Yoga has long been popular for its ability to help us relax, soothe stress, ease tired muscles, and build flexibility. Whether you prefer a vigorous power yoga workout or a gentle, calming routine, yoga offers something for everyone. Like most things in life, the more you put into your yoga practice, the more you will get out of it. Yet many people are unaware of the myriad of ways in which regular yoga practice can boost physical health. Here are just 3 of the surprising health benefits.
1. Immune System Improvement
Yoga has a complex effect on all of the body’s systems, and scientists are just beginning to understand exactly how this process works. Nonetheless, yoga has been shown to improve the immune system in numerous different ways. Stretching and moving through different poses helps your body drain lymph, increasing your ability to fight infections and rid your body of toxic waste.
Meditation, a key part of yoga practice, helps you target your immune system to boost functioning when needed and decrease the over-functionality that occurs in such diseases as psoriasis. Guided imagery, which is an important element of many people’s practices, has been shown to help with healing from surgery and fighting chronic diseases.
In addition, chronic stress and anxiety have been repeatedly shown to slow healing and make the body more susceptible to infections. The deep relaxation and contentment that come with a mature yoga practice can wipe away the majority of your chronic stress, giving your body the best possible opportunities to heal itself.
2. Blood Sugar and Cholesterol Level Control
Yoga has been found to affect blood sugar and cholesterol levels in several important ways. It lowers cortisol and adrenaline, promotes healthy natural weight loss, and improves the efficacy of both insulin and cholesterol-controlling drugs. In addition, as you move deeper into yoga practice, there is a natural tendency to begin eating in a healthier, more nutrient-dense way. The deep relaxation and lack of stress associated with a dedicated yoga practice can even curb emotional eating. All of these factors can dramatically improve your blood sugar and cholesterol levels without the deprived feeling that often accompanies a medically restricted diet.
While yoga may not fully replace your existing medications, depending on the state of your health, it can help support your treatment and minimize the chances for complications ranging from heart disease to kidney failure. Research has also shown that yoga can decrease blood pressure, further lowering the risks associated with a high initial cholesterol level.
3. Relieves the Pain of Chronic Conditions
The mind-body connection is powerful, and is believed to be at the root of such disorders as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and ulcers. The calming power of yoga has a major effect on these illnesses, encouraging the body to heal itself. Yoga poses themselves stretch muscles, keep the spinal discs supple, and strengthen the bones. In addition, a combination of yoga poses and meditation is a strong pain reliever. Whether you suffer from migraines, lower back pain, fibromyalgia, or many other chronic conditions, yoga can help relieve your pain.
Of course, each person is unique, and no two people with the same medical condition experience it in exactly the same way. If you have been diagnosed with any illness, whether acute or chronic, talk to your doctor about adding yoga to your treatment plan. Never stop using prescribed medications without your physician’s approval, and follow his or her advice regarding poses to avoid.
Speak with your yoga teacher as well. Most teachers are well-versed in managing different health conditions, and can make suggestions based on their own experiences. Never force your body to do something that hurts. Remember that yoga is not about how many poses you can do or whether you can make it through a high impact yoga class. Rather, it is about deepening your own connection to yourself, your beliefs, and the world around you.
Authored by Megan Kaplan, Community Coordinator of Centered Yoga.
Established in 1999 by Paul Dallaghan,Centered Yoga is fully affiliated with the prestigious Kaivalyadhama, a research institute in India dedicated to studying yoga from both classical and scientific viewpoints. When you feel ready, we invite you to start your journey to becoming part of this distinguished legacy by submitting your application for the 200 hour level residential training.
Are you curious about how to harmonize your health goals and do so by integrating yoga into your lifestyle?
Then you’re going to love what I’m doing in Costa Rica next summer! Join me, Sarah Plummer Taylor MSWc & RYT500, and Lisa Theis, RYT500, for the next Align & Shine rest, restore, and play retreat for women in 2016. This is the 6th retreat I’ve lead, and the third of which Lisa has co-taught. We love holding space for you on your journey. <3