There are many health benefits to yoga, but there are some that are more predominant than others. Five of the most common benefits of starting and maintaining a yoga routine include:
- Greater flexibility and balance.
- Improved fitness and strength.
- Better management of chronic health conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes.
- Better posture.
- Stress reduction, which helps alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Flexibility and Balance
Carol Chapman, an alternative medicine healer, says that “yoga enables you to maintain flexible joints and supple muscles.” She states that practicing yoga two to three times a week will lead to increased flexibility and improved balance, which is not only helpful in protecting you against injury during physical activities, but also gives you greater agility in everyday movements.
Fitness and Strength
There are certain types of yoga practices, like ashtanga or power yoga, that are quite vigorous and can help with strength and fitness. These practices build muscle tone and, in turn, can assist in weight loss. However, even the more slower-paced practices like hatha yoga, which focuses heavily on pose alignment, help build muscle strength which will increase endurance. Liz Hipp, a seasoned yogi for two decades, says “yoga has improved my fitness and level of endurance in competitive swimming and running.”
Chronic Health Conditions
Studies have shown that yoga can help manage chronic health conditions like hypertension, heart disease, high cholesterol, and even diabetes. A British medical journal called The Lancet published results of a study which showed some yoga positions, like the corpse pose (Savasana), dropped participants’ blood pressure by 26 points. It’s also been shown that yoga lowers bad cholesterol and blood sugars by decreasing adrenaline and cortisol levels in the bloodstream, leading to weight loss and increased awareness of insulin effects.
With the strength you build in your body, better posture and deeper breathing follow suit. Poor posture can lead to back, neck, and other musculoskeletal problems. It can disrupt the flow of energy throughout your various internal systems, and parts of your body will compensate for that poor posture. This, in turn, creates not only musculoskeletal and circulatory conditions, but an imbalance of Qi/Chi energy (one’s natural life energy). Carol Chapman says that “posture increases your circulation, thus providing you with a better clarity of mind, allowing you to better focus on matching your movement with your breathing, thereby producing a more natural and exhilarating flow of energy.”
Stress Reduction and Mental Health
It should be noted that one of the largest and most popular benefits of yoga practice is its ability to help reduce stress and treat symptoms of depression and anxiety. With harmony between deep breathing, movement, and internal balance, one can overcome oppressive feelings of sadness and stress by using the breathing techniques taught in yoga to deal with problems in everyday life.
“Energy, like muscles, have memory and these breathing techniques will trigger a memory in your brain of the balance you experience through yoga practice,” Carol Chapman says. Liz Hipp relates that practicing yoga will not only help you “focus and quiet the mind, but teach you the techniques like cleansing breaths that you can use in stressful everyday situations to help you relax.” She says that “overall, it makes you a more centered and in-control individual.”
As is apparent in the different benefits of yoga discussed above, all of them are interconnected and related, which is a significant teaching of yoga practice. Through movement, meditation, and focus, one not only strengthens the body, but the mind and spirit as well.
American Osteopathic Association on Yoga Benefits
Yoga Journal on How Yoga Helps