The ancient practise of yoga has now become a regular fixture for many of us in modern Western life. It’s popularity has increased dramatically over recent years and in 2016 over 36 million Americans practiced yoga. Ultimately, it is able to provide those that practise it with a welcome escape from the chaos of today’s society.
Improved strength, flexibility and mental clarity are often cited as the key benefits of yoga. Here are some of the other ways in which it can improve both your physical and mental wellbeing.
Anxiety and stress relief
Research into yoga has shown that the practise can reduce the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, that are found in the body. Yoga is frequently used by people suffering from depression and anxiety disorders in order to control and reduce symptoms. Additionally, as yoga often includes practising breathing exercises, relaxation and meditation, these are all great ways of relieving stress at the end of a tough day or week.
Improves sleep quality
Looking for a better night’s sleep? A relaxing form of yoga such as Hatha (particularly as part of a bedtime routine) may be able to help. Various studies have shown that it can help to relieve insomnia, and provide those that practise it with better sleep efficiency. This includes falling asleep more quickly, for a longer period of time, and falling back to sleep easily if waking up during the night.
Promotes healthy eating habits
Studies have shown that yoga can make you a more mindful eater. This means being aware of the physical and emotional effects associated with eating, but in a completely non-judgmental way. One of the biggest challenges for many people suffering with weight and/or mental health issues is emotional eating, often in reaction to sadness or stress. As a mindful eater, emotional eating is reduced as you become aware of why you are craving the food, how it makes you feel when eating it and finally, the after effects.
Improves strength and flexibility
Yoga poses are designed to help stretch and strengthen muscles, in turn both building and toning muscle, as well as increasing range of movement, or flexibility. Many pro-athletes use stretching to aid other forms of aerobic exercise. Ashtanga and Vinyasa are both forms of higher-intensity yoga that will definitely get your heart rate up and challenge your muscles.
Relief from chronic pain
Perhaps one of the most underrated benefits of yoga is it’s treatment for sufferers of chronic pain. The low intensity movements included in many types of yoga mean that the poses used are very gentle towards muscles and joints, yet still provide enough movement and stretching to increase strength and relieve pain.
Partly related to relieving stress, yoga can be extremely beneficial to the health of your heart. Studies have found links between the practise and decreased glucose levels, cholesterol and blood pressure. It has even been suggested that yoga can help smokers to quit smoking, which is one of the leading causes of coronary heart disease.
There you have it, why not give yoga a try at home and see what it can do for your physical and mental health. The possibilities are endless. Namaste!