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Yoga Nation Red Deer
Benefits of Yoga Practice

Benefits of Yoga Practice

Last updated: March 15, 2021 | March 09, 2021 | Yoga Nation

Table of Contents

Many people hear about yoga, but they do not know what it is or what important benefits it can bring.

For starters, it is good to know that yoga is, in essence, a way of life that is based on physical, mental, and spiritual practices that originated in ancient India. According to Wikipedia, the practice of yoga was first mentioned in pre-vedic Indian traditions in around 3000 BCE, in the Indus valley civilization.

The Vedic religion (also known as ancient Hinduism), and subsequent Brahmanism, constituted the religious ideas and practices among some of the Indo-Aryan peoples of northwest India and the western Ganges plain of ancient India during the period 1500–500 BC (see “Encyclopedia Britannica”, Bruce M. Sullivan (2001) “The A to Z of Hinduism”).

Yoga lifestyle implies healthy eating habits, bathing habits, social interaction and work. Yoga philosophy is rooted in a physical culture of health and well-being that explains why over 15 million people in the world now practise this ancient tradition.

The ability of this practice to enhance health and prolong life has been the focus of scholarly long time ago.attention. Thus, a millennium ago, revered Central Asian Muslim scholar, Al-Bīrūnī , translated Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and his take on Ayurveda into Persian, promoting yoga’s potential in the Indo-Islamic courts of South Asia.

Abu Rayhan al-Biruni (973 – after 1050) was an Iranian scholar and polymath during the Islamic Golden Age (See more). He has been variously called as the "founder of Indology", "Father of Comparative Religion", "Father of modern geodesy", and the first anthropologis.

Fast-forward to 1966, B.K.S. Iyengar’s Light on Yoga was pioneering for its index of poses and citations on the medicinal properties of each asana.

Every yoga asana (pose), pranayama technique (breathing technique) or meditation technique and other yogic habits (for example yama and niyama) offers certain benefits, but the practice of yoga as a whole provides many more benefits.

Yama involves body and mind purification techniques to get yoga practitioners a stable mind and the calm happiness needed during yoga practice. Niyama involves that the yoga practitioner avoiding violence, lying, stealing, wasting energy and possessiveness.

Practising yoga offers many benefits for both mental and physical health, many of these benefits have been backed by science.

Yoga can decrease stress and relieves anxiety

Yoga techniques (especially the techniques of meditations) quietens the constant “mind chatter”, relieves stress and promote relaxation.

Multiple studies have shown that yoga practice can decrease the secretion of cortisol, the primary stress hormone. In addition, the decrease secretion of cortisol keeps calcium in the bones.

For example, the effects of yoga practice on a group of 24 women who perceived themselves as emotionally distressed were studied. After a three-month yoga practice, the women had significantly lower levels of cortisol. They also had lower levels of stress, anxiety, fatigue and depression.

Another study of 131 people had similar results, showing that 10 weeks of yoga helped reduce stress and anxiety. It also helped improve the quality of life and mental health.

Relevant is also the researches made by Sat Bir Singh Khalsa. According to WIkipedia, Sat Bir Singh Khalsa is a researcher in the field of body-mind medicine, specializing in yoga therapy. Originally from Toronto, he earned his PhD. at the University of Toronto, where he also began his practice of Kundalini Yoga under the tutelage of Yogi Bhajan. He is (since 2006) an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and an Associate Neuroscientist (since 1998) in the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, at the Departments of Medicine and Neurology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, in Boston Massachusetts. Since 2007, Sat Bir Singh Khalsa has served as the Director of Research at both the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Massachusetts and the Kundalini Research Institute in New Mexico.

Sat Bir Singh Khalsa has participated in numerous mind-body studies. His work has been published in more than thirty papers. His most widely cited work explores human sleep cycles

Several of his other papers explore the application of yoga as therapy for insomnia, performance anxiety, mental health in a secondary school setting, drug addiction, depression, and as a predictor of low body mass and low medication usage

Citing both his own multiple decades of work and current research in the growing field of medical yoga, he emphasizes the integrated nature of each component, offering the example of how breathing practices cause a relaxation response and a consequent impact on the autonomic nervous system. Over time, this results in greater mind-body awareness, and ability to reduce stress through emotional self-regulation, and, ultimately, the possibility of a “meditative-cognitive component.”

Why it’s groundbreaking: While each discrete component contributes to health and wellness, it is this last element of meditation that he credits with extraordinary, long-term benefits as a practitioner’s increased mind-body awareness leads to permanent, positive behavioural and cognitive changes. “When evidence builds to a critical mass, policy inevitably follows,” he says. “For example, in the 1950s, there were just about the same number of studies on cigarette smoking as there are on yoga today. Society will remain ignorant of the mind-body connection at its own peril, but the change will come.”.

Also relevant are the research done by Ina Stephens. According to UVA Health, Ina Stephens is a Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist and Co-director of the Medical Yoga at the University of Virginia Medical School.

She researched: Disorders, including anxiety, mild depression, chromic pain, asthma, ADHD, and high-functioning autism, that can be treated with yoga-based interventions. Noting the mental health epidemic affecting today’s youth and referencing recent studies suggesting that up to half of all teens have complaints related to stress, anxiety, and/or depression, she has turned to yoga as a powerful mindfulness practise for promoting teen mental health.

Why it’s groundbreaking she's research: Yoga practice turns on parasympathetic tone and, therefore, modulates the body’s stress response systems. With increased balance to the autonomic nervous system comes the decrease in stress response hormones (neurotoxins like cortisol), lowering blood pressure and increasing heart rate variability. Additional benefits include increased levels of natural “happy neurotransmitters,” such as GABA, serotonin, melatonin and oxytocin, and the reduction to the size of the amygdala, which is the brain’s threat centre, responsible for fear, anxiety and stress. She rejects the qualifier “alternative” for yoga-based interventions, insisting that these tools need to be understood as a complement to Western Medicine rather an alternative. Her own health journey serves as a testament: After having open-heart surgery to treat a heart defect, she took no pain medication beyond the first day following procedure. Within three weeks, she was up and practicing yoga.

Yoga fights Depression

Some studies show that yoga may have an anti-depressant effect and could help decrease symptoms of depression.

This may be because yoga is able to decrease levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that influences levels of serotonin, the neurotransmitter often associated with depression (See more).

According to The National Center for Biotechnology Information, in one study, participants in an alcohol dependence program practised Sudarshan Kriya, a specific type of yoga that focuses on rhythmic breathing (See more).

After two weeks, participants had fewer symptoms of depression and lower levels of cortisol. They also had lower levels of ACTH, a hormone responsible for stimulating the release of cortisol.

Other studies have had similar results, showing an association between practising yoga and decreased symptoms of depression (See more information here and here).

Based on these results, yoga may help fight depression, alone or in combination with traditional methods of treatment.

Yoga makes you happier

If you feeling sad, sit in Lotus. Better yet, rise up into a backbend or King Dancer Pose. While it's not as simple as that, one study found that a consistent yoga practice improved depression and led to a significant increase in serotonin levels and a decrease in the levels of monoamine oxidase (an enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters) and cortisol. At the University of Wisconsin, Richard Davidson, Ph.D., found that the left prefrontal cortex showed heightened activity in meditators, a finding that has been correlated with greater levels of happiness and better immune function. More left-sided activation was found in long-term yoga practitioners.

Other recent studies have suggested that exercise is linked with increased levels of a brain chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is associated with positive mood and a sense of well-being.

It turns out that yoga can also increase the levels of this chemical in the brain, more so than walking, according to a Boston University study.

In another study, a group of women who were experiencing emotional distress took part in two 90-minute Yoga classes a week for three months. By the end of the study, self-reported anxiety scores in the group had dropped, and measures of overall well-being went up.

Yoga helps in quality sleep

According to The National Center for Biotechnology Information (See more infomation here, here, and here), poor sleep quality has been associated with obesity, high blood pressure and depression, among other disorders.

Studies show that incorporating yoga into your routine could help promote better sleep.

In a 2005 study, 69 elderly patients were assigned to either practice yoga, take an herbal preparation or be part of the control group.

The yoga group fell asleep faster, slept longer and felt more well-rested in the morning than the other groups.

According to The National Center for Biotechnology Information (See more) , another study looked at the effects of yoga on sleep in patients with lymphoma. They found that it decreased sleep disturbances, improved sleep quality and duration and reduced the need for sleep medications.

Though the way it works is not clear, yoga has been shown to increase the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness (See more).

Yoga also has a significant effect on anxiety, depression, chronic pain and stress — all common contributors to sleep problems.

Yoga relieve migraines

Migraine is an episodic disabling headache requiring long-term management. According to the The National Center for Biotechnology Information (See more), migraines affect an estimated 1 out of 7 Americans each year.

However, evidence shows that yoga is a useful adjunct therapy to help reduce migraine frequency and intensity.

According to The National Center for Biotechnology Information, a 2007 study divided 72 patients with migraines into either a yoga therapy or self-care group for three months. Practicing yoga led to significantly reductions in headache intensity, frequency and pain compared to the self-care group (See more).

According to The National Center for Biotechnology Information (See more), another study treated 60 patients with migraines using conventional care with or without yoga. Doing yoga resulted in a greater decrease in headache frequency and intensity than conventional care alone.

Researchers suggest that doing yoga may help stimulate the vagus nerve, which has been shown to be effective in relieving migraines.

Yoga helps to reduce chronic pain

Chronic pain is a persistent problem that affects millions of people and has a range of possible causes, from injuries to arthritis.

There is a growing body of research demonstrating that practicing yoga could help reduce many types of chronic pain.

According to The National Center for Biotechnology Information (See more), in one study, 42 individuals with carpal tunnel syndrome either received a wrist splint or did yoga for eight weeks.

At the end of the study, yoga was found to be more effective in reducing pain and improving grip strength than wrist splinting.

According to The National Center for Biotechnology Information (See more), another study in 2005 showed that yoga could help decrease pain and improve physical function in participants with osteoarthritis of the knees.

Specifically, the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) analyzed the feasibility of using yoga in the tradition of B.K.S. Iyengar to treat the symptoms of osteoarthritis of the knee.

Participants were instructed in modified Iyengar yoga postures during 90-minute classes once weekly for 8 weeks.

Participants met ACR criteria for osteoarthritis of the knee and completed a medical history and physical examination, Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC), Arthritis Impact Measurement Scale 2 (AIMS2), Patient Global Assessment (GA) by Visual Analog Scale (VAS), Physician GA by VAS, and 50-foot Walk Time before and following an 8-week course of yoga instruction. Eleven (11) subjects enrolled, nine completed at least one session and seven (six of whom were obese) had data from pre- and post-course time points available for analysis.

Results: Statistically significant reductions in WOMAC Pain, WOMAC Physical Function, and AIMS2 Affect were observed when participants' status were compared to their pre-course status. WOMAC Stiffness, AIMS2 Symptoms, Social and Role, Physician GA, and Patient GA measured trends in improvement of symptoms. No adverse events from treatment were reported.

Yoga improves quality of life

Yoga is becoming increasingly common as an adjunct therapy to improve quality of life.

According to The National Center for Biotechnology Information (See more), in one study, 135 seniors were assigned to either six months of yoga, walking or a control group. Practicing yoga significantly improved quality of life, as well as mood and fatigue, compared to the other groups.

Other studies have looked at how yoga can improve quality of life and reduce symptoms in patients with cancer.

Specifically, research was done on effects of an integrated yoga program on chemotherapy-induced nausea and emesis in breast cancer patients.

According to The National Center for Biotechnology Information (See more), this study examined the effect of an integrated yoga program on chemotherapy-related nausea and emesis in early operable breast cancer outpatients. Sixty-two subjects were randomly allocated to receive yoga (n = 28) or supportive therapy intervention (n = 34) during the course of their chemotherapy. Both groups had similar socio-demographic and medical characteristics. Intervention consisted of both supervised and home practice of yoga sessions lasting for 60 min daily, while the control group received supportive therapy and coping preparation during their hospital visits over a complete course of chemotherapy. The primary outcome measure was the Morrow Assessment of Nausea and Emesis (MANE) assessed after the fourth cycle of chemotherapy. Secondary outcomes included measures for anxiety, depression, quality of life, distressful symptoms and treatment-related toxicity assessed before and during the course of chemotherapy. Following yoga, there was a significant decrease in post-chemotherapy-induced nausea frequency (P = 0.01) and nausea intensity (P = 0.01), and intensity of anticipatory nausea (P = 0.01) and anticipatory vomiting (P = 0.05) as compared with the control group. There was a significant positive correlation between MANE scores and anxiety, depression and distressful symptoms. In conclusion, the results suggest a possible use for stress reduction interventions such as yoga in complementing conventional antiemetics to manage chemotherapy-related nausea and emesis.

According to The National Center for Biotechnology Information (See more), similar study looked at how eight weeks of yoga affected women with breast cancer. At the end of the study, the women had less pain and fatigue with improvements in levels of invigoration, acceptance and relaxation According to The National Center for Biotechnology Information (See more information here and here), other studies have found that yoga may help improve sleep quality, enhance spiritual well-being, improve social function and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression in patients with cancer.

Yoga improves flexibility and balance

Many people practices yoga to improve flexibility and balance.

It is known that the inflexibility in muscles and connective tissue, such as fascia and ligaments, can cause poor posture.

There is considerable research that backs this benefit, demonstrating that it can optimize performance through the use of specific poses that target flexibility and balance.

According to The National Center for Biotechnology Information (See more), a study looked at the impact of 10 weeks of yoga on 26 male college athletes. Doing regular yoga significantly increased several measures of flexibility and balance, compared to the control group.

According to The National Center for Biotechnology Information (See more), another study assigned 66 elderly participants to either practice yoga or calisthenics, a type of body weight exercise.

After one year, total flexibility of the yoga group increased by nearly four times that of the calisthenics group.

According to The National Center for Biotechnology Information (See more), a 2013 study also found that practicing yoga could help improve balance and mobility in older adults.

Practicing just 15–30 minutes of yoga each day make a big difference for those looking to enhance performance by increasing flexibility and balance.

Yoga can reduce inflammation

According to The National Center for Biotechnology Information (See more), the inflammation is a normal immune response, but chronic inflammation can contribute to the development of pro-inflammatory diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Chronic inflammation is a pathological condition characterized by continued active inflammation response and tissue destruction. Many of the immune cells including macrophages, neutrophils and eosinophils are involved directly or by production of inflammatory cytokine production in pathology of chronic inflammation. From literatures, it is appear that there is a general concept that chronic inflammation can be a major cause of cancers and express aging processes. Moreover, many studies suggest that chronic inflammation could have serious role in wide variety of age-related diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases. Inflammatory process induces oxidative stress and reduces cellular antioxidant capacity. Overproduced free radicals react with cell membrane fatty acids and proteins impairing their function permanently. In addition, free radicals can lead to mutation and DNA damage that can be a predisposing factor for cancer and age-related disorders. This article reviews the antioxidant defense systems, free radicals production and their role in cancer and age related diseases and also some of the recent patent relevant to the field. Study of the role of free radicals in human diseases can help the investigators to consider the antioxidants as proper agents in preventive medicine, especially for cancer and aging processes.

According to The National Center for Biotechnology Information (See more), a 2015 study divided 218 participants into two groups: those who practiced yoga regularly and those who didn’t. Both groups then performed moderate and strenuous exercises to induce stress.

At the end of the study, the individuals who practiced yoga had lower levels of inflammatory markers than those who didn’t

According to The National Center for Biotechnology Information (See more), a 2014 study showed that 12 weeks of yoga reduced inflammatory markers in breast cancer survivors with persistent fatigue.

In conclusion, these findings indicate that it may help protect against certain diseases caused by chronic inflammation.

Yoga can increase strength

Strong muscles do more than look good. They also protect us from conditions like arthritis and back pain, and help prevent falls in elderly people. And when build strength through yoga, this is balanced with flexibility.

Yoga is a great addition to an exercises for strength-building.

According to The National Center for Biotechnology Information (See more), in one study, 79 adults performed 24 cycles of sun salutations — a series of foundational poses often used as a warm-up — six days a week for 24 weeks.

They experienced a significant increase in upper body strength, endurance and weight loss. Women had a decrease in body fat percentage, as well

According to The National Center for Biotechnology Information (See more), a 2015 study had similar findings, showing that 12 weeks of practice led to improvements in endurance, strength and flexibility in 173 participants.

Based on these findings, practicing yoga can be an effective way to boost strength and endurance, especially when used in combination with a regular exercise routine.

Yoga improves heart health

From pumping blood throughout the body to supplying tissues with important nutrients, the health of heart is an essential component of overall health.

Studies show that yoga may help improve heart health and reduce several risk factors for heart disease.

According to The National Center for Biotechnology Information (See more), one study found that participants over 40 years of age who practiced yoga for five years had a lower blood pressure and pulse rate than those who didn’t

High blood pressure is one of the major causes of heart problems, such as heart attacks and stroke. Lowering your blood pressure can help reduce the risk of these problems (See more).

Some research also suggests that incorporating yoga into a healthy lifestyle could help slow the progression of heart disease.

A study followed 113 patients with heart disease, looking at the effects of a lifestyle change that included one year of yoga training combined with dietary modifications and stress management. Participants saw a 23% decrease in total cholesterol and a 26% reduction in “bad” LDL cholesterol. Additionally, the progression of heart disease stopped in 47% of patients (See more).

Yoga help the circulation

More specifically, the relaxation exercises help the circulation, especially in your hands and feet. Yoga also gets more oxygen to cells, which function better as a result. Twisting poses wring out venous blood from internal organs and allow oxygenated blood to flow in once the twist is released. Inverted poses, such as Headstand and Shoulderstand, encourage venous blood from the legs and pelvis to flow back to the heart, where it can be pumped to the lungs to be freshly oxygenated. This can help if you have swelling in your legs from heart or kidney problems. Yoga also boosts levels of hemoglobin and red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the tissues. And it thins the blood by making platelets less sticky and by cutting the level of clot-promoting proteins in the blood. This can lead to a decrease in heart attacks and strokes since blood clots are often the cause of these killers.

Yoga ups the heart rate

When you regularly get your heart rate into the aerobic range, you lower your risk of heart attack and can relieve depression. While not all yoga exercises is aerobic, if you do it vigorously or take flow or Ashtanga classes, it can boost your heart rate into the aerobic range. But even yoga exercises that don't get your heart rate up that high can improve cardiovascular conditioning. Studies have found that yoga practice lowers the resting heart rate, increases endurance, and can improve your maximum uptake of oxygen during exercise—all reflections of improved aerobic conditioning. One study found that subjects who were taught only pranayama could do more exercise with less oxygen.

Yoga drops your blood pressure

If you've got high blood pressure, you might benefit from yoga. Two studies of people with hypertension, published in the British medical journal The Lancet, compared the effects of Savasana (Corpse Pose) with simply lying on a couch. After three months, Savasana was associated with a 26-point drop in systolic blood pressure (the top number) and a 15-point drop in diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number—and the higher the initial blood pressure, the bigger the drop.

Yoga lowers blood sugar

Yoga lowers blood sugar and LDL ("bad") cholesterol and boosts HDL ("good") cholesterol. In people with diabetes, yoga has been found to lower blood sugar in several ways: by lowering cortisol and adrenaline levels, encouraging weight loss, and improving sensitivity to the effects of insulin. Get your blood sugar levels down, and you decrease your risk of diabetic complications such as heart attack, kidney failure, and blindness.

Yoga drains your lymphs and boosts immunity

When you contract and stretch muscles, move organs around, and come in and out of yoga postures, you increase the drainage of lymph (a viscous fluid rich in immune cells). This helps the lymphatic system fight infection, destroy cancerous cells, and dispose of the toxic waste products of cellular functioning.

Yoga regulates your adrenal glands

Yoga lowers cortisol levels. Normally, the adrenal glands secrete cortisol in response to an acute crisis, which temporarily boosts immune function. If your cortisol levels stay high even after the crisis, they can compromise the immune system. Temporary boosts of cortisol help with long-term memory, but chronically high levels undermine memory and may lead to permanent changes in the brain. Additionally, excessive cortisol has been linked with major depression, osteoporosis (it extracts calcium and other minerals from bones and interferes with the laying down of new bone), high blood pressure, and insulin resistance. In rats, high cortisol levels lead to what researchers call "food-seeking behavior" (the kind that drives you to eat when you're upset, angry, or stressed). The body takes those extra calories and distributes them as fat in the abdomen, contributing to weight gain and the risk of diabetes and heart attack.

Yoga help improve breathing

Pranayama, or yogic breathing focuses on controlling the breath through breathing exercises and techniques.

Most types of yoga incorporate these breathing exercises, and several studies have found that practicing yoga could help improve breathing.

According to The National Center for Biotechnology Information (See more), in one study, 287 college students took a 15-week class where they were taught various yoga poses and breathing exercises. At the end of the study, they had a significant increase in vital capacity.

Vital capacity is a measure of the maximum amount of air that can be expelled from the lungs. It is especially important for those with lung disease, heart problems and asthma.

Another study in 2009 found that practicing yogic breathing improved symptoms and lung function in patients with mild-to-moderate asthma (See more).

Improving breathing can help build endurance, optimize performance and keep your lungs and heart healthy.

Yoga founds a healthy lifestyle

Move more, eat less—that's the adage of many a dieter. Yoga can help on both fronts. A regular practice gets you moving and burns calories, and the spiritual and emotional dimensions of your practice may encourage you to address any eating and weight problems on a deeper level. Yoga may also inspire you to become a more conscious eater.

Yoga promotes healthy eating habits

Mindful eating, also known as intuitive eating, is a concept that encourages being present in the moment while eating.

More exactly, it’s about paying attention to the taste, smell and texture of food and noticing any experienced thoughts, feelings or sensations while eating.

This practice has been shown to promote healthy eating habits that help control blood sugar, increase weight loss and treat disordered eating behaviors (See more information here, here, and here).

Because yoga places a similar emphasis on mindfulness, some studies show that it could be used to encourage healthy eating behaviors.

One study incorporated yoga into an outpatient eating disorder treatment program with 54 patients, finding that yoga helped reduce both eating disorder symptoms and preoccupation with food (See more).

Another study looked at how yoga affected symptoms of binge eating disorder, a disorder characterized by compulsive overeating and a feeling of loss of control.

Yoga was found to cause a decrease in episodes of binge eating, an increase in physical activity and a small decrease in weight (See more).

For those with and without disordered eating behaviors, practicing mindfulness through yoga can aid in the development of healthy eating habits.

Yoga helps to slow down aging

Recent studies suggest that yoga and meditation may be associated with cellular changes that affect the body's aging process. Each of our cells includes structures called telomeres, bits of DNA at the end of chromosomes that get shorter each time a cell divides. When telomeres get too short, the cells can no longer divide and they die. Yoga, it seems, may help to preserve their length.

A study of a group of men with prostate cancer who took part in a version of the Ornish healthy lifestyle program, which included an hour a day of yoga, six days a week, showed a 30 percent jump in the activity of a key telomere-preserving enzyme called telomerase.

In another study, stressed care-givers who took part in a Kundalini Yoga meditation and chanting practice called Kirtan Kriya had a 39 per-cent increase in telomerase activity, compared with people who simply listened to relaxing music.

For those who don't know, Kirtan kriya meditation is a form of meditative practice associated with Kundalini yoga and is performed while chanting the mantra, Sa Ta Na Ma. The sounds of the mantra used in kirtan kriya meditation symbolize “birth, life, death, rebirth” and are believed to improve memory.

Yoga improves the inflammatory response triggered by stress

An inflammation is a condition of any part of the body, consisting of congestion of the blood vessels, with obstruction of the blood current, and growth of morbid tissue.This pathological process is manifested by pain, temperature, redness and swelling of the diseased area and can be caused by the action of chemical, physical, microbial factors, etc.

But increasing evidence shows that the body's inflammatory response can also be triggered in more chronic ways by factors including stress and a sedentary lifestyle. And a chronic state of inflammation can raise the risk for disease.

Researchers at Ohio State University found that a group of regular yoga practitioners (who practiced once or twice a week for at least three years) had much lower blood levels of an inflammation-promoting immune cell called IL-6 than a group new to yoga. And when the two groups were exposed to stressful situations, the more seasoned practitioners showed smaller spikes of IL-6 in response. According to the study's lead author, Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, the more experienced practitioners went into the study with lower levels of inflammation than the novices, and they also showed lower inflammatory responses to stress, pointing to the conclusion that the benefits of a regular yoga practice compound over time.

Yoga prevents cartilage and joint breakdown

Each time you practice yoga, you take your joints through their full range of motion. This can help prevent degenerative arthritis or mitigate disability by "squeezing and soaking" areas of cartilage that normally aren't used. Joint cartilage is like a sponge; it receives fresh nutrients only when its fluid is squeezed out and a new supply can be soaked up. Without proper sustenance, neglected areas of cartilage can eventually wear out, exposing the underlying bone like worn-out brake pads.

Yoga protects the spine

Spinal disks represents the shock absorbers between the vertebrae that can herniate and compress nerves. The spinal disks must be moved because that's the only way they get their nutrients. A yoga practice with plenty of backbends, forward bends and twists helps keep the disks supple.

Yoga betters bone health

It's well documented that weight-bearing exercise strengthens bones and helps ward off osteoporosis. Many postures in yoga require that you lift your own weight. For example, positions involving arms support help strengthen the arm bones, which are particularly vulnerable to osteoporotic fractures. In an unpublished study conducted at California State University, Los Angeles, yoga practice increased bone density in the vertebrae. Yoga's ability to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol may help keep calcium in the bones.

Yoga increases the power of concentration

An important component of yoga is focusing on the present. Studies have found that regular yoga practice improves coordination, reaction time, memory, and even IQ scores. People who practice meditation demonstrate the ability to solve problems and acquire and recall information better—probably because they're less distracted by their thoughts, which can play over and over like an endless tape loop.

Yoga guides your body's healing in your mind's eye

If you contemplate an image in your mind's eye, as you do in yoga nidra and other practices, you can effect change in your body.

Doctor of Medicine, Psychiatrist and Founder of the AMERICAN INSTITUTE FOR MENTAL IMAGERY - AIMI (See more), dr. Gerald Epstein is a pioneer in using creative visualization as a method of treatment. He has devoted himself exclusively to the development of these unusual methods of healing and has gained an international reputation. Coincidentally, skeptics will say. How could visualization, be it creative, have any effect on the physiological elements that trigger a disease?

Dr. Epstein's more than 15 years of experience show, however, that visualization exercises have cured a number of ailments, most of which are far more serious than a simple cold.

Other studies have found that guided imagery reduced postoperative pain, decreased the frequency of headaches, and improved the quality of life for people with cancer and HIV.

Yoga improves your balance

Regularly practicing yoga increases proprioception (the ability to feel what your body is doing and where it is in space) and improves balance. People with bad posture or dysfunctional movement patterns usually have poor proprioception, which has been linked to knee problems and back pain. Better balance could mean fewer falls. For the elderly, this translates into more independence and delayed admission to a nursing home or never entering one at all. For the rest of us, postures like Tree Pose can make us feel less wobbly on and off the mat.

Yoga Relaxes your system

Yoga encourages you to relax, slow your breath, and focus on the present, shifting the balance from the sympathetic nervous system (or the fight-or-flight response) to the parasympathetic nervous system. The latter is calming and restorative; it lowers breathing and heart rates, decreases blood pressure, and increases blood flow to the intestines and reproductive organs—comprising what Herbert Benson, M.D., calls the relaxation response.

Yoga tones and optimizes the functioning of the nervous system

As it is known, the nervous system regulates all functions in the body, acting on both their preparation and execution.

Three of the 3 Niyamas presented in the Yoga sutra are Śauca or purity, Santosha or inner contentment, Tapas or austerity.

Śauca or purity means the purity of actions, utterances and thoughts. It is also the maintenance of the purity of the physical body, but also of the subtle ones. The purity of the physical body involves, among other things, a healthy yogic diet and the elimination of harmful habits (for example, excesses of any kind, smoking) which has been proved to ensure the toning and optimization of the functioning of the nervous system.

Santoṣa or inner state of contentment involves always being satisfied with what you have, with what you live every day, with what you receive or do not receive. Offering without waiting to receive something in return is another step towards achieving that general well-being, independent of external sources or resources.

It has been proven that inner satisfaction has a significant weight in terms of toning and optimizing the nervous system.

Tapas or austerity involves performing a routine of spiritual practice (yoga). It also involves the ability to endure the action of opposites (eg, meditation in cold or heat, fasting). All this leads to a general state of peace that has been proved to make an important contribution to toning and optimizing the nervous system.

It has also been proved that the constant practice of yoga postures, yoga breathing techniques and meditations has an important contribution in terms of toning and optimizing the nervous system.

Yoga helps relieve menopausal symptoms

The main symptoms of menopause are hot flashes, sleep disturbances and mood swings.

A recent analysis of the most rigorous studies of yoga and menopause found evidence that yoga—which included asana and meditation—helps with the psychological symptoms of menopause, such as depression, anxiety, and insomnia.

In one randomized controlled trial, Brazilian researchers examined how yoga affected insomnia symptoms in a group of 44 postmenopausal women. Compared with women who did passive stretching, the yoga practitioners showed a big drop in the incidence of insomnia. Other, more preliminary research has suggested that yoga may also help to reduce hot flashes and memory problems, too.

Yoga improves couple relationships and more

Cultivating the emotional support of friends, family, and community has been demonstrated repeatedly to improve health and healing.

Regular yoga practice increases the intensity of feelings of compassion, friendship, sympathy, love and more.

Along with yogic philosophy's emphasis on avoiding harm to others, telling the truth, and taking only what you need, this may improve many of your relationships.

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