How Yoga Makes Your Mind and Body Stronger, According to Science

Man wide forward fold

Consider why you started practicing yoga. What first brought you to the mat? If you’re new to yoga, why are you interested in starting to practice?

I first approached yoga to try a new type of exercise, so I tried a hot yoga studio. I loved the challenge and the sweat, but most importantly, I loved svanasana. I loved having a quiet mind at the end of class and giving myself time to simultaneously tune out of what happened in the day and tune into myself. Everything just seemed so clear. I couldn’t quite explain how I felt, but I felt good and wanted more.

Since I started practicing yoga in 2013, I’ve met other yogis who expressed similar experiences with yoga and have seen so many positive effects on their physical health, mental health, and total well-being. If we were all feeling these yogic impacts, there had to be something more to it, so I started exploring.

What I found was yes, there are many benefits that come out of a regular yoga practice. There’s even scientific research that proves it.

Yoga reduces stress.

Stress is a silent killer and is often responsible for other chronic diseases, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Osteoporosis
  • Periodontal disease (Yes, your teeth and gums!)

A regular yoga practice actually has antidepressant effects because it reduces stress hormones (Cortisol), so you’ll not only improve your physical health but also your mental health.

Yoga improves mental health.

Depression impacts 322 million people worldwide. Several studies are measuring how yoga positively affects people suffering from mild, moderate, and severe depression, and while more research needs to be done, the results are promising. One specific study discovered that practicing 90 minutes of yoga twice a week and incorporating both breathing and posture work significantly reduced symptoms of depression.

Yoga helps you sleep better.

Poor sleep habits are linked to health issues, like obesity, high blood pressure, and depression. Fortunately for yogis, studies found that yoga not only decreases the time it takes to fall asleep but also helped people feel more rested in the morning. Participants in the study slept longer and had better quality sleep because their sleep wasn’t disturbed, and they also used less sleep medication.

Yoga increases your flexibility and balance.

These are the benefits that most people know about and the reason they typically try yoga in the first place. Research shows that practicing yoga both increases your range of motion as well as joint, spine, and muscle flexibility.

Yoga improves your strength.

Those sun salutations at the beginning of class are more than just a simple warm-up. One study shows that they’re very valuable for physical fitness. Sun salutations are unique because they can be compared to both aerobic exercise as well as resistance training.

With the right diet, sun salutations can not only help decrease body weight but also increase lean body mass because these postures place an optimal amount of stress on the heart. They also build strength in both the upper and lower body and increase muscle endurance.

Yoga promotes healthier eating habits.

You’ve probably heard of mindfulness quite a bit in recent years, and it’s the basis behind why yoga helps people choose healthier food and eating habits. Being mindful means focusing your attention and awareness on the present moment and connecting with your thoughts, feelings, and body.

Studies show that practicing yoga promotes mindful living, resulting in many benefits, including increased time in considering ways to eat healthier, decreased food preoccupation, reduced calorie intake, and decreased likeliness of developing eating disorders.

Convinced yet?

Whether you’re practicing yoga for physical health, mental health, or a mix of both, you’ll find that your life will change for the better.

There are many styles of yoga out there and at least one style of yoga for everyone. Personally, I like a healthy mix of challenging classes as well as slower-paced sessions. No matter which type you choose, you can’t go wrong when you choose yoga.

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