The journey of Yoga from ancient civilizations to modern times is nothing short of fascinating. What is believed to have originated some 5,000 years ago and found mentions in ancient texts of India like Rig Veda and Upanishads, has spread its wings across the globe and become inspiration for millions who aspire to be not just fit but embrace holistic wellness. With each passing day, yogic practices, asanas, breathing techniques and meditation are increasingly getting approval from modern science that has woken up to its many benefits on body and mind. No wonder, it has been recommended by health experts as an adjunct therapy to manage or cure many illnesses from heart diseases, blood pressure, arthritis to depression and anxiety.
There are numerous scientific studies that prove Yoga is one of the most effective natural ways to activate our immune system, fight diseases, and strengthen the body’s natural healing mechanism. With correct breathing, yoga poses or movements, satvik diet, proper sleep and wake-up cycle, one can not only ensure good physical health but reap tremendous mental health benefits.
If you want to know more about how Yoga can specifically helps with our health and overall well-being scroll ahead to know all the science-backed benefits of yoga.
1. Helps reduce stress
Stress is one of the biggest culprits that plays havoc with the functioning of our body and mind. While optimum stress is said to boost our productivity, keep us alert and may help in self-preservation, constant exposure to it without any rest or relief can fiddle our internal processes and dis-balance hormones, leading to many diseases. Stress can not only manifest in physical symptoms such as headaches, upset stomach, chest pain and insomnia it can also worsen symptoms of existing conditions. Unchecked stress can be literally deadly.
Yoga is one of the most effective ways of handling stress and even health studies vouch for it. Yoga helps to shift back our focus to our inner self, helps us connect with our own self and relaxes and soothes us. It is known to shift the balance from the sympathetic nervous system and the flight-or-fight response to the parasympathetic system. It lowers stress hormones like cortisol and dopamine and increases the blood flow to the intestines and vital organs.
2. Prevents heart disease
Apart from reducing stress that is one of the greatest risk factors for heart disease, Yoga also takes care of body mass index (BMI), cholesterol and blood pressure. According to an article published in International Journal of Yoga, the ancient practice is very effective in increasing blood flow in the body and helps more oxygen to reach the body cells, enhancing their function. Heart attacks and strokes are often caused by blood clots. There are certain asanas in Yoga that helps in thinning of the blood and removal of venous blood from internal organs facilitating the flow of oxygenated blood in the body. Inverted asanas especially encourage the flow of blood from legs and pelvis back to the heart and then pumped through the lungs which help it become freshly oxygenated.
Yoga is said to improve cardiovascular health in many ways. There are studies to prove that Yoga lowers the resting heart rate and increase its endurance.
3. Boosts brain function
Yoga has immense scientific benefits in improving brain function, cognition, attention and memory. Several studies have found that yoga appears to have a positive effect on key areas responsible for memory and information processing, as well as emotional regulation. Yoga reduces stress, anxiety and is also effective in improving mood which is related to better brain health and functioning.
The studies also suggest that yoga can not only enhance your brain function, but it can also change the structure of your brain in some ways. Yoga practitioners are said to show more gray matter volume in their brains compared to those who do not practice yoga. More gray matter is improved to high intelligence in people.
4. Improves flexibility
Increased flexibility, one of the most visible effects of practicing Yoga regularly. has also been scientifically proven. When you hit the Yoga mat every day, you will see that your muscles become less stiff with each passing day and your joint mobility too improves. No wonder the pains and aches that troubled you earlier go away like magic. It has indeed been proved by studies that with continued yoga practice comes a gradual loosening of the muscles and connective tissues surrounding the bones and joints.
Yoga also strengthens your muscles and increases their mass which eventually protects you from conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis and back pain. Your joints experience a full range of motion during Yoga practice which helps with better flow of oxygen and blood to the area. Yoga also increases proprioception and improves balance.
5. Helps in managing Cancer
Yoga is also recommended as an adjunct therapy in boosting the overall wellness of a cancer patient. While Yoga cannot cure cancer, it has been proven that it can reduce stress to a great extent, increase body’s natural immunity, improve quality of life of cancer patients and their mental health.
Tumour or other cancer indicators could exacerbate due to the effects of stress, and managing the stress effectively can bring a great difference in effectively managing the disease. There are yoga poses and meditation techniques that bring mind and body in harmony which also help the cancer patients to cope with their situation and lead a more mindful life. The yoga poses relax and rejuvenate muscles and nerves which help release any blockages and help one better.
6. Improves sleep quality
A good night’s sleep is important in rebooting and refreshing us for the day ahead. It also helps activate our body’s natural healing mechanism and also contributes in brain function related to memory and cognition. Many people may face insomnia due to stressful conditions in their life, faulty sleep routine or with increasing age. Research has shown that practicing yoga may improve sleep for people with chronic diseases, elderly, arthritis patients, pregnant women, or women with menopause symptoms. A report published in International Journal of Yoga says that regular practice of yoga resulted in a significant decrease in the time taken to fall asleep, an increase in the total number of hours slept, and in the feeling of being rested in the morning. Participation in yoga classes improved self-reported quality-of-life as well as measures of physical function among an elderly population.
7. Helps in management of chronic diseases
Yoga is effective in managing many chronic diseases be it cancer, asthma or blood pressure. Some studies have shown that yoga can help improve quality of life and reduce fatigue and sleep disturbances in cancer patients. Also a small amount of research in people with multiple sclerosis found that yoga has short-term benefits on fatigue and mood, but it doesn’t affect muscle function, reasoning ability, or quality of life. Studies in people with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) have shown that yoga may improve physical ability like the capacity to walk a certain distance in a specific length of time, lung function, and quality of life. Yoga is also useful in managing the symptoms in case of asthma patients.
8. Helps in managing depression
Depression is one of the most common mental health issues across the globe. Losing interest in daily activities, being irritable, having mood swings, feeling fatigued, sleeping too much or too little, increased or decreased appetite, lack of self-esteem, low concentration, feeling of hopelessness and worthlessness all point towards depression. A study published in Journal of Psychiatric Practice says that yoga can be effective in treatment for clinical depression or major depressive disorder. The participants of the study showed significant improvement in sleep quality, tranquility and positivity within one month of beginning yoga practice and their depressive symptoms decreased.
9. Aids in digestion
A good gut health is related to overall physical and mental health and practicing yoga can help increase our ability to digest food and boost our metabolism. A study proves that combination of asanas, pranayama and meditation daily for 1-1.5 hours for six days a week leads to greater metabolic efficiency mainly due to reduced sympathetic activity and stabilized nervous system.
Our gut and brain share a strong connection through a communication system of nerves and biochemical signals that travel in the blood called gut-brain axis. When you are stressed your gut reacts to it by developing symptoms such as stomach aches, diarrhoea, constipation, nausea among other things. Yoga by reducing our stress and improving circulation helps resolve these issues.
10. Helps with chronic pain
There are many studies to show that yoga is extremely effective in conditions involving pain. Yoga is said to increase the threshold of your pain tolerance by reducing pain perception which means that people are able to tolerate the pain better. There is a science behind it. Yoga can reset our brain patterns and help us in disassociating negative emotions from pains.
Besides, Yoga also controls inflammation by decreasing the body’s response to stress. Yoga can help with fibromyalgia, back pain, neck pain, and headaches. Studies of yoga for low-back pain have shown that it may reduce the intensity of the pain and help people function better. According to studies, people who practiced yoga regularly for at least six weeks reported reductions in pain and improvements in mobility. The benefits of yoga remain the same across various styles, including, Iyengar, ashtanga, hatha, etc.
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