The Health Benefits Of Yoga
The Health Benefits Of Yoga
In the fast paced culture that most people are accustomed to, having a regular practice that helps the body unwind can be essential for maintaining good health. Yoga is one of the fastest growing trends in exercise and self care, with new yoga studios opening up in every state across the country. While it is common knowledge that yoga is beneficial for the body and mind, the health effects of yoga extend far beyond the physical benefits. But how exactly does yoga improve physical, mental, and emotional health?
How Does Yoga Improve Health?
There are a number of ways in which yoga improves health. Some of the physical benefits include increased flexibility, increased core strength, improved posture, greater range of motion, improved circulation and immune system functioning, and improved heart health. Yoga also stimulates the lymphatic system, helping to remove toxins from the body, while at the same time boosting the immune system. Studies have also shown that yoga decreases blood pressure, aids in weight loss, increases nerve health, improves sleep, and relieves chronic pain. Yoga has also been shown to relieve tension, stress, anxiety, depression, the symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder, as well as post traumatic stress disorder, type 2 diabetes, asthma, and high blood pressure. Yoga is effective for elevating mood by increasing dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain.
What Does the Research Say About Yoga?
There have been countless studies performed on the benefits of yoga. Two studies of patients with hypertension, published in the medical journal, “The Lancet,” looked at the effects of specific yoga postures on high blood pressure. The study participants were divided into two groups; one group performed daily yoga, while the other group lay sedentary for a specific amount of time each day. By the end of the three month yoga regimen, the group who regularly performed yoga experienced a 26 point drop in systolic blood pressure, as well as a 15 point drop in diastolic blood pressure. A 2013 Norwegian study, published in the journal, “Plos One,” examined the effects of yoga on gene expression. The study observed the impact of yoga on 10 individuals who participated in a weeklong yoga retreat, complete with daily yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises. Blood samples from the participants were then examined under a microscope, and researchers identified an additional 111 genes circulating in immune cells that were absent before the retreat. More research is needed to determine the mechanisms that created this effect, and how yoga may be used in the future for increasing health.
Which Yoga Style Is the Most Beneficial?
Each style of yoga has its own unique health benefits, and there is no one style that is the most healthful. There are numerous styles of yoga, including hatha, vinyasa, ashtanga, iyengar, and bikram. Some of these styles are more traditional, while bikram yoga, for instance, is a more contemporary hybrid of traditional yoga and workout exercises performed in a heated room. Some advocates of the more physically intense styles of yoga claim that these are the most beneficial because they get your heart rate up and the blood flowing. Advocates of the slower meditative practices, on the other hand, argue that the deep breathing exercises accompanying these styles is more beneficial for health.
Is It Possible to Do Too Much Yoga?
Some styles of yoga, such as bikram yoga, have come under fire for being too physically rigorous. There have been incidences of people becoming dehydrated, overheated, or experiencing exhaustion from overdoing it during a bikram yoga session. In addition, some yoga teachers are known to push students to achieve deeper stretches, or to go beyond what is comfortable for them. There are cases of people doing damage to ligaments and muscles by over-stretching their bodies during a yoga session. In most cases, yoga is safe to do, and is unlikely to cause any negative health effects.
Most forms of yoga are safe to do everyday, and when practiced conscientiously can bring about many health benefits. Remember to go slow, stretching your body at a rate that feels comfortable to you. It is better to take care of your body and health than to try and keep up with the yoga teacher or other students in the class. Most yoga teachers will offer assistance and guidance if you feel unsure about your practice, or have questions about safe levels of stretching. Always trust your own intuition and what is right for your body.