Benefits of Yoga: Top Reasons Why You Should Start Today
If you have ever taken a yoga class, you probably don’t need much convincing to continue with it. But if you are still wondering if it’s worth all the hype, here’s something to nudge you along the road. Here are the top 5 benefits of yoga and how it works wonders on your body, mind, and overall well-being.
1. Improves flexibility
Asanas, through their systemized method of working on the physical body, lead to improved levels of flexibility in most people. How does it happen? By using the primary technique of stretching the entire body — not just your muscles, but the joints as well. While performing yoga poses, your body is pushed into various directions that demand a certain level of flexibility. Good examples of these are the Natrajasana or the Dancer’s pose and Adho Mukha Svanasana or the Downward Dog pose.
Stretching can be found in other forms of fitness regimes. But, the slow, regulated manner in which it is performed in yoga, prevents sudden pull of the tendons and lowers the chances of exercise-related injuries. It helps release lactic acid (waste material) build-up from the muscle cells into the bloodstream. The lengthening of muscle fibers and tendons in yoga also results in improved range of motion (ROM) of the joints and blood circulation. This helps decrease muscle tightness, and reduction of pain.
2. Reduces inflammation
Chronic inflammation is the root of pro-inflammatory conditions such as diabetes, cancer, and heart diseases. It has been found that the daily practice of yoga asanas, coupled with breathing techniques and meditation, reduces inflammation in the body.
Research has documented that regular practice of yoga reduces the levels of stress hormones that contribute to inflammation.
3. Improves blood circulation
A complete yoga session with asanas and pranayama provides on average a moderate workout. Regular practice of yoga has shown a significant reduction in blood pressure and waist circumference, and strengthening of the heart muscles.
One of the benefits of yoga is the reduction in stress hormone levels, which also reduces heart rate, allowing the heart to pump more blood in fewer beats. This greatly reduces the work of the heart and improves circulation throughout the body.
Inverted yogic poses like Viparit Karni, where legs are above the level of the heart, allow the heart veins to drain themselves easily. This contributes to their preservation and recovery. However, inverted poses may cause complications in people with diseases related to heart and blood pressure, and these should be done under supervision and after consulting the physician.
Yoga also helps in oxygenation or helping to carry oxygen through the body. Various Pranayama techniques and emphasis on controlled breathing during the practice of asanas help achieve efficient oxygenation.
4. Helps reduce lower back pain
Many people suffering from lower back ache find refuge in yoga. According to yoga philosophy, the spine is the source of energy in human beings. It is the most complex and one of the most important structures in your body.
Chronic lower back pain is caused either by a sedentary lifestyle, or by constant shocks perceived by the vertebrae while performing high-impact activities over a long time. Yoga asanas not only stretch, but strengthen back muscles and stabilize the spine (the paraspinal and multifidus muscles, and the transverse abdominis). Similarly, lengthening the spine creates space for the compressed vertebrae. Strong emphasis on core engagement while performing yoga postures also contributes to the health of the spine.
Also read: Types of Yoga: A Guide To Help You Choose
5. Reduces stress
Yoga as a fitness practice has many benefits at the mental level as well. In fact, yoga began as a science of the mind. Sage Patanjali defines yoga as the removal or stoppage of the fluctuations of the mind, asserting that the mind is the root cause of all our problems, perceived or otherwise.
Now science has backed studies that show regular yoga practice contributes to reduced cortisol levels. This in turn eases emotional distress, fatigue, anxiety, and depression. Through its well-devised structure, yoga decreases the sympathetic activity of the nervous system, which triggers stress through the “fight or flight response”, thereby reducing stress.
If practised with awareness and consciousness, yoga helps improve the overall quality of life. Not only will your fitness and mood enhance, but you might notice a certain elevation in the state of your mind as well.
So, are you ready to embrace yoga?