Yoga combines spirituality with physical and mental exercises that help ground you. These practices go back at least centuries, but they have crossed borders and lasted many social changes.
These days, yoga is ingrained into modern life, and its many benefits are a great help when it comes to facing today’s world. Here you’ll find a list of the most common benefits that you may encounter when practicing yoga.
Why Yoga Is Important In Modern Life?
Modern life is fast-paced and full of stress. It can be hard to remember to take some time for yourself, even if you have health conditions that would benefit from this act of self-care. Yoga can help you make time for yourself during the hectic rhythm of the day. It can also improve your quality of life.
Yoga has been important since its inception but the moments of quietness and mindfulness it allows in the modern world are much more appreciated and understood, especially in the West, where the meditative aspect was often lost in translation.
Through the practice of yoga, even new students can see the benefits immediately. From the mental to the physical benefits, yoga is important when seeking peace and well-being.
It’s Great for Relaxation
Several studies have now shown that yoga can halt the secretion of cortisol. This hormone is one of the main stress hormones, and it’s primarily responsible for the toll that stress takes on the body.
Practicing yoga for a prolonged period increases this effect. Studies focusing on three-month and ten-week periods of yoga routines indicate that this activity leaves a lasting impression in the fight against stress.
Yoga students who practice routinely report improvement in their daily lives when it comes to feeling more relaxed. In combination with meditation, yoga can help you unwind from the constant stress you face in today’s world.
Yoga affects cortisol levels even if you only do a short routine. If you make it part of your weekly schedule, it can have a long-term impact on your health and wellbeing.
Yoga Helps with Anxiety
Anxiety disorders are common in today’s society, fuelled by the various stressors of the day. Cortisol also plays a role in the effects anxiety has on your wellbeing, but it is not exactly known why yoga helps so much with anxiety. Studies on the effect of yoga on anxiety have shown that continued practice does improve quality of life when it comes to battling these disorders.
The practice of yoga puts a lot of focus on being present in the moment and being fully aware of yourself while regulating your breathing and heartbeat. This can help with episodes of dissociation. It may be why yoga is a positive activity to do when suffering from anxiety.
Yoga has also been shown to have a great influence on PTSD survivors, perhaps for the same reasons.
Yoga Increases Strength
Yoga splits into various types that focus on different methods, but most involve a degree of strength training. Yoga is usually a full-body workout that involves all your muscle groups. Building strength through yoga is an important part of fitness and wellbeing in the modern world.
This activity doesn’t just improve the way you feel about your body, but it also trains you to have a different outlook on workouts in general. Yoga builds strength through flexibility instead of at the cost of it which allows for balanced training. It also helps strengthen your bones.
Building strength through practicing yoga is done by placing yourself into yoga positions (also known as asanas) and holding those positions, then repeating them. Different yoga positions work for different muscle groups.
If you’re looking to build up strength in particular areas, here’s a broad overview:
- Plank position: back, wrists, and arms.
- Half-moon position: legs and ankles.
- Locust pose: arms, legs, parts of the torso.
- Downward-facing dog position: legs and arms.
- Warrior II position: shoulders, glutes, outer hips, thighs.
- Chair position: thighs, knees, ankles.
- Cobra position: core, back, glutes, arms.
Yoga Increases Flexibility
Yoga is widely known for its effect on flexibility. Increased flexibility leads to better mobility and bodies that perform better for everyone, not just for athletes. Routinely practicing yoga, even just fifteen minutes a day has been shown to have a huge effect on flexibility. This increases the overall well-being of the body as proper mobility can realign what’s out of shape while loosening tight muscles.
Some yoga poses are specifically tailored for increasing flexibility and these should be the ones you focus on if that is your aim:
- Cat-Cow Pose. Increases the flexibility of the spine.
- Bow Pose. Increases the flexibility of the back.
- Warrior I Pose. Increases flexibility in the core and the hips.
- King Dancer Pose. One for the experienced yoga student, this long full-body stretch increases flexibility in the shoulders, hamstrings, and spine.
- Reclining Spinal Twist. Increases flexibility of the lower back.
- Bridge Pose. Increases flexibility in the back.
- Seated Forward Bend. Increases flexibility in the hamstrings and neck.
- Butterfly Pose. Increases flexibility in the groin and hips.
It Makes You More Focused
The practice of yoga is frequently accompanied by segments of transcendental meditation. This technique is silent and mantra-based, and it helps you become more centered. The goal of the technique is to make you discard all distractions and focus on yourself, on your existence in the present time.
The routine practice of this technique seems to be behind an increase in focus. Teaching how to eliminate distractions and focusing on the self during yoga sessions has generally affected problem-solving in positive ways. Meditation can have the lasting effect of teaching you how to keep the clutter in your head at bay.
Yoga also focuses on rhythmic breathing. This control over your breathing pattern can allow you to remain more present during the tasks you are performing even outside the practice of yoga.
Yoga Helps You Sleep Better
Regular yoga practice can have a positive effect on your sleeping routine. Certain types of yoga (like restorative and Kripalu yoga) are specifically made to be low intensity with a focus on relaxation which can lower your heart rate and further induce a state of calm.
The more intense types of yoga (Ashtanga, Bikram) will tire you out and make you focus on the present without the distractions of the exterior world. All types of yoga aim to calm your mind and your body.
If you’re struggling with falling asleep in particular, it is recommended to try specific yoga poses like savasana, halasana, and uttanasana before you go to bed. These poses are best for unwinding and relaxing both body and mind without accelerating your heart rate and making you more awake.
Regular practice of yoga can also provide you with more restful sleep. With your body tired and your mind devoid of stress, you will feel the benefits of your hours of sleep much more strongly. You will also feel less tense and stressed the next day.
It Improves General Health
Yoga has numerous health benefits, both physical and mental. The routine practice of yoga will make you more aware of these benefits in the long run:
- It can lower blood sugar. If you’re diabetic, yoga may make you more sensitive to insulin. It can also reduce the risks of heart attacks, blindness, and kidney failures. Blood sugar levels will also be more regulated through yoga’s effect on the hormone cortisol.
- It can control adrenal glands. By lowering the secretion of adrenaline and cortisol, yoga can make your body snap out of crisis mode and return to normal levels. Constant high levels of cortisol and adrenaline are behind many health issues like depression and high blood pressure.
- It can prevent digestive issues. Stress can take a toll on the digestive system. The practice of yoga helps eliminate stress from the organism, which can lower the risk of IBS. Physical activity helps with overall digestion, and yoga poses can have a positive effect on that too.
Yoga Can Have Anti-inflammatory Effects
The regular practice of yoga seems to reduce inflammation, which can decrease the negative effects of many chronic pain issues caused by that factor. Some studies have shown a significant difference in the inflammation levels between a group of yoga students and a group that did no yoga for the same duration.
The combination of regular yoga and meditation sessions has shown the most results when it comes to reducing inflammation in the body. This can be caused by yoga’s fight against stress in the body.
Stress is known to cause inflammation, and by eliminating the cause, yoga can reduce the risk of many health problems that stem from inflammation such as chronic pain, diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer.
Your Heart Health Can Improve
The inclusion of yoga into a healthy lifestyle can protect your heart health. Yoga targets ‘bad’ cholesterol that can cause heart disease. It can also lower your blood pressure by reducing stress and by implementing regular exercise. High blood pressure is a risk factor and can cause serious health issues like strokes and heart attacks.
Researchers have discovered that the combination of the exercise aspect of yoga as well as the meditative/relaxation aspect has had a great impact on lowering blood pressure. If you add in a healthy and balanced diet alongside a regular yoga routine, you can find yourself benefiting from this effect.
It Can Help with Migraines
Many factors can trigger migraines, and they aren’t always known. Most of the time, migraines can’t be avoided, but yoga can help with dealing with them. It can also help to prevent them by reducing some of the well-known triggers like stress, tension, and high blood pressure.
Pranayama is the technique that controls breathing in yoga. Usually, the technique is used to synchronize your breathing to the poses you are doing to create total harmony. Pranayama can also be used for meditation and relaxation, and even to help bear the pain of migraines. By regulating your breathing, pranayama can make you feel calmer while keeping the pain muted in the background.
The practice of yoga can also increase blood circulation and loosen tense muscles. This can reduce the intensity of a migraine. Unlike other exercise options, yoga won’t make migraines worse by increasing the pain of them. This seems to be due to the harmonious aspect of yoga and the way it restores balance to the body without overtaxing it.
It Can Make You Breathe Better
Pranayama can help keep your lungs healthy. This technique focuses on improving the way you breathe by making it more efficient. A study that observed the effects of long-term yoga practice has shown an increased capacity of the lungs. This allows for more air to be expelled from the lungs, which can help people suffering from asthma, heart issues, and lung-specific disorders.
Pranayama focuses on breathing through the nose, which can further eliminate several risks that can cause respiratory issues. A pranayama technique known as ‘complete breathing’ has proven beneficial for victims of lung disease too.
It Promotes Mindfulness
Today’s society finds itself aware of the benefits of practicing mindfulness. This is the ability to live fully in the present with maximum awareness of yourself, both body and mind, as well as your surroundings. Yoga promotes an in-depth understanding of your interior world to better equip you with dealing with the exterior world.
The regular practice of yoga focuses on your existence at the moment. Each pose is meant to connect you with yourself and with the time you are living. The meditative aspect of yoga can also increase your awareness of your place in the world and the space you occupy. Pranayama is once more a useful tool here, as it connects your breath to the movements you’re making.
The world’s interest in mindfulness has caused the emergence of mindfulness-specific yoga that allows for an even more profound study of this awareness.
It’s a Self-Care Booster
The pace of the modern world can be frenzied and taking time for yourself can feel like a huge imposition to your schedule. The practice of yoga insists on you having to take that time and to focus fully on yourself while eliminating all distractions. This can be a huge boost to both your mental and physical space.
By allowing you to take time just for you, just to breathe and work in harmony with your body, yoga makes sure that you get to connect with yourself. Self-care can make a huge difference to your mood, and you can practice it while getting all the other benefits of yoga too.
Yoga Relieves Tension
Through its breathing techniques and its poses, yoga works on eliminating the tension from your body. This tension can lead to many physical issues including aching joints and headaches, as well as clenched jaws. Some yoga poses, in particular, can help ease the tension in your body:
- Child’s pose. Eases the pressure on the adrenal glands.
- Eagle pose. Requires a great deal of focus on a fixed point. Reduces tension in the shoulders.
- Thunderbolt pose. Recommended before going to sleep, this pose is excellent for relieving tension in the mind and the body. It’s also great for the digestive system.
Yoga Improves Posture
A better posture can eliminate a lot of tension from your body, while also making you appear taller and more confident. There are plenty of yoga poses that can help you with keeping your posture in check:
- Mountain pose. One of the more complex yoga positions, the mountain pose will require a great deal of practice but in the end, will teach you how to feel when your body is properly aligned and perfectly symmetrical.
- Plank pose. The popular plank pose will straighten your spine while working on your core strength.
- Cat-cow pose. This stretch will make you aware of the natural position of your spine as well as the curvature of your back.
- Bridge pose. This position will realign your chest and shoulders, usually the areas most affected by slouching.
Yoga Can Benefit the Immune System
By lowering the effects of factors that directly compromise the immune system, yoga can help boost this natural defense.
Stress can weaken the immune system which makes your body have fewer defenses against viruses while triggering inflammation that can cause flares of chronic illnesses. Yoga can release stress through relaxation, breathing techniques, and various poses.
This will decrease the risk of inflammation in the body, which will prevent the immune system from reacting to what it perceives as a threat.
Yoga can also protect the respiratory system by instilling the pranayama breathing technique. This helps lung function while promoting breathing only through the nose, which reduces the risk of airborne contagion of colds.
The regular practice of yoga will help boost the wellbeing of your body and mind. In the modern world, it’s easy to forget about taking care of ourselves, but through yoga, we can take some time to focus on mindfulness and our health. Yoga helps with facing the world and provides plenty of benefits for it too.