Although it’s been around for thousands of years, yoga has only been practiced in the western world for a few decades. Modern medicine is proving that it does have the health benefits that traditional yogis and the ancient texts always claimed it has. Here are just a few of the benefits you can expect to receive from regular yoga workouts:
Flexibility: Holding a series of yoga poses in a controlled, methodical way really works your muscles. The result is that your muscles lengthen, and become more flexible. As you hold a pose, you are instructed to breathe, causing you to concentrate on your breath. As a result, your muscles work harder to maintain the pose while your attention is elsewhere.
Strength: The act of holding your body in an unnatural position, or pose, causes your muscles to work in ways that they are not familiar with. This is the very essence of strength training: Working muscles harder, and in different ways, causing them to tear. It is when they heal from this tearing that they grow stronger. Yoga accomplishes this strengthening of the muscles without the use of weights, using only gravity and your own body weight as resistance.
Less Stress: Yoga is very much a discipline that combines the body and spirit. You cannot work the body without also exercising the inner self, the spirit. Yoga participants report experiencing or perceiving much less stress in their lives after participating in yoga classes. The act of coordinating controlled body movements with controlled breathing integrates the body and spirit, causing a union of the two that promotes calmness and inner peace, two enemies of stress.
Improved Mood: Participants in yoga classes report a much improved outlook on life in general. Some participants have experienced improved moods that have been likened to the effect of an antidepressant. Yoga clears the mind and body of negative, unhealthy thoughts. The concentration is on flowing movement, accompanied by controlled breathing.
Pain Relief: Studies have shown regular yoga workouts help with chronic pain relief, especially pain associated with fibromyalgia. Subjects showed a decreased perception of pain, along with an increased desire to participate in everyday activities. They also reported an improvement in their ability to cope with setbacks, especially those related to their disease. Yoga workouts show promise in the management of other types of chronic pain, although more studies are needed.
Better Sleep: There’s no question about it, doing regular yoga workouts helps you sleep better. Studies have shown that participants experienced better quality of sleep, the ability to fall asleep faster, and to sleep longer once they did fall asleep. The results were similar to results gleaned from the use of sleep-inducing drugs, which shows promise in the management of sleep-related disorders without using drugs.