Yoga is an absolutely phenomenal form of physical exercise, mental discipline, and spiritual healing. You know something is awesome when it can do all of those things at once. Anyway, there is a long list of benefits that you can and should take advantage of that all come with the simple thing that is Yoga. You may think that Yoga is only for women, but that is not so, especially seeing as more and more men are taking it up every day. No matter if you are a man or woman, Yoga has many different advantages for the mind and body, all of which you absolutely need to start taking advantage of as soon as possible!
What Is Yoga?
Yoga is originally a Hindu form of exercise, stretching, and mental training. In fact, it is also seen as a spiritual and ascetic discipline as well as a physical one. Yoga is widely practiced around the world and is revered for its mental and physical benefits. It involves a lot of mental focus, breathing control, meditation, and simple poses which are meant to strengthen both your body and mind. There are many different variations of Yoga, with a popular one being hot Yoga, a type which is practiced in a very hot room.
Benefit #1: Muscle Strengthening
One big benefit that you get from doing some regular Yoga is the strengthening of your muscles. Yoga involves a lot of positions and movements that force you to hold up your body weight in one way or another, and in some pretty odd looking positions too. The obvious result of this is that your muscles will become stronger over time.
A big part of this involves your back muscles and your core, as many Yoga poses are oriented towards challenging those muscles. This is however also true for virtually every other muscle in your body too. Everything from your forearms and shoulders to your glutes and calves will become stronger thanks to some Yoga classes.
Of course, we all want strong muscles, and that is not only because they look sexy. Strong muscles help to increase our physical performance, they make sports easier, they make us run faster and jump higher, and they help to make a plethora of daily tasks much easier, not to mention that it doesn’t hurt our self-esteem either.
Benefit #2: Cartilage & Joint Protection
Yet another benefit that you can reap from doing Yoga is that it is fantastic for the health of your cartilage and for your joints. This is in part due to your increased flexibility thanks to Yoga, especially when it comes to the health of your joints, but there is even more to it than that. You see, the problem is that as you age, especially if you are not physically active, your joints, or to be exact, the cartilage that helps your joints move smoothly, starts to break down and deteriorate.
This can cause some seriously painful problems such as arthritis in your old age, plus having no cartilage between your joints will be painful either way, not to mention cause a limited range of motion. Yoga is a great way to mitigate the effects of disability and prevent things like arthritis because of the nourishing effect it has on the cartilage in your joints. You see, the cartilage in your joints requires nutrients just like every other part of your body.
The difference is that your cartilage really only gets necessary nutrients when it is in motion, such as during Yoga. Yoga has the effect of squeezing your cartilage, which is very beneficial because your sponge-like cartilage needs to be squeezed to get nutrients.
Benefit #3: Flexibility
One of the biggest benefits that you will be able to reap thanks to some regular Yoga is increasing your flexibility. You may not be all that flexible yet and touching your toes might seem akin to flying under your own power when it comes to your first Yoga class. However, as you go back to your Yoga class day after day, you will notice your muscles, joints, and ligaments getting looser and looser.
Before you know it, you will be bending over backward and wrapping yourself up like a pretzel without any issue at all. Many, if not all of the poses that you do in Yoga will stretch out your body in one way or another, thus making you more flexible as time goes on. Being more flexible is great for many different things including preventing pulled muscles and other injuries, plus it can be pretty useful when it comes to your love life as well.
Being more flexible is also useful in terms of relieving certain aches and pains. For instance, having tight hips can cause knee pain, a tight upper back can cause back pain, and tight hamstrings can lead to severe lower back pain, all problems that can be solved with some simple Yoga.
Benefit #4: Strengthening The Immune System & Regulating The Adrenal System
Yoga can also be very beneficial for your immune system because it helps to drain your lymphatic system. When you do Yoga, you stretch out your muscles and compress them at the same time, plus you move your organs around too.
This has the effect of draining a viscous fluid known as lymph out of the various lymph nodes in your body. This fluid is something that your body will produce on its own, but the new fluid that is created after the old fluid is drained out, is much more effective at disposing of toxic chemicals and waste, killing cancer cells, and fighting off infection in general.
Another reason why Yoga helps you improve the function of your immune system has to do with the levels of cortisol in your body. Regular Yoga can help lower cortisol levels and that is generally a good thing. Yes, increased levels of cortisol can temporarily increase immune function and it can help with memory too, but that is not the case for prolonged periods where cortisol levels are high.
Prolonged periods of high cortisol levels can damage your immune system, decrease your long and short term memory, can cause depression, and even osteoporosis too. Therefore, Yoga can help prevent all of those conditions by regulating your adrenal glands and your overall cortisol levels.
Benefit #5: Heart Health & Increasing Blood Flow
Now to be clear, most of the things you do in Yoga are not technically considered to be aerobic exercises, which is the kind of exercise needed to increase the health of your heart, but that is not always true because Yoga can actually improve your heart health. You can actually perform Yoga at a fast pace or engage in certain types of Yoga which incorporate aspects of aerobic fitness. In essence, this means that you get your heart pumping at an aerobic level, which means that it is pumping much faster than normal.
Your heart beating much faster than normal is akin to lifting weights for your muscles, or in other words, it makes it stronger and more efficient. Having a healthier heart has many different benefits including the lowering of your resting heart rate, the increased efficiency of your heart, a reduced risk of heart attacks and strokes, a reduction in heart and arterial disease, and increased endurance too.
One of the biggest benefits that you get from Yoga and aerobic exercise in general is that it will help lower your blood pressure, plus of course, provide you with a longer and healthier life in general.
Moreover, many Yoga exercises and poses also help to increase circulation, and not only because your heart works more efficiently. This is because poses such as those where you twist parts of your body help to wring blood out of your organs, send it back to your lungs and heart for oxygenation, and ultimately help to bring more fresh blood to your organs, something which benefits them in multiple ways.
Certain poses such as handstands can also help blood flow more readily from the legs and pelvis back to your heart, something that can help you if you suffer from swollen ankles, swollen legs, and kidney problems too. Finally, Yoga can also help create more hemoglobin in your blood, which are the things that carry oxygen throughout your body, thus giving your body a better supply of oxygen, something which it needs for many different things including physical activity.
On a side note, the aerobic effects of certain Yoga poses and types of Yoga also help to increase the efficiency at which your lungs absorb and process oxygen, which is also known as VO2, thus allowing your body to use more oxygen. The combination of better circulation, a more efficient heart, more oxygen carrying hemoglobin, and stronger lungs all lead to one main benefit, that being increased muscular endurance and a better ability to perform physical activity for a prolonged period of time.
Benefit #6: Maintaining A Healthy Digestive System
The next benefit that you get from doing Yoga is that it can prevent and control digestion issues such as irritable bowel syndrome, and can help you digest food better even if you do have a healthy digestive system. This is because Yoga involves a lot of twisting poses that cause your bowels and intestines to contract and loosen.
The long term effect of this is that Yoga stimulates your body to pass food and waste through itself more quickly, thus aiding in proper digestion, good nutrient absorption, and regularity in the bathroom. Instead of pounding back glasses full of that disgusting Metamucil, you can always try doing some Yoga instead.
Benefit #7: Bettering Your Posture – Your Back
Another benefit that you can get from doing even minimal Yoga is an improvement in your overall posture. Since Yoga does a lot to make your more flexible and limber, and also helps to strengthen your core and back muscles, the result will be better posture. Having good posture, which means having a straight back with your head directly above it, requires a strong core, back, shoulders, and good neck muscles too. Yoga is something that through various poses will help strengthen all of the necessary muscles needed for good posture.
Having good posture is not only good for looking more confident and taller, but also for your physical health. When you have bad posture, you will most likely be slouched over with your head leaning forward, something that can cause fatigue in your neck and back. When you have good posture with a straight back and your head perfectly above your back, it takes a lot less effort for your muscles to keep you balanced and upright, therefore decreasing muscle fatigue.
Moreover, having good posture is also a great way to relieve daily pains. This is because bad posture often leads to neck, back, and leg pain, all things which some regular Yoga exercises can help get rid of. On a side note, Yoga is also good for your back, especially your spinal disks because they can get damaged and compress nerves. Some simple Yoga moves can go a long way in decompressing your spine and the nerves in it, plus it helps deliver much-needed nutrients to your spinal cord too.
Benefit #8: Increased Cognitive Abilities
Something else that Yoga is shown to help you with is with a long list of cognitive abilities. First of all, Yoga requires a whole lot of focus and concentration, both things which can be improved through training. Without concentration and focus, you can’t really do Yoga. Exercise like Yoga is also known to cause an increase in the production of neurotransmitters in your brain as well as the rate at which those transmitters function.
This has the effect of increasing your long and short term memory, your focus and concentration, your problem solving skills, and your overall cognitive abilities. Yoga is also a type of exercise that concentrates on being in touch with your mind and improving mental skills, something which everybody can definitely benefit from.
Benefit #9: Better Bone Health
The next benefit you need to take advantage of through Yoga are the serious bone building benefits that it brings to the table. Many Yoga positions are known as weight bearing exercises. Weight bearing exercises are any kind of exercises which force a certain part of your body to hold up your own body weight and put a larger than normal amount of strain and pressure on your bones. This has the effect of increasing the strength, size, and density of your bones.
There are many Yoga poses which have you on your legs, or just one leg, and many which have you supporting your weight with your arms. Well, when you do any of those things, the weight you put on your bones causes the cells in your bones known as osteoblasts to generate more bone mass, thus resulting in thicker, denser, and stronger bones.
This is a very useful benefit, especially as you get older because old age can cause bone diseases such as osteoporosis, something which can be prevented or mitigated through bone building exercises such as Yoga. Moreover, having stronger bones also means that you have a lower chance of suffering a fracture or broken bone.
Benefit #10: It Helps Make You Happier
Yoga is also good for your mind, not just for your body. Yoga is good because it helps to provide your mind with more beneficial neurochemicals. Yoga is shown to increase the levels of serotonin, dopamine, and certain endocannabinoids, all of which are shown to make you feel happier, decrease anxiety, and help get rid of the effects of depression too.
These neurochemicals are all very important for your mental wellbeing and for regulating mood. This phenomenon of exercise producing neurochemicals which make you feel happier, elated, and joyful, is also known as the runner’s high.
Also, Yoga is shown to decrease the amount of monoamine oxidase in your brain. This is a substance that breaks down neurotransmitters, something which negatively affects your mood and cognitive abilities. The bottom line is that Yoga can provide for a happier you and that is a big bonus. On a side note, Yoga is also shown to relieve stress and relieve you of negative feelings such as anger and rage.
Benefit #11: Improving Your Balance
Yet another big benefit that you can reap from doing Yoga is an increased ability to balance. Yoga involves a whole lot of odd positions that force you to balance, something that is otherwise known as proprioception. Your balance is actually regulated by things called proprioceptors.
Well, just like with your bones, muscles, memory, and more, the more you do balance training, the better your proprioceptors become at accommodating for positional shifts and imbalances in order to help your body stay upright. Having better balance is a great thing to have, especially if you like sports that require a lot of it, sports such as skating or hockey, or even gymnastics too.
The fact of the matter is that the benefits of Yoga definitely outweigh any preconceived notions that you may have about it. Your strength, balance, flexibility, digestion, mental abilities, happiness, and more will all benefit from this awesome discipline so you should definitely give it a try as soon as you can!
If you have any questions or comments about Yoga, please feel free to shoot us a message and we will get back to you at the first available opportunity.