7 Great Reasons to Develop a Yoga Practice
August 26, 2017
In the last article, we talked about the significant benefits of sleep, movement, and stress management. We left off with the fact that yoga is a powerful personal stewardship practice.
Today, we’re going to explore more of what an ongoing yoga practice can do for you.
1. Improves Mood
The postures and movements of yoga change the body’s “emotional” chemistry, acting as an anti-depressant. Exercise, in fact, can be just as or more effective for mild to moderate depression and anxiety than medication.
The “feel good” chemicals released decrease anxiety, and increase alertness and productivity. The activity also boosts self-image, self-esteem and a general sense of wellbeing.
This stress relief and positive psychology not only has an immediate effect that studies show can last at least two hours, but a regular yoga practice builds stress resistance.
The immediate release of positive emotion is a fantastic incentive to start as soon as possible. It can increase the quality of your day and also contribute to long-term health and wellbeing.
2. Better Sleep Cycles & Improved Mental Concentration
A 2011 study released in the journal Mental Health and Physical Activity showed that there is a solid correlation between exercise and better sleep at night as well as alertness during the day.
Sleeping more time while in bed (at least 85 percent of the total time)
Falling asleep in 30 minutes or less
Waking up no more than once per night; and
Being awake for 20 minutes or less after initially falling asleep.
A regular yoga practice can provide this level of physical activity and may serve as a natural alternative to pharmaceutical sleep medication.
3. Better Metabolism & Improved Insulin Sensitivity
Metabolism broadly refers to breaking down food and converting it into the energy the body needs to perform all its essential functions. Yoga improves metabolism, helping our bodies convert nutrients into energy more efficiently.
Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, is a major metabolic regulator. One of its vital functions is to remove sugar from the bloodstream so it can be used to produce energy.
For a large portion of the population, our bodies tend to become desensitized to insulin over time, making it less and less effective.
So, yoga, by way of improved insulin sensitivity, can assist with weight loss and decrease risk for developing Type 2 diabetes.
4. Better Posture
Yoga strengthens both large and small muscle groups. It also helps strengthen connective tissue, making it more durable. This balanced increase in strength improves posture and alignment.
5. Reduces Risk for Injury
The balanced strength that yoga provides, combined with how it lengthens muscles, gives our bodies the flexibility we need to prevent injuries, back pain, and balance problems.
It also helps us achieve the full range of motion of our muscles, making daily tasks as well as athletic activities safer and easier.
6. Slows the Effects of Aging
Aerobic activity, in addition to its other benefits, increases the production of Human Growth Hormone (HGH)—a hormone naturally produced in the body.
This hormone stimulates growth in children, but in adults, it helps maintain healthy body structure, blood glucose levels, and efficient energy production.
When we don’t produce enough HGH, it increases fat storage and the risk for weakened bones and muscles (including the heart). Growth hormone helps promote a sense of wellbeing, increased energy levels, and slows down the effects of aging.
7. Counteracts the Physical & Mental Effects of Stress
In the last article, we mentioned that yoga has built-in meditation and mindfulness training which stimulates the relaxation response. The relaxation response counteracts the physiological consequences the body’s stress response.
Anyone who has a pulse also has stress. It’s a normal response to events that make us feel threatened or upset.
When we sense danger, the body launches into an automatic “fight-or-flight” (stress) response. The heart races, muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, breath quickens, and our senses become sharper.
The stress response is the body’s way of protecting us. When we perceive a threat, our nervous system responds by releasing a flood of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones spur the body for emergency action.
When working properly, the stress response helps us stay focused, energetic, and alert. In emergency situations, it can literally save our lives.
But a constant flood of stress hormones into our system causes major damage to our health, mood, productivity, relationships and quality of life.
Life is full of setbacks, deadlines, frustrations, and demands.
And the more our bodies’ stress systems are activated, the harder they are to shut off.
But we can flip that switch with the relaxation response—
“a physical state of deep rest that changes a person's physical and emotional responses to stress” (American Psychological Association, APA).
Scientists have shown that practices inducing this physiological response “lower heart rates, blood pressure and oxygen consumption, and they alleviate the symptoms associated with a vast array of conditions, including hypertension, arthritis, insomnia, depression, infertility, cancer, anxiety, even aging” (APA).
The combination of physical movement and mental relaxation yoga provides:
Increases brain activity associated with joyful and serene emotions
Activates inflammation-fighting and disease-fighting genes
Boosts immune function
Helps manage GI problems, eating disorders, and addictions
In addition to these impressive benefits, practicing yoga in a group setting affords you social connection and an opportunity to form friendships based on shared interests.
Group yoga classes provide a sanctuary for restoration and collectively working toward the same goal—a more balanced and healthy life.
A good instructor demonstrates postures and also provides individual guidance to accommodate your ability and fitness level, easing you into a practice that meets you and your body where you are.
To give you a simple place to start, our Yoga Wellness Coach, Roxie Sweikar, helped us create a free PDF guide to lead you through 3-5 minutes’ worth of yoga postures beneficial for all experience levels.
Click here to subscribe for your guide!
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