If you are reading this, chances are you have already at least dabbled in yoga. Maybe you’ve noticed a feeling of peace after practice or your back pain has eased. It’s not a coincidence! More and more, research is proving that a yoga practice has physical and mental benefits that last well beyond the time you spend on your mat. Check it out:
- Reducing stress: Studies have found people who regularly practice yoga have low cortisol (a stress hormone) levels and perceived stress as well as reduced pro-inflammatory cytokines which cause painful inflammation.
- Relieving anxiety: Yoga practitioners have increased GABA levels, which improves mood and lessens feelings of anxiety.
- Managing depression: Again, by decreasing the level of corisol, a yoga practice may reduce depressive symptoms in many populations, including people with depressive disorder, pregnant and postpartum women, and caregivers.
- Decreasing lower back pain: It is estimated that 80% of adults will experience low back pain at some time in their lives. One study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine showed that a 12 week yoga program improved scores for disability and pain intensity and reduced opioid use among military veterans. And even better? The effects lasted for several months.
- Improving quality of life through illness: Used as a complementary therapy, yoga has been scientifically shown to improve the quality of life for people with the following conditions: prostate cancer, stroke, ulcerative colitis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Stimulating brain function: Studies have shown yoga improved the brain’s executive functions, as well as people’s mood. Executive functions are brain activities related to goal directed behavior and regulating emotional responses and habits. Other research suggests that yoga can improve mental flexibility, task switching, and information recall among older adults.
- Preventing heart disease: Yoga has shown to reduce risk factors for heart disease, such as body mass index (BMI), cholesterol, and blood pressure.