle study of 15,500 adults in their 50’s covered 10 years of participants’ weight history, physical activity, medical history and diet.

8. Improved Circulation

Yoga helps to improve circulation by efficiently moving oxygenated
blood to the body’s cells.

9. Cardiovascular Conditioning

Even a gentle yoga practice can provide cardiovascular benefits by lowering resting heart rate, increasing endurance and improving oxygen uptake during exercise.

10. Presence

Yoga connects us with the present moment.

The more we practice, the more aware we become of our surroundings and the world around us. It opens the way to improved concentration, coordination, reaction time and memory.

Bonus: Inner Peace

The meditative effects of a consistent yoga practice help many cultivate inner peace and calm.

Doing one hour of asanas—a sequence of standing, sitting and balancing poses helped practitioners raise their levels of the brain chemical GABA (low levels are linked with depression) by 27 percent compared with a group who read quietly**.

Women who had gone to the mat at least once a week for two years or more released 41 percent less of a tension-triggered cytokine (a type of protein) that can make you feel tired and moody compared with yoga newbies, a study in Psychosomatic Medicine notes.

*Research from the University of California in Berkeley
**Boston University School of Medicine and McLean Hospital
The Yoga Alliance
The Mayo Clinic

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