Yoga — the thought of it might bring to mind buddhist monks, the smell of incense, and a faint pang in your hamstrings. But it’s pretty accepted that yoga is good for. For those who might need a little more convincing, here are the top 10 health benefits of tying yourself in knots:
1. Decreases Back Pain
Do you have a chronic ache in your lower back? How about a tightness by your spine? Knots in your occipitals? Odds are, you experience back pain at least some of the time — it is the third most common reason people visit the doctor, according to the American Chiropractic Association.
A large portion of daily back pain is caused by muscle tightness. All the muscles in your body are interconnected, and the large muscles that run down your back and the back of your legs are no exception. One of the best ways to reduce chronic back pain, especially if you spend a lot of your time hunched over a computer desk, is to stretch those muscles. Most of the core positions of yoga practice deal with lengthening and strengthening these muscles, and the difference it will make in your pain is shocking!
Another exciting benefit of yoga is its stress and anxiety soothing powers. Some of the foundations of yoga are deep, mindful breathing, physical exertion and introspection. All of these activities promote relaxation and calm, and some studies have suggested it is an excellent supplemental treatment for depression, anxiety and PTSD. Yoga can even decrease the production of cortisol, the primary stress hormone!
3. Sleep Sweet
Yoga is a great sleep aid for the same reasons; it’s relaxing, it gets the melatonin and serotonin flowing, and it forces us to take a minute of our busy day to stop, breathe, think, and relax. Yoga helps promote deeper, more restful sleep by reducing our anxiety, stretching out our aches and pains and helps us remember to be present. It generally promotes mindfulness and relaxation, two practices that improve our quality of life.
4. Heart Healthy
Blood flow isn’t something you typically think about — your blood is flowing, it’s what it does! But yoga has some significant impact on your blood situation. Like meditation, it lowers blood pressure and has been shown to reduce arterial plaque.
Yoga also improves blood flow, like most forms of exercise. It improves circulation by opening up the capillaries in your hands and feet, and the deep breathing oxygenates your blood. Inverted poses encourages venous (deoxygenated) blood to escape your legs and get revitalized through your heart.
5. Strengthens Muscles, Joints and More
Yoga is first and foremost exercise, so of course it also strengthens your muscles! Many of the positions engage muscles we almost never use in modern life, strengthening your balance, posture and nearly every muscle in your body depending on the pose and type of practice.
Not only does yoga strengthen muscles, it also offers a range of low impact benefits on the other materials that make up your body. Unlike harsh exercises like jogging, yoga takes your joints and muscles through the full range of their motion gently, giving them time to limber and flex.
Yoga is basically a miracle workout, no matter your problem! Hopefully you’ll experience these benefits in your own practice. And don’t forget that yoga isn’t for everyone. If you have concerns, consult a doctor before performing any kind of strenuous exercise.