13 Benefits of Yoga Supported by Science
By: Shannon Minnis, Writer for Green and Growing
Scientific research on the benefits of yoga has revealed a plethora of psychological and physical effects. It isn’t surprising that yoga promotes well-being when you consider that yoga is an ancient spiritual practice meant to liberate individuals.
There are many schools of yoga with different philosophies and traditions. Etymologically, the word yoga is derived from the root word “yuj,” meaning to bind. Yoga is about breaking the bond that the spirit has to the material world to liberate oneself. Yoga consists of advanced spiritual, ethical, and philosophical ideas.
Yogic traditions of all types incorporate physical postures (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama), and meditative practices (dyana). People have known the benefits of yoga throughout the ages, but recently, science has proven those benefits beyond any doubt.
Chronic stress can harm the body and cause inflammation. The relaxation you feel when doing yoga is scientifically verified. One study found that practicing yoga 5 days a week for 12 weeks decreased the concentration of stress hormones such as cortisol. Participants felt less depressed and anxious.
Overall, the science indicates that yoga decreases stress and protects against the harmful effects of stress. The breathing techniques involved in yoga can help to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. When our parasympathetic nervous system is active, we feel relaxed and calm.
Research indicates that yoga can be useful for decreasing symptoms in those with mild or moderate depression. One study incorporated Hatha yoga for 90-minutes, twice a week. The group that did yoga had a lower score on a test that measures the severity of depression.
Many scientists believe that yoga may serve as a complementary therapy for depression, but more research is needed.
A review of research papers studying the relationship between yoga and chronic neck pain concluded that yoga helps to decrease subjective pain.
Yoga is effective for relieving many other types of chronic pain including arthritis, lower back pain, migraines, and fibromyalgia. Research is conclusive; yoga reduces perceptions of pain.
One theory is that stress reduction decreases muscle tension. When muscles are relaxed, one experiences a subjective decrease in pain perception. Indeed, pain can be amplified neurologically by psychological distress.
Yoga postures can improve your endurance, strength, and flexibility. I believe that many people don’t fully appreciate the muscle-building benefits of yoga.
Certain postures are more suited for strength training. By merely holding certain postures, you can build muscle. Strength building exercises promote overall health.
Yoga can be an intervention to reduce inflammation in a variety of chronic illnesses, according to a review. Chronic inflammation is an aspect of many diseases. The inflammatory response is meant to help the body to heal itself.
In certain conditions, the inflammatory response causes the immune system to start harming the body. Chronic inflammation is associated with illnesses such as depression, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and rheumatoid arthritis. Scientific researchers support using yoga as an intervention to decrease inflammation.
The benefits of yoga extend beyond the body into the brain. Research supports that yoga increases the concentration of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the blood. BNDF is a protein essential for brain health. Without BDNF, you would be unable to learn new things.
You see, this protein helps to support cell survival and differentiation. It also helps brain cells to form new connections. By increasing the concentration of circulating BDNF, yoga may help improve overall cognition and learning.
Research from the University of Illinois suggests that a 20-minute Hatha yoga session can improve brain function. After the yoga session, the participant’s working memory and inhibitory control were measured. Their scores were compared to a control group that performed an aerobic exercise.
Participants in the yoga group had better scores on the cognitive test as compared to the control group. The yoga group was better able to focus and process information. This research suggests yoga improves cognition.
Many chronic illnesses come with troublesome symptoms that decrease quality of life. Yoga can improve the psychological well-being of those that are suffering.
Scientific studies have found that yoga treatments reduce anxiety, depression, and stress in cancer patients undergoing treatments.
Practicing yoga helps you to cultivate an awareness of your body. Yoga improves proprioception — your perception of where your body is in space.
By practicing yoga, you are placing your attention within. Yoga will help you to improve your balance. For the elderly, having good balance prevents falls. A benefit of yoga for the elderly is that it can help prevent a life-threatening injury.
Yoga may reduce the menopausal symptoms of older women, according to a review. Exercise is suggested to help women deal with the symptoms of menopause. Yoga exercises can help older women to improve their lives.
Yoga may be an effective adjunctive treatment for PTSD. One study suggests it reduces symptoms of PTSD in women who have experienced sexual violence. Mind-body therapies, such as yoga offer a holistic treatment option.
Trauma that causes PTSD is severe and affects the body biologically. People with PTSD have chronically heightened stress responses that harm the body. Therapies are necessary to help people to heal from traumas psychologically.
Many yoga poses are safe during pregnancy. Scientific researchers have discovered zero adverse side effects associated with yoga during pregnancy. Women commonly experience stress during pregnancy. Yoga can help to reduce pregnancy-related stress and improve quality of life.
One of the lesser-known benefits of yoga is that it can improve the outcome of pregnancies. Research suggests yoga may improve birth weight and lower chances of preterm labor. Yoga may be an effective way to improve your chances of a healthy pregnancy.
Science supports using yoga and other mindfulness-based interventions to decrease addictive behavior. Not only does it help addicts to reduce their stress, but it also encourages them to be more mindful of their bodies.
Patterns of addiction are often escapist and unmindful. Meditation gives people the resilience to stay within their bodies during difficult emotions. Furthermore, mindfulness practices have the potential to rewire the brain in positive ways.
The science is conclusive. The ancient practices of yoga are incredibly healthy. Yoga is a safe alternative therapy worthy of your attention. It has the potential to increase your overall well-being. And as science continues to study yoga, the research will surely discover even more benefits for the mind and body. If you need any help getting started on your yoga journey click here.
Shannon Minnis is a writer at Green and Growing. She is a minimalist that enjoys spending her time in the great outdoors, mostly camping and hiking. She likes to focus on the perks of green living and strives to reduce her carbon footprint to preserve this earth and all its beauty. She continues to write about her outdoor experiences and how she takes steps towards sustainability. Find her at: https://www.instagram.com/mindmadesimple/