It`s International Yoga Day people. I was thinking about doing yoga over the past three months, and because of my analytical nature, I decided to do some quick research on its benefits. And since we’re celebrating International Yoga Day this month, I decided to show you the six key benefits practicing yoga will give you. Here they are:
Yoga will make you calmer
Yoga is so great at regulating stress that researchers from Tulane University recommend it should be taught in schools as early as in third grade.
Their study, along with other ones, suggests that breathing exercises mixed with traditional yoga poses increase stress resilience by reducing your Cortisol levels —aka. The stress hormone— as well as increasing a neurotransmitter called gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) which improves your mood by stimulating the nerve cells responsible for anxiety inhibition.
2. It makes you less likely to be depressed
According To a 2017 study published in the American Psychological Association (APA), doing yoga for eight weeks can significantly reduce depression. The study included 23 U.S. veterans with integration problems, and it notes that not only they enjoyed yoga, but their depressive levels were also much lower than before.
Another study by Alliant University in San Francisco found that it only took women six sessions of Bikram yoga —3 weeks— to see their depression levels plummeted.
3. And can give you a strong heart
Yoga can give you a healthy heart. Studies suggest that men who do yoga regularly have higher heart rate variability compared to their non-practicing peers. Heart rate variability (HRV) is a term that describes the variation in the time interval between heartbeats. A low HRV means you have cardiac abnormalities whereas a high HRV means you have a healthy heart.
Another study published by the American College of Cardiology (ACC) found that to get a healthy heart, one should do both yoga and cardio weekly.
The research suggests that adding yoga to your workout routine can reduce your blood pressure, body mass index and cholesterol levels. The study found that among 750 heart disease patients, those who combined both activities saw twice the reduction in all three areas compared to those who did either cardio or yoga.
4. Gives you more energy
Yoga can help you breathe properly and increase your energy level.
I once lived a year with a half-blocked nose, and I understand how breathing properly affects your energy and mood. It was years after breaking my nose in high school when I began to have breathing problems, and the doctor told me I had a deviated nasal septum that almost blocked the left side of my nose completely.
I was stressed and beat and couldn`t know why until after the surgery when I began to breathe normally and by talking to my doctor, I found that many people have unsolved breathing problems, some of which can be solved by yoga.
Novak Djokovic, the tennis champion, believes practicing hatha yoga solved many of his breathing problems and made him more energetic and resilient. Yoga can also improve your brain`s executive functions and cognitive abilities and make you more alert according to this 2017 study by the University of Waterloo.
5. Reduces back pain
Studies found that yoga can ease both wrist pain and a back condition common among seniors called Osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis is a condition in which the tissues between bones break down and make them rub together causing pain and stiffness. According to studies, doing yoga can reduce the friction between joints by increasing their flexibility, thus reducing the pain.
A study on 150 American veterans found that 12 weeks of yoga was associated with a significant reduction in low back pain. Whereas another study on patients with a wrist condition called Carpal tunnel syndrome suggests that yoga is more effective than wrist splinting improving their grip strength and reducing wrist pain.
6. Helps you lose weight
You don`t burn much by doing yoga (120-180 calories per 30 minutes,) but it can help you lose weight in two ways. First, doing yoga makes your lungs work better which will improve your fitness performance, especially if you have asthma. Secondly, yoga can affect your eating behavior by making you eat more mindfully.
Mindful eating proved to have many clinical and nonclinical benefits over the past decade, such as increasing emotional intelligence, relieving anxiety and weight loss. You will gain control over what and how much you eat the more you make mindful eating a habit which is something yoga can help you with.
There’s a link between yoga and mindful eating, according to studies by Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. They found yoga to increase body awareness and sensitivity to hunger and that a yogi gains less weight over a 10-year period compared to ordinary people.
Marwan Jamal is a soccer-playing, food-loving, joke-cracking New York-based wellness writer. You can say hi to me here