HEALTH BENEFITS OF YOGA – EVIDENCE-BASED
Yoga is derived from “Yuji,” a Sanskrit word. Yuji means union or yoke. It is an ancient practice that connects your body and your mind (1).
It brings together meditation, poses, & exercises to reduce stress and enhance relaxation.
Yoga has a lot of benefits for both physical and mental health, although not all have scientific backing.
In this article, we will look at some health benefits of yoga backed by science.
Yoga decreases stress
The ability of yoga to promote relaxation and ease stress is well-known.
Particular research demonstrated the stress-relieving effect of yoga on 24 emotionally-stressed women.
After engaging in yoga sessions for three months, the cortisol level in the women reduced significantly. Their levels of anxiety, fatigue, depression, and stress also reduced significantly (4).
Another study involving 131 subjects showed similar results, that a 10 – week yoga session helped reduce anxiety and stress. It also improved the quality of mental health and life of the subjects (5).
When used alongside other stress alleviation methods such as meditation, yoga can help keep stress in check.
Many people practice yoga as a way of coping with anxiety.
The interesting fact is that yoga helps with to reduce anxiety and this is backed by scientific evidence.
In a particular study involving 34 women who were diagnosed with anxiety disorder, it was discovered that taking part in yoga classes twice weekly for 2 months helped to lower the levels of anxiety compared to the control group (6).
Another study involving 64 women with PTSD showed that a 10-week course of yoga (once weekly) relieved the symptoms of PTSD in 52 percent of the participants (7).
We do not fully understand how exactly yoga reduces anxiety symptoms. However, it lays much emphasis on the importance of presentness and finding peace, which could help in the treatment of anxiety.
Yoga may fight inflammation
Yoga improves mental health, and along with that may also combat inflammation.
Inflammation is a normal response to one's immune system. However, chronic inflammation can trigger the development of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other pro-inflammatory diseases (8).
A study conducted in 2015 split 218 subjects into two groups: those who were engaged in regular yoga practice, and those who did not. Both groups then engaged in strenuous and moderate exercises to induce stress.
After the study, the individuals who did yoga had reduced levels of inflammatory markers compared to those who did not (9).
Also, a 2014 research showed that a 12-week course of yoga reduced markers of inflammation in breast cancer survivors with chronic fatigue (10).
Although there is a need for further research to verify the positive effects of yoga on inflammation, findings from these researches indicate that it may help with protection against some diseases caused by inflammation.
Yoga boosts heart health
The heart is a very important component of your cardiovascular system. It pumps and circulates blood throughout your body, supplying important nutrients to your tissues.
Clinical research has shown that yoga can boost heart health and drastically cut down on the risk of heart disease.
A particular study found that adults over the age of 40 who had done yoga for over 5 years had a reduced pulse rate and blood pressure compared to those who did not (11).
High blood pressure is a very important cause of cardiovascular disorders, such as stroke and heart attacks. Reducing your blood pressure can minimize the risk of these problems (12).
Studies have also shown that making yoga a component of a healthy lifestyle could drastically minimize the progression of heart disease.
A study investigated the effects of a 12-month yoga training on 113 patients diagnosed with heart disease. Along with yoga, the patients also modified their diet and engaged in stress management programs.
Participants in the study had their bad cholesterol levels decrease by 23 percent. Also, heart disease failed to progress in 47 percent of the patients (13).
It is not clear how much impact yoga may have on heart disease compared to other factors such as diet. But it can drastically reduce stress, and stress is a major contributor to heart disease (14).
It is a natural antidepressant
Research shows that yoga may have anti-depressant effects.
This may be due to its ability to reduce cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone that regulates serotonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter usually associated with depression (15).
In a particular research, participants in an alcohol rehab program practiced Sudarshan Kriya, a form of yoga focusing on rhythmic breathing.
After doing yoga for two weeks, subjects had reduced levels of cortisol and depression. Their ACTH levels were also on the low side. ACTH stimulates the secretion of cortisol (2).
These results indicate that yoga may help combat depression, on its own or together with traditional treatment techniques.
Yoga improves balance and flexibility
A major reason why people include yoga as a part of their fitness routine is to enhance flexibility & balance.
This benefit is backed by considerable research, proving beyond a reasonable doubt that yoga can optimize performance via the adoption of specific poses that target balance and flexibility.
A recent study examined the impact of yoga on male athletes. Results from the study showed that yoga caused a significant increase in balance and flexibility, compared to the control (18).
A study conducted in 2013 found that yoga could improve mobility and flexibility in adults (19).
Doing yoga for 15 – 30 minutes daily could increase your balance and flexibility greatly.
What’s the summary?
Multiple pieces of research have confirmed that yoga has several physical and mental health benefits.
Making it a part of your daily routine can improve your health, increase your flexibility and strength, and reduce anxiety, depression, and stress symptoms.
Practicing yoga a few times weekly may make an outstanding difference concerning your health.