Looking for ways to stay healthy, fit, and as stress-free as possible during the pandemic? Yoga might be a good activity for you to consider!
Yoga has become a popular form of exercise in the last several decades. Globally, people have come to accept the physical and psychological benefits of yoga. A complete yoga practice can include exercise, breathing practices, meditation, mindfulness, and even diet.
Plus, there are plenty of companies as well as private instructors that provide classes online these days!
Today, let’s examine some of these benefits, focusing on yoga exercises, meditation, and breathing.
1. Improve Your Physical Strength and Flexibility
There is promising evidence to suggest that a regular yoga practice can reduce body mass index (BMI) in overweight and obese populations; however, other forms of exercise were better at burning calories than yoga.1,2 Despite this limitation, yoga was more beneficial than physical activity in other regards.
Yoga and other forms of exercise are great for increasing muscular strength and skeletal stability. Yoga is a great way to maintain muscle mass as we age.3 It’s unknown whether yoga is better at building and maintaining muscle than other forms of exercise.
Improvements in bone and joint health are additional benefits of yoga. Yoga and other forms of exercise are effective in managing and preventing arthritis.4
Perhaps the most notable benefit of yoga is increased flexibility. The hallmark postures of a yoga exercise are very effective at improving mobility and flexibility. These improvements were more significant than those seen in other forms of exercise.5
In a time when the majority of gyms and studios are closed, yoga is a great way to work on your physical strength and flexibility with minimal equipment!
2. Support Your General Health and Wellness
Yoga has many other benefits for physical health. For example, yoga can improve heart health by lowering cholesterol.6 Other forms of exercise reduced cholesterol, but they weren’t as effective as yoga. Yoga can also improve outcomes in patients with heart failure, though the level of improvement is small.7
Stress reduction is another great benefit of yoga. People practicing yoga show lower levels of cortisol, the body’s primary stress hormone. 8 High levels of cortisol are implicated in many chronic health issues, including heart failure.9
Additional health benefits from yoga include:
- improved kidney function6
- reduced antioxidant activity10
- normalized blood sugar for those with type 2 diabetes11
3. Destress and Be Positive
Yoga can also benefit mental health. We mentioned stress reduction earlier as a physical benefit, but it is also a psychological benefit. Scientists have looked at people’s perceptions of their stress in addition to cortisol levels. These studies indicate that people experience less stress after yoga exercises and breathing practices.12
People who practiced yoga also showed improvement in positive feelings and a decrease in negative emotions.8
Perhaps as a result of mood improvements, people practicing yoga also benefit from improved quality of life.5 They experience less fatigue and tend to sleep better.6
Those with mental illnesses can benefit from yoga, too. Yoga has been shown to help those with the following conditions:
People with schizophrenia experienced fewer psychotic symptoms after practicing yoga for four months. They also performed better at work and had improved relationships with family and friends.
From stress relief to flexibility to strength, yoga is great addition to a daily routine.
- Lauche R, Langhorst J, Lee MS, Dobos G, Cramer H. A systematic review and meta-analysis on the effects of yoga on weight-related outcomes. Prev Med. 2016;87:213-232. DOI: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2016.03.013.
- Hagins M, Moore W, Rundle A. Does practicing hatha yoga satisfy recommendations for intensity of physical activity, which improves and maintains health and cardiovascular fitness? BMC Complement Altern Med. 2007;7:1–9. DOI: 10.1186/1472-6882-7-40.
- Colletto M, Rodriguez N. Routine yoga practice impacts whole body protein utilization in healthy women. J Again Phys Act. 2018;26(1):68-74. DOI: 10.1123/japa.2016-0085.
- Wellsandt E, Golightly Y. Exercise in the management of knee and hip osteoarthritis. Curr Opin Rheumatol. 2018;30(2):151-159. DOI: 10.1097/BOR.0000000000000478.
- Oken BS, Zajdel D, Kishiyama S, et al. Randomized, controlled, six-month trial of yoga in healthy seniors: Effects on cognition and quality of life. Altern Ther Health Med. 2006;12(1):40-47.
- Yurtkuran M, Alp A, Yurtkuran M, Dilek K. A modified yoga-based exercise program in hemodialysis patients: A randomized, controlled study. Complement Ther Med. 2007;15:164-171. DOI: 10.1016/j.ctim.2006.06.008.
- Cramer H, Lauche R, Haller H, Dobos G, Michalsen A. A systematic review of yoga for heart failure. Eur J Prev Cardiol. 2015;22(3):284-295. DOI: 10.1177/2047487314523132.
- West J, Otte C, Geher K, Johnson J, et al. Effects of Hatha yoga and African dance on perceived stress, affect, and salivary cortisol. Ann Behav Med. 2004;28:114–118. DOI: 10.1207/s15324796abm2802_6.
- Mihailidou AS. Aldosterone in heart disease. Curr Hypertens Rep. 2012;14(2):125-129. DOI: 10.1007/s11906-012-0256-9.
- Sinha S, Singh SN, Monga YP, Ray US. Improvement of glutathione and total antioxidant status with yoga. J Alternat Complement Med. 2007;13:1085-1090. DOI: 10.1089/acm.2007.0567.
- Gordon LA, Morrison EY, McGrowder DA, et al. Effect of exercise therapy on lipid profile and oxidative stress indicators in patients with type 2 diabetes. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2008;8:21. DOI: 10.1186/1472-6882-8-21.
- Chattha R, Nagarathna R, Venkatram P, Hongasandra N. Treating the climacteric symptoms in Indian women with an integrated approach to yoga therapy: A randomized control study. 2008;15:862-870. DOI: 10.1097/gme.0b013e318167b902.
- Saeed SA, Cunningham K, Bloch RM. Depression and anxiety disorders: Benefits of exercise, yoga, and meditation. Am Fam Physician. 2019;99(10):620-627.
- Cramer H, Lauche R, Langhorst J, Dobos G. Yoga for depression: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Depress Anxiety. 2013;30(11):1068-1083. DOI: 10.1002/da.22166.
- . Duraiswamy G, Thirthalli J, Nagendra HR, Gangadhar BN. Yoga therapy as an add-on treatment in the management of patients with schizophrenia: A randomized controlled trial. Acta Psychiatr Scand 2007;116(3):226-232. DOI: 10.1111/j.1600-0447.2007.01032.x.