One of the earliest yogis stated that yoga is a way of restraining the natural turbulence of thoughts that prevent men from taking a glimpse at their nature of spirit.
Yoga goes back to a time when early writings were scripted on palm leaves. It is traced down to millenniums ago, which is one of the main reasons why people are still drawn to this evergreen form of art.
Yoga is a spiritual exercise that’s based on the idea of subtle science. The word itself means ‘unity’ which refers to its capability of harmonizing the mind, body, and soul.
All those poses that look like you’d be twisting and turning in impossible ways might scare the acrobat inside of you, but this ancient form of exercise has steadily gained popularity over the years!
A study shows that today, over 20 million Americans have incorporated yoga into their daily lives (1). They consider it a way to escape from their busy, chaotic lifestyles, which has become a common problem for many, in this age.
Yoga In a Bigger Frame
Yoga has historically known to be a way of life rather than just a method of teaching. It is said to be a technique that is ideally suited to prevent physical and mental illness. It protects the body and helps it develop a sense of assurance and self-reliance.
Many of you might mistake yoga to just be a collection of different postures. It is also commonly misunderstood to only be therapeutic or another form of exercise. As true as these are, it would probably surprise you to know that yoga is a lot more far-reaching.
Yoga is an art that allows you to harmonize yourself with the universe and align your geometry with the cosmic. This is in order to attain a higher level of perceptivity and peace within oneself.
It’s quite simple to underestimate or ignore the importance of being balanced, coordinated, and centered. But it’s essential to realize your path to enlightenment, clarity, and peace of mind.
Who Can Practice Yoga?
One of the many reasons, yoga has blown up over the last decade is because of the fact that anybody can practice yoga.
Yoga is a form of exercise that has no barriers and is open to all. The fundamentals of yoga go against judgment and comparison. It’s interesting how yogis can learn this practice to meet their own needs.
So, people can work around their respective illnesses or disabilities by modifying or simply skipping on some of the poses. The ultimate goal is to bring about the union of the mind and soul and find a sense of peace and calm while doing so.
Yoga facilitates inner relaxation. Simple benefits that yoga yields can affect your life in many profound ways.
After doing careful research and reviewing scientific studies, we discovered some of the several benefits that yogis enjoy. Yoga can affect various aspects of your life. You’ll understand this soon if you read further into the topics we’ve discussed!
How Yoga Affects Bodily Functions
1. Blood Circulation
Circulation of blood in the body is what’s responsible for delivering various nutrients and oxygen to different parts of the body. Factors like high cholesterol and lack of physical movement lead to low blood circulation.
Performing yoga postures like Downward Dog, Handstands, and Bow Pose helps in the compressions and decompression of veins in the body. This increases not only oxygen-rich blood flow but also facilitates cardiac rehabilitation. Yoga has proven to boost blood circulation and aid in achieving overall good health.
2. Bone Strength
Yoga can play a significant role in the strengthening of bones by enhancing their capacity to retain the minerals and vitamins required for bone development. Weight-bearing poses such as inversions and standing pose help in the deposition of bone matter and prevents bone loss.
A study showed that people that practice yoga has a higher Bone Mineral Density or BMD (2). These people showed a reversal in bone loss, especially in the spine and the femur.
The respiration of air is essential for our body in order to receive an adequate amount of oxygen. Improper or irregular breathing leads to less intake of oxygen by the lungs.
Consistently practicing Pranayama or Yogic Breathing can lead to an increase in oxygen uptake and decrease its overall consumption. The various movements that yoga postures involve promote the flow of oxygen throughout the body and also help in improving pulmonary health.
Pranayama has proven to show positive effects on the strength of the muscles of respiration as well as on lung ventilation.
4. Pulse Rate
For those who are suffering from a high pulse rate or Tachycardia, yoga is a great option to lower your pulse rate.
A study showed that people that have been practicing yoga for over 16 months had shown a significant drop in their pulse rate (3). Pranayama is an excellent strategy to keep your pulse rate in control.
5. Blood Pressure
High Blood Pressure is difficult to detect in its early stages. This is why it’s called the “Silent Killer.” It decreases the oxygen content, which can adversely affect the cardiac and circulatory systems.
Performing Yoga techniques such as Pranayama and Meditation can lower blood pressure and help bring it back to normal.
Yoga practices increase GABA levels. This increase is associated with muscle contraction of the sympathetic nervous system. Once these relax, arteries have space to expand. This leads to an automatic fall in blood pressure.
6. Blood Sugar Levels
Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas that regulates the blood sugar levels in the body. Hyperglycaemia or high blood sugar levels are seen in Diabetes Mellitus.
Yoga affects the endocrine glands, and it’s an approach to reduce tension and stress automatically control blood sugar levels.
A scientific research discussed how yoga led to a fall in the blood sugar levels among Type 2 Diabetes patients (4).
7. Cardiovascular Functions
Stress in the functioning of the heart can lead to BP, failure of the heart, cholesterol, and Diabetes.
Many studies have proven the effect of yoga on the condition of the heart. Yoga can have great effects on the rate of the heart, blood pressure, BMI, and the lipid profile, all of which play a role in the cardiovascular system.
Practicing yoga prevents the possibility of being diseased as it massages the internal organs. After enough experience, any practitioner would know if something isn’t functioning correctly because that’s how well one can get to know their body.
9. Gastrointestinal Functions
Men and Women that practice yoga has shown significant improvement in their gastrointestinal functions.
Metabolism is a series of processes that occur in order to sustain life. People that have a faster or a more active metabolism burn calories faster than the ones that have a slower metabolism, even at a resting state.
Yoga helps to burn calories and increase metabolism as various asana have directly affected weight loss, endocrine glands, and have promoted overall metabolism.
A study has proven that practicing yoga over time, along with meditation and Pranayama, reduce the BMR of a person, and help balance the metabolism of the body (5).
11. Hormone Secretion
The secretion of hormones is a basic body function that plays a role in the behavior, mood, and other body functions in a person’s body. Studies have established that practicing yoga compressed the abdomen.
This stimulates the production of pancreatic hormones, which helps to avoid Diabetes. Interestingly, each chakra associated with yoga corresponds to a nerve plexus and an endocrine gland, which enhances a very balanced hormonal secretion.
Some yoga poses that could help with a balanced hormone secretion include Bow Pose, Plow Pose, and Half-Spinal Twist.
The defense mechanism of our body is called our Immune system. It consists of various cells and organs that help the body fight against foreign organisms.
A study shows that people that have been practicing yoga regularly for years have shown lower resting levels of inflammatory cytokines (6).
Yoga helps to increase the number of natural killer cells and renews the organs of immunity and their channels.
Camel Pose or Utrasana increases lung mobility. Downward Facing Dog Pose or AdhoMukhaSvanasana improves the flow of sinuses, and Tortoise Pose or Kurmasana enhances the functioning of the Thymus Gland.
Yoga uses abstract strategies like increasing acceptance and having more control over immediate reactions. This affects the perceptivity of pain and increases its threshold.
Yoga poses can help increase pain tolerance by making neuroanatomical changes in the brain, increase in intra-insular connections, and a change in the structure of grey matter. Yoga Nidra stimulates the pituitary gland and reduces pain.
How Yoga Can Play a Role In Mental Health
Controlled breathing in yoga helps to reduce anxiety in a person. The Corpse Pose, The Shoulderstand, and Pranayama are the recommended exercises to relieve stress. The Corpse Pose is advised to start with because it removes the thoughts of past experiences.
Stress can be physical, emotional, or mental. Yoga is one of the best ways to deal with stress. Cortisol is a stress hormone, and yoga has proven to reduce cortisol levels in the body. It promotes the production of endorphins, which are also known to be ‘stress busters’ and help in relaxation.
The neurotransmitter, GABA, or Gamma-aminobutyric acid is associated with the calmness of the mind and reduction of stress.
A reduction in GABA levels can lead to various anxiety disorders and mood swings. Yoga helps in uplifting mood and induces a state of euphoria in an individual.
A study confirmed that yoga reduces stress and lowers anxiety levels by enhancing GABA production in the body (7). Great improvements in mood and anxiety were observed after performing a harmonized walking exercise.
The key to growing spiritually is Self-Acceptance. In yoga sessions, disciples are asked to look inward instead of looking at the others. This idea is to remind them not to compare themselves with others but accept themselves as the way they are. Coming to terms with who you are providing long-term satisfaction.
5. Emotional Strength
Yoga not only ingrains emotional well-being, but it also increases tolerance to stress and anxiety. This is how it helps to build emotional resilience in a person.
A study proved that yoga facilitates psychological well-being and helps to handle stress a lot more efficiently (8).
Practicing yoga on a regular basis increases the production of Serotonin in the body. Serotonin is related to bring a state of happiness to the person. Meditation has proven to bring about a positive attitude, which automatically leads to a happier lifestyle.
A study showed that people that meditate have more positive thinking and, thus, a higher happiness score compared to the ones that don’t meditate (9).
Yoga is also a great practice to do at a workplace as it helps to set career goals and reduce stress levels.
It’s believed that the negative feelings that you might be bottling up inside of you resurface while performing some yoga poses. When this happens, exercise is sort of your window to let all those feelings go. Regularly letting go of this negativity may help people with depression.
Yoga develops its participants to gain self-control. This can be done by making them focus on just one thing, regulate breathing, or even just letting go of anger and negativity. Studies have shown that yoga helps to control depression, anxiety, and anger, all of which a result of increased self-control (10).
Being positive is a very important quality to possess during tough times. Positivity gives you a better outlook on life and keeps you happier in general. Yoga promotes positivity, emotional spirit, and self-regulation. It facilitates psychological and physical well-being and is known to reduce negative emotions.
10. Mind-Body Connection
After enough practice, yogis can find a place of calm and peace by matching your controlled breathing with the movements of your body. Yoga exercises can help to develop a stronger mind-body connection in its participants.
Having confidence is the first step towards achieving your goals. What you need to understand about confidence is, you need to understand your body and its limitations to reach your full potential. Yoga is capable of teaching its practitioners how to tune with their own bodies and gives them a sense of self-assurance.
Yoga enhances the physical and mental state of the body, which boosts a person’s confidence. Self-confidence is an automatic result of feeling better about your body image and having a more positive outlook on life.
A number of yogis have said that they feel a lot calmer and a lot less hostile after they started doing yoga. There has been a reduction in the number of times they lose their temper or the times they have their sudden flares of anger. Being less hostile leads to lowering blood pressure, stress, and approaching a healthier way of life.
Yoga highly focusses on meditation and breathing control. These give you peace and quiet for the time you practice them. Studies have been done to give these claims a basis.
Yogic breathing has been discovered to establish a remarkable way to harmonize the automatic nervous system.
Yoga also helps to shift the balance from the sympathetic nervous system, which is associated with anxiety and stress, to the parasympathetic nervous system, which is associated with calming down the body.
14. Social Skills
Yoga classes are a way for like-minded people to meet and do yoga together. This is great for introverts who are at a danger of social isolation, like those who are aging, got divorced, or are just not in the right headspace. Yoga is a great idea for people going through an interpersonal crisis.
Yoga helps in the betterment in a person’s memory as it increases blood flow to the brain and reduces stress. This automatically leads to a boost in one’s memory.
Yoga requires careful attention in order to maintain structure breathing that corresponds to the yoga movement or pose. This sharpens the ability to pay attention to detail and increases focus during tasks.
People that practice yoga regularly has proven to show an improvement in their attention span. It helps teach it’s disciples how to channel their energy in the right direction and makes the mind lot more disciplined.
The concept of Kundalini helps to understand the vastness of the energy inside a human body. Yoga helps to cultivate awareness inside the body and stimulates the kundalini energy that is said to be at the base of the spine. Yoga awakens this energy, which pierces through the chakras and finally reaches the top of the head.
How Yoga Influences Your Body Chemistry
1. Red Blood Cells
Red Blood Cells or RBCs are cells that carry around oxygen to different parts of the body. Low levels of RBCs can lead to anemia and low energy. Practicing yoga promotes red blood cell production in the body.
2. Vitamin C
Vitamin C helps boost the immune system, acts as an anti-oxidant, and also helps to produce collagen. Yoga helps in elevating Vitamin C levels in the body.
Yoga is a great method to fight high or harmful cholesterol in the body. Yoga promotes blood circulation and enhances the burning of fat. These factors help in lowering blood cholesterol levels in the body, which also decreases the risk of heart failures.
4. Endocrine Functions
Practicing yoga helps to control and regulate hormone secretion in the body. It improves the functioning of the endocrine system and leads to the overall better mental and physical health of the person.
Triglycerides are a form of fats that are present in the body. Higher levels of triglycerides increase the risk of heart . Yoga regulates and control the triglycerides present in the body.
Studies have shown that people that practice yoga has shown lowered levels of glucose in the body (11).
In a day where processed food and fast food have become so common, sodium levels are shooting up. And just like any other form of exercise, yoga, too, decreases the sodium levels in the body.
8. Lymphatic System
The lymphatic system plays an important role in your body immunity by trapping foreign organisms. It can function to its full potential only if there is sufficient lymph flow throughout the body. Certain movements in yoga help to get this flow going and strengthen the lymphatic system.
How Yoga Helps You Fight Health Conditions
Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia that is common in older people. It leads to memory loss and related issues. It’s fascinating to know yoga is one of the best exercises for people who are on the onset of suffering from Alzheimer’s.
People that used yoga as a form of treatment showed both short-term and long-term improvements. They have better control over their mood when they feel depressed and are more resilient. They show an overall increase in memory enhancement scores.
2. Cardiac Health
Yoga claims to reduce all symptoms that increase the risk of cardiovascular conditions. Studies have proven that yoga helps to lower the systolic and diastolic blood pressure (12). It shows positive changes in the lipid profile as well, which is why performing yoga is great for cardiovascular health.
There’s a large number of people that are either diabetic or pre-diabetic. Yoga is said to lower glucose levels in the body. Studies conducted on people that have Type 2 Diabetes or Diabetes Mellitus that were trained to do yoga showed that a significant drop in glucose levels was observed.
Osteoporosis is an age-related medical disorder that makes the bones weak and fragile. Studies have confirmed that practicing yoga on a regular basis will increase bone density in such people. Taking up yoga and diligently practicing consistently will show a significant increase in bone density.
5. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Yoga has proven to be an effective treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome. In fact, people performing yoga showed more improvement than those who wore a splint or got absolutely no treatment done. Participants showed more grip strength and a reduction of pain.
Yoga helps in the reduction of symptoms of asthma. This can also lead to reducing the normal dosage of medication.
Yoga can help people that are fighting cancer or recovering from it. Cancer patients have shown an increase in strength and in RBC count. They face less nausea while they go through chemotherapy and have a better overall quality of life.
When the supply of oxygen to the brain gets cut, a stroke occurs. Brain cells begin to die due to lack of oxygen, and all the activities associated with these cells get affected. Yoga helps to prevent strokes by regulating blood circulation in the body.
The slow yoga postures with some gentle pressure exerted on the joints help to relieve the symptoms of arthritis. As yoga is associated with stress relief, it facilitates the loosening of muscles and tightening of the joints.
10. Muscular Dystrophy
Starting to practice yoga at an early stage of muscular dystrophy can help you gain some of your physical abilities back. There was a case of muscular dystrophy in which a person regained all muscle control after they started to do yoga.
Studies have shown that people with a curvature in their spine, associated with scoliosis, can straighten it out by means of yoga (13).
12. Multiple Sclerosis
Yoga has now come to be known as an excellent treatment for Multiple Sclerosis or MS (14). Interestingly enough, the treatment of MS by yoga is getting funded for medical research.
Yoga has proven to reduce the frequency of migraines in chronic migraine sufferers.
14. Chronic Bronchitis
Yoga helps in the case of chronic bronchitis as it increases oxygen level without causing an elevation in respiration. Yoga also provides energy and aerates the lungs.
15. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
People that have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD showed a significant reduction in symptoms due to yoga. This has led to the requirement of lesser medication or no medication at all.
Yoga helps in cases of epilepsy as it focuses on breathing, reduction of stress, and to regain the overall balance of the body.
17. Chronic Pulmonary Lung Disease (COPD)
Chronic Pulmonary Lung Disease or COPD makes breathing difficult. A study as conducted where people were divided into two groups (15). One group had to adapt to a yoga training program while the other group was put through the pulmonary rehabilitation program. Both groups showed similar progress in lung function and stamina. Therefore, yoga is a great option for those suffering from COPD.
Sciatica is caused when spinal nerves have been compressed, and as a result, they show inflammation. This leads to a sharp pain radiating in the lower part of the body. People suffering from Sciatica often face such kind of a pain in large amounts. Performing yoga with the appropriate poses can help ease down this pain.
Some poses of these poses are Bharadvajasana or Torso Twist, Salamba Sarvangasana or Shoulder Stand, and Ardha Chandrasana or Half-Moon Pose.
As yoga promotes better body posture, this ultimately leads to an improvement in the functioning of the digestive and excretory systems. Consequently, the risk of constipation goes down and is completely eliminated if you’re following the right diet as well.
20. Pregnancy & Menstrual Cycle
Women that practice yoga during pregnancy and menstrual cycle develop more confidence and have higher proficiency. A study showed that pregnant women that participated in mild, low-intensity yoga had had a better effect on their living conditions and prenatal care (16). Practicing yoga can help reduce the symptoms of menopause. Hot flashes can be reduced by the bridge pose.
Certain types of breathing can help to clear sinuses and nasal passages.
22. Back Pain
Yoga helps to reduce spinal compression and also helps in the alignment of the back. This reduces pain in the back.
How Yoga Affects Physical Functionality of Your Body
Yoga teaches its disciples how to hold, carry any control one’s body. Practicing yoga will straighten out your body and find you better posture. This is automatically linked to better health and higher self-esteem.
Obesity is becoming a growing problem in today’s age. Busy, hectic lifestyles. Yoga breathing techniques can help burn belly fat. An experiment was conducted for a group of people that were given a standardized diet plan (17).
Consistently practicing yoga for a given number of hours every week has shown progress and significant loss of weight.
The overall strength of the body is increased while performing yoga. It increases the core strength, which automatically leads to an increase in overall body strength. Using your own weight whole doing all the movements plays a role in how yoga strengthens your body.
4. Skin Health
Yogic Breathing or Pranayama increases oxygen intake and utilization, leading to healthier, glowing skin. Breathing techniques like Bhastrika, Kapalbhati, and Bhramari help catalyze the actions of the asana and have anti-oxidant and tissue effects of detoxification on the skin.
5. Hair Growth
Loss of hair or hair fall can be due to an increase in stress as it causes hormonal changes in the body. This stress can be associated with physical stress, improper sleep, or pressure formwork. All these factors could seriously compromise your hair health. Combining yoga with other tension-relieving methods can promote the regrowth of hair and enhance its overall quality as well.
Yogis claim that they feel more energized after their yoga sessions rather than tired. This is because yoga provides consistent energy. This energy will constantly make you feel fresh and rejuvenated, both mentally and physically.
Irregularity in your sleep schedule of insufficient sleep can lead to fatigue, weight gain, and depression-related problems. Insomnia is a sleeping disorder that is becoming quite prevalent these days. Yoga techniques like breathing and mediation are one of the best ways to fight insomnia.
In a research project, a group of individuals dealing with chronic insomnia was tested. Practicing yoga and meditation showed a significant improvement in the duration of their sleep, the efficiency of sleep, and also the total time that they stay awake (18).
If you confidently practice yoga, you’ll find yourself have better balance and control over your body during your yoga sessions and in your daily life.
Yoga regulates the process of detoxification in the body. The anti-oxidant, tissue, and cellular effects of Pranayama enhance skin health and prevent premature aging such as dark spots, wrinkles, facial lines, freckles, etc.
10. Integrated Functions
The word ‘yoga’ means ‘unity.’ Yogis have found their bodies working together a lot more efficiently and gracefully after consistent yoga practice. This results in more balanced and controlled movements of the body.
11. Body Awareness
Practicing yoga will give you an increased sense of body awareness. All the movements you do will make you feel more comfortable with your body, and it will consequently promote better body posture and higher self-esteem.
12. Sexual Functions
Practicing yoga helps to strengthen the core, which gives you more control over your pelvis. They also act as a form of Kegel exercise that helps to strengthen your pelvic floor. Yoga also happens to stimulate the production of testosterone and promotes libido or sexual desire.
Studies have proven that women that practice yoga regularly have improved various sexual aspects such as arousal, orgasm, and general sexual satisfaction (19).
13. Core Strength
Having a strong body core is essential to have a good posture and overall body strength. It also helps to heal injuries and reduce them as well. Which is why various athletes try and increase their core strength by means of yoga.
What More Does Yoga Provide Compare to Other Exercises
1. Muscle Tone
Practicing yoga regularly results in better muscle tone over time.
Breathing during yoga is more controlled and natural action. This type of breathing facilitates the inspiration of air that is highly rich in oxygen, providing more energy, and leading to less fatigue.
3. Low Risk of Injury
Compared to other forms of exercise, yoga is a lot milder and a moderate impact exercise. Yoga poses are controlled motions, so there’s less risk of its disciples getting injured during their yoga sessions. Hence, it’s comparatively safer to take part in.
4. Oxygen Utilization
Unlike other forms of exercise, yoga reduces oxygen consumption. This allows the body to work more efficiently and avoid fatigue.
Most exercises, including yoga, dominate the subcortical region of the brain. The subcortex is associated with the well-being of the person, which is the effect yoga has, mentally and physically.
6. Parasympathetic Nervous System
In most forms of exercise, your sympathetic nervous system is stimulated, which puts you in fight or flight mode. Yoga does quite the opposite. It activated your parasympathetic nervous system, which lowers your blood pressure and slows down the pace at which you’re breathing. This puts you in a more calm, relaxed state during your practice.
As yoga works the entire body, it’s a great way to develop higher endurance. Endurance trainers practice yoga in addition to their normal workout regimen in order of this.
Rather than being a competitive form of exercise, practitioners can practice yoga slowly, at their own pace. The concept of yoga is more about introspection and self-building. This allows yogis to take their own time and avoid possible injuries as well, promoting a better balanced and pressure-free workout.
9. Range of Motion
A study that was conducted by students showed that people that practiced yoga had an improved joint range of motion (20).
10. Hand-Eye Coordination
Yoga helps in enhancing your hand-eye coordination, which is essential for many of your daily activities. Not practicing leads to the diminishing of this skill.
11. Depth Perception
An improvement in-depth perception is achieved by all those who practice yoga consistently. This is associated with learning about the body and paying attention to the way it moves.
Practicing yoga helps develop a mind-Body connection and improves flexibility. This leads to an enhancement in grace and skill.
13. Reaction Time
Breathing exercises performed by those who have already been practicing yoga help in improving the reaction time of an individual. This is associated with the ability to concentrate more and a faster rate of response, which is a result of practicing yoga regularly.
How Does Yoga Help Smokers?
People that are addicted to smoking can find a bigger addiction than smoking cigarettes! If you give it a chance, you can achieve higher ecstasy through yoga, meditation, and Pranayama.
But if you don’t intend to quit anytime soon, there’s still a way you can try and lessen the impact of all the harmful effects of smoking. One way is yoga. Deep breathing helps to remove some of the harmful acids accumulated in the lungs. You’ll find it becomes easier to breathe.
The Cobra Pose bends the back and stimulates and expands the lungs. The Bow Pose stretches the chest wall and facilitates better blood flow to the lungs, and the Corpse Pose is great for getting rid of anxiety and inviting soothing thoughts.
Yoga has rapidly been emerging in the Western world as a discipline that integrates the mind and body as a union or harmony. It includes mental, physical, intellectual, and spiritual health. Investing a couple of hours every week to do yoga is an excellent option for all of you that are contemplating it.
It offers individuals a holistic and timeless model of health, which, if not entirely eliminate the disease, it definitely helps to get rid of some symptoms.
Yoga has become extremely popular in the last decision, and studios have been popping up everywhere. If you already haven’t given it a try, go for it. It’s tough to miss out on such an excellent opportunity to improve the overall quality of your life!