Yoga is an ancient practice that originated in India about 5,000 years ago. Western cultures eventually began to catch on—and for good reason. Quite simply, it makes you feel good. Whole. Energized. Inspired. But the question is: why does yoga have this power? What is actually happening to people internally to warrant all this buzz?
Modern science is catching up to the ancients and discovering evidence for a number of health benefits from yoga. The practice is rooted within your body’s tendency towards health and self-healing. Regular practitioners experience a wide variety of benefits such as lessening of chronic pain, decreased stress and anxiety, improved cardiovascular health, and better sleep – just to name a few. Below are our 4 favorite health benefits of yoga.
1. Relieve Chronic Pain
Yoga is centered on the mind-body connection. Science is catching up with evidence for what has always been intuitively known by yogis, physical pain is not isolated to the body, in fact, it is psychologically driven by one’s perception of the initial pain.
Reducing mental stress reduces your perception of physical pain. Several studies have been done on this subject and have demonstrated that regular practitioners’ general perception of pain is reduced. This supports yoga as an alternative, low-risk treatment for chronic pain. Of course, please consult with your medical professional before beginning any new regimen.
Although yoga in general is low-risk, not all postures are appropriate for everybody. Ease in slowly to the practice and don’t bite off more than you can chew. It is super helpful to have guidance, but for those of us who either are unable or uncomfortable with going to a studio, a virtual class is a great option. Check out Grokker Expert Siri Peterson Cavanna’s Yoga for Beginners Program. For new practitioners, or for those who need something gentle, the first video in her program, Warming up for Asana, is a perfect place to start.
2. Decrease Stress & Anxiety
The impact yoga has on our frame of mind is not limited to its traditionally spiritual scope. Scientists are now discovering that practicing yoga regulates your stress response systems, such as your heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol (the stress hormone) levels. As a result, regular practitioners of yoga generally experience a greater ability to adapt to stress. The deep, mindful breathing one does during yoga not only puts you in a state of relaxation in the moment, but can influence your stress responses for the long-term. Yoga’s “zen” reputation isn’t for nothing!
When you’re in need of some stress relief, or looking to add a little more zen to your daily routine, Grokker Expert Michael Wong has an excellent flow, The Beginner’s Guide to Yoga – My First Vinyasa Flow, that will help you relax and move through your stress and go forward as your best self.
3. Improve Cardiovascular Health
It’s no secret that stress has harmful effects on your overall heart health. Stress can impact so many of us and as a result, the rate of cardiovascular disease in the United States is concerningly high; it is currently the leading cause of death for both men and women. We know yoga practice can reduces stress, but how effective is it really when it comes to heart health?
When we’re stressed, our bodies increase cortisol production. This, as a result, narrows our arteries and raises our blood pressure – which doesn’t do our heart health any favors. The deep breathing and movements of yoga work to counteract the side-effects of stress. One remarkable study looked at patients with heart failure who went through an 8-week yoga program. By the 8-week marker, these patients displayed improvements in exercise and overall quality of life. The wonderful benefits of yoga are not limited to only the patients or the fanatics out there – they’re meant for everyone. Do your heart a favor and try out Siri Peterson Cavanna’s Yoga for Stress Reduction: Heart Opening video on Grokker.
4. Better Sleep
We’ve all been there, despite a full night’s rest, we still wake up tired. The problem is usually related to the quality of sleep we’re getting. Yoga has demonstrated improvements in the quality of your sleep, so that you wake up feeling refreshed and more energized throughout the day. In recent studies it has been found that a daily yoga practice for 8 weeks improved many aspects of overall sleep health, including: sleep efficiency, total hours slept, rate of waking up throughout the night, and the time it takes to fall asleep. The question is – how does this happen?
Scientists are still researching the exact reasons why yoga improves sleep health, however evidence currently suggests that the impact yoga has on cortisol balance and your nervous system is a major factor in improving your sleep. Instead of tossing and turning all night, yoga primes your body to wind down properly for deep sleep. Grokker Expert Celest Pereira’s Bedtime Yoga is a great routine to relax your body before bed. With yoga as part of your nightly routine, the nights of feeling wired and tired will disappear.