28-Aug 2015, by Shannon Clark
When you’re thinking of starting a new fitness plan, what automatically comes to mind?
Probably some tough cardio work or a spot of weight lifting. Or maybe some classes at your local gym, or even a boot camp on the beach.
Have you ever thought about yoga?
When it comes to fitness, unless you’re a seasoned yogi, or have spent some time practising the art of zen mindfulness in some far away, exotic land, chances are that yoga’s not even a consideration.
But it needs to be.
When most people think of yoga class, they think of awkward positions, focussed breathing and meditation. And while assuming a variety of unusual positions and regulating breathing are some of the key elements of yoga, there is much more to it than that.
In fact, the health benefits of yoga are quite astounding. If you think yoga is primarily for working on your flexibility and decreasing stress, you’re missing out on some of the biggest benefits it has to offer.
Let me share six reasons why you should give that treadmill or dumbbell a rest and, instead, sign up for yoga!
Improved Immune Response
Falling ill is no fun at all but the good news is it’s quite preventable. What you do on a day to day basis has a large impact on your immune system, either building it up or tearing it down. Yoga is one thing that will greatly build it up.
Studies have suggested that those who practice yoga on a regular basis have a much higher immunity level, improving their ability to withstand daily stressors on their body (1).
When researchers compared those who either practised yoga on a daily basis compared to those who took a leisure walk listening to relaxing music, they found the yogi’s came out ahead.
Relief From Migraines
Another benefit that yoga can provide? Much-needed relief for migraine sufferers.
If you get this severe type of headache, you know that when it strikes, you would do just about anything to make it stop.
Engaging in regular yoga may help prevent them in the first place.
A study published in the Headache journal reported that those who participated in yoga for a three month period noted significant reductions in migraine frequency compared to those who didn’t (2).
Those taking part in the yoga exercise also noted lower feelings of anxiety and depression.
Enhanced Sex Life
If the health benefits are not enough to make you want to take up yoga, what if you could enhance your sex life? The research is in and you can.
Those who practice yoga regularly have stronger pelvic floor muscles, which is a key component in maintaining optimal arousal and climax. This is true for both males (3) as well as females (4), so you might want to consider a couples yoga class for your next date.
Warding Off Osteoporosis
Much of the focus with a fitness plan is placed on building stronger muscles. But, what about your bones? Too many people neglect their bone health and before they know it, when they’re reaching their later years they’re suffering from stress fractures, breaks, or just general joint pain.
Yoga can help you prevent this. Regularly practicing yoga can help to build up your bone mineral density (5), increasing their resilience. This is especially the case for women who are in their menopausal years who may be at a greater risk for osteoporosis with the hormonal changes taking place in their body.
Another great thing about this is the fact that yoga is non-impact in nature, so those who are currently suffering from joint pain won’t be prevented from taking part in it.
Improved Sleep Quality
By now you likely know just how important sleep is to your overall quality of life and health. Those who sleep more on a regular basis show lower risk factors for heart disease, stroke, obesity, as well as diabetes. All in all, getting enough sleep is a great disease prevention strategy.
But, if you lay awake in bed at night tossing and turning or often find you awaken the next morning feeling not so refreshed, you aren’t reaping the benefits sleep should bring.
Improving your quality of sleep is essential. Here again, yoga does the job. Studies suggest that regular yoga practice – even just two sessions per week – can help improve quality of sleep and lower overall fatigue levels on a day to day basis (6,7).
Our final note-worthy benefit of yoga is the impact it’ll have on your mood and interaction with others. If you lead a hectic, stressful life, chances are there are moments in your week when you get rather irritable and withdraw from social interaction.
This is normal and natural, but yoga may help you better cope. Studies suggest that those who participate in yoga regularly show higher scores on life satisfaction scales along with lower scores in aggressiveness and emotionality complaints. Overall, they had higher spirits and tended to be more extraverted, seeking social support when needed (8).
So there you have a closer look into some of the key benefits that yoga has to offer. Yoga provides many similar physical benefits to those offered by regular workouts, such as increased cardiovascular health, improved muscular strength, and increased balance, agility and coordination.
If this isn’t enough to convince you, Yoga offers many more benefits than we’ve covered here so don’t be too quick to write it off as an activity only for women or those who are high strung and need to relax.
Aim to incorporate 1-3 yoga sessions per week to start reaping some of these great benefits in your life.
Sources for this article
- US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health
- LWW Journals
- University of Rochester Medical Center
- Europe Pub Med Central
image credits: alessandrosigismondi.com