Yoga has become an extremely popular method to stay healthy and fit over the last 2-3 decades. Many people have found yoga offers them a way to stay healthy, focused, and less stressed. However, there are other benefits yoga provides that you may not have considered.
Yoga definitely increases flexibility, strength, and balance. But what other benefits does it provide? Read on to learn about the lesser-known benefits you can expect from doing yoga!
1. Improves Sleep
Yoga is a meditative practice that brings awareness and focuses on breathing combined with low-intensity physical exercise. The practice of yoga’s over 3,000 years old, and there’s a reason it’s lasted so long—yoga benefits both the mind and body. But how does yoga help your sleep?
Studies have shown that over 55% of yoga practitioners have better sleep and less stress. Research shows that yoga has a positive effect on sleep for different people. For instance, science has long known that women have more trouble sleeping than men. However, women who practiced yoga experienced better sleep, including pregnant women, women in menopause, and more. The elderly (men and women) also experienced better sleep if they practised yoga.
With only 6-8 minutes of yoga breathing each day, it’s possible to improve your sleep. This type of breathing is more deep and restorative and has been shown to relieve tension, making sleep more restorative.
2. Improves Focus
Regularly practising yoga has also been shown to improve focus. But how? First, yoga increases blood circulation to the brain. The brain needs good blood circulation in order to function correctly. The better the blood circulation, the healthier your brain and body are.
Yoga improves the circulation of blood through stretching poses that rejuvenate and oxygenate the blood, pushing nutrients to the vessels through yoga breathing.
What’s more, yoga puts focus on breathing from the diaphragm. This muscle is pulled downward, pushing blood towards the chest and into the heart, creating better circulation.
Certain yoga moves also increase circulation, such as headstands and shoulder stands. Such exercises improve blood flow to the brain. With improved circulation, the brain receives more oxygen, which increases awareness, memory, and focus.
Consider that when you work at a desk all day, blood flow is not as efficient. You may start to feel tired, have difficulty focusing, and more. However, when you get up and move around, oxygen levels in the brain increase, and you feel more alert. The same thing happens when you practice yoga. When you breathe and do the moves correctly, yoga can improve blood circulation and bring more oxygen to your blood, so you feel more alert and better able to focus.
3. Builds Muscle Strength
Yoga’s sometimes viewed as only a way to breathe and stretch. However, not many people realise that the practice of yoga can also build muscle strength.
Some yoga poses can be combined with resistance tools like weights or bands to increase muscle strength. And it’s not only advanced classes that help build strength. It’s possible to increase strength even through classes for beginners.
Yoga works to build strength because it uses your own body weight. It works to build a stronger, more stable core, too.
4. Teaches the Practice of Mindfulness
Studies have also found that yoga improves mindfulness. But what does that mean? What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is being more aware of what is happening right now, in the present moment. It’s an awareness only, without any judgement. You are in the present moment and not classifying it as good or bad, but instead just observing the moment.
Yoga teaches mindfulness through its poses. You must be aware of your body’s position, the proper way to do and hold positions, as well as pay attention to your breathing all in the same instant.
Developing mindfulness through yoga takes time and practice. It’s not something that can be accomplished overnight. However, with consistent practice and training, a person can go from just seeing the scenery go by to closely observing it. An entirely new way of living opens up when a person practices mindfulness and lives in the moment.
5. Yoga Improves Mental Health
Another lesser-known benefit of yoga is that it can improve mental health. AS with other forms of exercise, yoga triggers the release of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. These are neurotransmitters that act as chemical messengers between the brain and body. These specific neurotransmitters are also known as the “feel good” brain chemicals.
The feel-good brain chemicals stimulate the brain’s pleasure centre. When this happens, you feel good from doing something that feels good, such as exercising, completing a task, and more.
Yoga helps the body release these feel-good brain chemicals, which also work to improve mood and overall mental health.
6. Yoga Prevents Joint and Cartilage Breakdown
Did you know that practising yoga also prevents joints and cartilage from breaking down? Yoga increases flexibility in the joints and helps prevent arthritis and other conditions from developing. It uses all parts of the joint and cartilage, making them stronger and more resilient.
When joint cartilage is “squeezed” (like when practising yoga), the body sends in fresh nutrients to resupply the joint being used. However, when the joints are not used often, they’re not sent these essential nutrients. The result is they wear out; bones begin to wear down, and more.
7. Yoga Improves Bone Health
While we’re talking about joints, we must mention that yoga also improves bone health. Any weight-bearing exercise (including yoga) strengthens bones and keeps the body from developing osteoporosis.
In other words, yoga can increase bone density everywhere in the body, including in the vertebrae.
As you can see, yoga has a positive impact on many parts of the body, from bone health and strength to mood and more. There’s no question that yoga is a great way to get an effective workout, even if you don’t sweat!
Practising yoga is all about improving the mind, the body, and the soul all at the same time. From the beginning levels up to the advanced, yoga has a positive impact and can improve all aspects of your life.