When one thinks of fitness, the word may conjure images of heavy barbells, kale-only diets, and the pungent musk of gymnasium sweat. While such details can be components to a healthy lifestyle, one well-known exercise is often downplayed or overlooked in their wake. This is the practice of yoga, which, in truth, has many health benefits beyond what most newcomers are aware of.
When it comes to yoga, many individuals recognize it as an exercise in flexibility, meditation, and even spirituality. True, these are all valid elements of the practice, but this evaluation does not account for numerous other improvements in organ health, weight loss, sleeping habits, and beyond.
Here are just a few of the numerous health benefits that yoga has to offer:
Improvement of Internal Systems and Organs
Because of the unique movements involved in the practice, yoga stimulates the health of many systems in the body, primarily the circulatory system. As the body flexes and stretches, blood flow and circulation improves; this is especially relevant when one is performing twists, which ease the process of pumping oxygenated blood into vital organs. The exercise also provides more oxygen to the red blood cells, which can benefit a person’s entire body.
The respiratory system also thrives when one regularly practices yoga. This improvement is mainly due to the deep breathing associated with the exercise, as it allows one to regularly experience filling their lungs to the maximum capacity. After practicing yoga for some time, a person’s breathing becomes naturally deeper and more fulfilling, which can also advance the oxygen saturation of blood cells. Relaxed breathing during yoga can also aid the parasympathetic nervous system in slowing the heart rate and calming down the body. With many people, this improved breathing becomes a daily habit!
In time, everything from the digestive system to the nervous system can benefit from proper and regular yoga techniques. Also, as one physical system thrives, the others will begin to improve. In essence, yoga can better the functions of the entire body.
A More Functional Immune System
Many are aware that yoga involves quite a few twists and turns. As mentioned before, this flexibility can be beneficial when it comes to promoting blood circulation. However, while the exercise gets the blood flowing, it gets the lymph drainage flowing, too: movements of key muscles in yoga often drain fluid from the lymphatic system. This process quickens the disposal of bodily toxins, and also spreads immune cells more freely through the body. In turn, a regular yoga practitioner can often be less susceptible to illness.
Yoga is also one of the most notable stress relievers–even if one may feel like a contortionist at times–and these lowered stress levels also contribute to improved immunity. This boost is due to the fact that stress can cause physical ailments as well as mental ones, and even suppress the immune system itself. When yoga alleviates this stress, it can be a big weight off of a person’s shoulders (and their immune system’s shoulders, as well).
Progress in Weight Loss
Because yoga seems like such a slow-paced practice compared to running, kickboxing, or 80’s themed aerobic exercises, many people don’t see it as a viable way to lose weight. In actuality, yoga can be compared to an exercise such as weightlifting: numerous poses require an individual to lift their own body weight, as well as support it for some time with weaker muscles of the body. Performing these poses not only contributes to caloric burn, but can often tone core areas that tend to hold body fat.
Regular practice can also boost metabolism, or at least keep it at a steady balance. Muscle burns energy faster than fat does, so accumulating more muscle through regular yoga can speed up one’s metabolism, aiding in subsequent caloric burn.
Improvement in Sleeping Habits
It may not be the best idea to complete a hundred-meter dash before bed, but yoga offers a far smoother exercise alternative as bedtime begins approaching. While yoga is a practice that requires energy, this energy usage seems to be just enough to tire a person out, as opposed to giving them a “workout buzz” and keeping them from sleep. The calming motions, regulated breathing, and allotted time for meditation can be incredibly relaxing as well, especially for a person seeking to clear frenzied thoughts before they wind down. Many meditations associated with yoga also focus specifically on the nervous system, prompting the entire body to relax and eventually ease into a state of slumber.
Healing Pain and Posture
The relaxation techniques associated with yoga have been reported to ease all kinds of bodily pain, including chronic pain. While yoga should not be practiced under circumstances where it could further damage an injury, its smooth and flowing pace is often the gentlest form of exercise on painful areas. By stretching tense muscles instead of straining them as one might during alternative exercises, yoga can be used to alleviate back pain, joint pain, and even headaches.
Along with stretching muscles, yoga strongly focuses on stretching bone joints, too: notably, the spinal column. Proper practice can stretch one’s spine in a beneficial way, aiding in correct posture. Yoga also offers further guidance into what correct posture really is, as demonstrated through many balance exercises and techniques. The lotus pose is a prime example, but the list of posture-improving poses truly goes on and on.
Overall, yoga is capable of so much more than just making someone a little more pliable. Continued practice can have major positive effects on one’s mental and physical well-being, and ease so many stressful details in a person’s daily routine. The long-lasting benefits on someone’s health are varied and vibrant, and definitely not something to overlook. Truly, it seems that yoga can fulfill so many health needs, at any level, for almost any individual.