There was a time when the only people who practiced yoga also drank wheat grass and collected crystals. But these days, yoga is very much mainstream and practiced by all types of people. And that’s because Western science has now begun to catch on to the amazing health benefits of yoga.
If you’ve been wondering whether yoga is all it’s cracked up to be and if it can improve your health, here are some reasons you’ll want to give yoga a try:
1. It Improves Your Flexibility
Let’s start with the most obvious benefit people think of when they think of bending themselves into different yoga positions. When you start with yoga, you may very well not be able to do some of the poses or even bend over and touch your touch because you are stiff as a board. But, after some time, practicing yoga will help your muscles, ligaments and tendons to loosen and lengthen.
The best part is, you’ll notice that many of your aches and pains go away. As people get older, their bodies start to ache. They assume this aching is coming from “their old bones.” But it’s really not. It’s the fact that their soft tissues are tight and pulling on their joints.
2. Get Stronger
As we get older, it’s important to build strength to protect against arthritis and help prevent falls. What is so beneficial about yoga is that you build strength while increasing flexibility. Those people that hit the gym 5 times a week and lift a lot of weights without working on flexibility are actually doing more harm than good. Yoga builds strength and flexibility at the SAME TIME.
3. Protects Your Spine
Not many exercises move your entire body, but yoga does. And that’s great news for the health of your spine.
You see, your spinal discs, those little shock absorbers in between your vertebrae that can herniate and compress nerves, require movement to be healthy. Movement in your spine helps get blood flow and important nutrients to these discs. Different yoga practices, like Asana yoga, incorporate backbends, forward bends and twists to keep your discs supple.
4. Boosts Immunity
Coming in and out of yoga postures helps your body to increase the drainage of lymph, which is a fluid rich in immune cells. Yoga essentially helps your lymphatic system fight infection, destroy cancer cells, and remove toxic waste byproducts of regular cellular function.
5. Naturally Lowers Blood Pressure
A study published in the British medical journal The Lancet found that three months of yoga caused a 26-point drop in systolic blood pressure (the top number) and a 15-point drop in diastolic pressure (the bottom number). The study also found the higher the initial blood pressure the bigger the drop.
6. Lifts Your Mood
Studies have found that yoga offers tremendous benefits to those suffering from depression. It turns out downward dog and lotus positions can help boost levels of serotonin and decrease the levels of monoamine, an enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters.
7. Improves Focus
As we age, many of us find it gets a bit harder to concentrate and focus on one task. One of the most important components of yoga is it asks practitioners to focus on the present moment. Studies have found that regular yoga practice improves not only physical coordination but reaction time, memory and even IQ scores. People are better able to focus, solve problems, and recall information.
8. Helps You Sleep Better
Yoga is notorious for relaxing the body and mind. This makes it a great way to get a better and more restorative night’s sleep.
9. Strengthens Bones
Weight-bearing exercises strengthen bones and that is important to ward off osteoporosis. There are many postures in yoga that require you to lift your own weight. In an unpublished study conducted at California State University, Los Angeles, yoga practice increased bone density in the vertebrae. It’s believed that yoga’s ability to lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, may help keep calcium in the bones.
10. Protects Joints
Degenerative arthritis is common as people age. But yoga, which takes you through a series of movements that require you take your joints through a full range of motion, can help prevent arthritis by getting nutrients to the cartilage in your joints. Much like the discs in your spine, this cartilage only gets fed when its fluid is squeezed out and a new supply of fluid, with new nutrients, can soak back in. Without proper motion, neglected areas of cartilage can eventually wear out, exposing the underlying bone.
If you’ve been thinking about trying yoga, we encourage you to begin your practice. Most towns and cities now have at least one instructor or yoga studio where you can take some introductory classes. Take it slow and allow your body some time to adapt to this new way of movement. If you keep at it, you will no doubt get some tremendous benefits for your entire body and overall health.
Also, if you’d like to learn other natural ways you can prevent or reverse joint pain and stiffness, then I encourage you to pick up your copy of The Joint Pain Solution.