If you are a regular yogi, you might know how it feels to practice different asanas to address various health issues or to maintain optimal health. Freepik
If you are a regular yogi, you might know how it feels to practice different asanas to address various health issues or to maintain optimal health. For example, assuming you have done it today, you might feel more relaxed and optimistic, enabling you to focus on your work better. Regardless of your yoga expertise level, an everyday posture would help you feel better.
The word ‘yoga’ is derived from the root word "yuj’, meaning ‘to bind’ or ‘to yoke’. The word is used differently to denote several meanings, ranging from matrimony to astrological conjunction. But the underlying meaning remains the same - forming a ‘connection’.
In the following paragraphs, we will discuss why yoga is good for your health and the top benefits of practicing yoga. We have also recommended some yoga poses to address a specific issue or health problem.
Why Yoga is Good for Your Health?
Yoga is good for health and maintains your overall well-being, including both physical and mental health. Observing different postures and asanas of yoga that the media shows us, may give us the impression that this mind-body exercise is all about physical poses. However, yoga entirely includes diverse self-disciplinary and contemplative practices, including meditation, breath work, mantra, chanting, prayer, ritual, and all forms of selfless action.
Yoga is an ancient meditation and practice that offers practitioners a retreat from their busy and chaotic lives since ancient times. Irrespective of which corner of the world you are practicing yoga poses, it provides multiple physical and mental benefits.
Besides, yoga for health helps to develop inner awareness and improves concentration, enabling you to focus on your daily activities more efficiently. Yoga also allows people to develop the strength of mind and body rather than focusing on only one’s physical appearance.
There are numerous types of yoga, each serving a specific purpose in improving our mental and physical health. For instance, hatha yoga is one of the most widely practiced styles, and it encompasses a combination of various poses. It focuses on pranayamas (or breath-controlled exercise), a series of asanas (or yoga postures), and savasana (or resting position).
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9 Benefits of Yoga Proven by Science
Talking of yoga benefits for health, the list is almost endless. It can help in diverse fields, including balance issues, mental well-being, arthritis, osteopenia, chronic pain, women’s health, oncology, and other specialties.
In the following paragraphs, we will discuss the science-based and proven benefits of yoga poses, popularly practiced by practitioners across the globe. We have also added which yoga is best for health and what health issue it will address.
1. Improves Flexibility, Strength, and Balance
Yoga is proven to be the best approach to improving one’s body’s flexibility, which is a vital component of our physical health. We can enhance our body’s flexibility by combining multiple postures and styles of yoga for health and fitness, practiced in multiple intensities from mild to moderate to high.
Yoga is known to improve flexibility, especially in adults in the age range of 65 and older. As a natural part of aging, reduced flexibility is common. Studies have shown that yoga can slow down this loss of flexibility and, in turn, helps improve it among senior citizens.
Apart from flexibility, yoga for good health helps improve one’s body balance and strength. By practicing different techniques like deep breathing and slow movements, you can increase your body’s blood flow, thus warming up the muscles. Besides, certain yoga techniques involve holding a pose for a specific time period, thus building the body’s strength and balance.
Let’s Do It!
To improve balance, strength, and flexibility, try this Tree Pose or Vrksasana. Balance on one foot and hold the other foot above the knee or your calf. Never hold the knee joint in this position. In this balancing position, look front and focus on a spot placed in front of you. You can also keep an object to make it the focal point. Keep this balancing posture upright for about a minute.
2. Boosts Mental Health
Yoga poses for mental health can help manage stress and anxiety disorders. Stress can reflect in multiple ways, and the common signs are sleeping difficulties, neck or back pain, headaches, concentration difficulties, and drug abuse. Yoga can help you gain a more positive outlook on life and develop stress-coping skills.
You can improve your mental well-being by incorporating meditation and breathing techniques with yoga postures. Besides, yoga for mental health can be effective in creating calmness from within and gaining more mental clarity. Yoga can relax the mind, improve one’s body awareness, relieve chronic stress, sharpen concentration, and help focus attention.
Moreover, yoga poses are also known to boost your energy levels, brighter moods, enthusiasm, and alertness. By making a regular yoga practice routine, you will have fewer negative feelings, thus enabling you to have a positive perspective toward life.
What’s more, the answer to "Why yoga is good for mental health?" does not stop here. The best part is that by joining yoga classes, you can connect with a supportive community, allowing you to have a positive mindset. As a result, it can help you cope with loneliness by offering an optimistic environment of support and healing from fellow yogis. You can also choose a customized yoga plan to connect with your trainer deeply.
The National Institutes of Health said there is scientific evidence to prove that one can have multiple yoga benefits for mental health. For instance, yoga can support and improve mental health, stress management, healthy eating, mindfulness, quality sleep, and weight loss. Yoga can also help in the early detection of physical problems, thus enabling individuals to prevent them.
Let’s Do It!
Talking about which yoga is best for mental health, we have the Corpse Pose, also known as Savasana. As the name suggests, lie down with your limbs stretched gently away from your body. The palms should be facing upward. Also, try clearing your mind to feel more relaxed, and keep breathing deeply. Hold this savasana pose for about 5–15 minutes.
3. Relieves Back and Neck Pain
Yoga is an excellent pain reliever and can work wonders in alleviating back and neck pain. The best yoga poses for health, such as basic strength, can ease pain and improve mobility in people with neck or back pain. Many healthcare professionals and physicians recommend yoga as a crucial treatment for chronic neck or low back pain.
Let’s Do It!
Try the Cat-Cow Pose to relieve your back pain. In this one, get on all fours. Place your palms underneath the shoulders, and your knees should be underneath the hips. Next, inhale while letting your stomach drop toward the floor. Thereafter, exhale while drawing the navel toward the spine. While exhaling, your spine should be in an arched posture, similar to a cat stretching.
4. Good for Heart Health
Yoga for heart health helps reduce stress levels and body inflammation if practiced regularly. Many factors may increase the risks of heart disease, including excess weight or obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, unhealthy diet, cholesterol, physical inactivity, and more. Special yoga poses designed for heart problems can address many such issues, thus preventing them from occurring.
Some yoga postures, such as yogic breathing, can help control one's breathing speed and influence the cardiorespiratory center of the brain to improve its performance. Pranayama, also called "yogic breathing", is considered the best posture for improving cardiovascular functioning.
Besides, it is the most popular and recommended style of yoga for health and wellness. Pranayama can improve the overall functioning of numerous body systems. It can also help control your breathing pace, as evidenced by changes and improvements in stroke capacity, heart rate, contractility of one’s heart, and arterial pressure.
Let’s Do It!
The Downward Dog Pose, or Adho Mukha Svanasana, is a kind of inversion asana. It is one such pose specifically made to improve heart health. In this pose, too, you need to get on all fours. Next, tuck the toes under and then bring up your sitting bones. This way, you can make a triangle shape. Now, maintain a slight bend in your knees and, at the same time, lengthen your tailbone and spine.
5. Improves Sleep
We have already discussed how the best yoga for mental health can help relieve stress. Similarly, certain poses can also help you enjoy a good night’s sleep. In today’s hectic and busy life and work schedules, deep sleep has become a rare visitor in our lives. However, by practicing certain styles and postures, you can sleep better since you will feel more relaxed.
According to research, you can gain a positive mental attitude by following a consistent and regular bedtime yoga routine. It prepares the body to fall and stay asleep for an adequate number of hours, thus offering quality sleep.
Let’s Do It!
To improve sleep and maintain the proper sleep cycle, you can try the Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose or Viparita Karani. In this one, you need to sit by keeping your left side placed against the wall. Next, turn towards the right gently, lift both legs and rest them against the wall. Ensure your back is kept on the floor and your sitting bones are placed close to the wall. Try to remain in this position for 5–15 minutes, depending on your expertise level and exercising power.
6. Boosts Immunity
You heard that right! Yoga plays a vital role in strengthening one’s immune system, especially when chronic stress impacts immunity. With a compromised or weak immunity, you are more susceptible to numerous illnesses. According to scientifically based evidence and alternative treatment for stress relief and management, yoga can reduce stress and anxiety.
Many studies have found a direct link between practicing yoga for health regularly and consistently over a period of time and improved immune system functioning. It may be true because of yoga’s ability to fight and reduce inflammation in the body and also to enhance cell-mediated immunity.
7. Boosts Self-Esteem
Self-esteem, self-confidence, and body positivity are challenging among teenagers, adolescents, and young adults. Many recent studies have proved that yoga can have positive results in boosting one’s self-esteem and self-confidence, especially centering around one’s body image and capabilities. Also, as mentioned earlier, yoga can help reduce the symptoms of anxiety, stress, obsession, and depression, both among youngsters and adults.
8. Improves Bone Health
Yoga for health and wellness can also support bone health since many yoga postures and styles involve isometric contractions. It means that the length of the muscles that hold these specific poses won't change.
For instance, in the Plank Pose (Phalakasana or Kumbhakasana), the arms, legs, and trunk are all engaged without lengthening or shortening as they would while moving through a push-up workout. Another isometric pose is the Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II) pose, in which you can hold a position with the rear leg bent at the hip and knee. The yoga poses practiced when the joints are in flexion are proven to boost bone density.
Certain yoga asana styles are also known to reverse the bone loss commonly associated with osteoporosis and osteopenia. Studies show that performing just 12 minutes of yoga consistently daily can improve bone health significantly. Moreover, since yoga can improve flexibility and balance, it can prevent falls and fractures, especially in older people.
9. Supports Women’s Health
Many women have found that practicing yoga regularly can help with the side effects of menopause by balancing the hormones. Several styles of yoga, such as supportive and restorative poses, can improve menstrual cycles and boost the body’s metabolism.
Besides, yoga for women's health can help manage the cortisol and adrenal levels of the body by dealing with stress, sleeping problems, anxiety, and depression and increasing blood flow. Some of the best yoga poses to support women’s physical and mental well-being include:
a) Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)
b) Navasana (Boat Pose)
c) Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose)
d) Shishuasana (Child’s Pose)
e) Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation)
f) Balasana, Malasana (Garland Pose)
g) Vriksasana (Tree Pose)
h) Utkata Konasana (Goddess Pose)
i) Kapotasana (Pigeon Pose)
j) Mandukasana (Frog Pose)
k) Halasana (Plough Pose).
We hope the above yoga benefits for health and different poses will help you gain a better understanding of how it works. Start practicing yoga to improve your optimal health and boost your moods, positive attitude, and overall mental health. Try one of the above styles, depending on the health issue you want to address and your fitness goals. Or you can join yoga classes and learn the best posture for your personal needs.