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There are many benefits of doing yoga.  It is an ancient body and mind practice that involves movement, breathing, and meditation techniques to help promote physical and mental well-being. There are many disciplines within the practice of yoga. There are also different types of yoga. A regular yoga session or practice can promote strength, calmness, endurance, well-being, and flexibility. Today, regular is a common form of exercise. A look into the 2017 national survey, in the entire United States of America, one in every seven adults has practiced yoga in the last 12 months (Cowen & Adams, 2017).

The overall philosophy of this practice is all about connecting the mind, the body, and the spirit. There are different types of yoga, including ashtanga yoga, Bikram yoga, Iyengar yoga, hatha yoga, and kundalini yoga. One needs to choose a yoga style according to their fitness level and goals.  A passionate practitioner quickly recognizes the benefits of doing yoga. Western science has begun giving some actual proof and clues as to how yoga helps improve health, keep sicknesses away and heal aches and pains. Once one understands these benefits, he will have more motivation to step onto their yoga mat.  Below are ways in which yoga is beneficial to health:

The Physical Benefits of Doing Yoga

  1. Builds muscle strength

    Strong muscles help protect the body from conditions like back pain and arthritis and help prevent falls in people of advanced age. When strength is built through yoga, it is balanced with the flexibility (Ross & Thomas, 2018). When one goes to the gym to lift weights, he may build strength at the expense of flexibility.

  2. Improves flexibility

    This is one of the most apparent benefits of this practice. When one begins yoga, they may not be able to even touch their toes. When they stick with it, they begin noticing gradual loosening, and then with time, poses that seemed impossible will become possible. Pains and muscle aches begin to disappear. Tight hips can strain the knee joint due to an improper alignment of the shinbones and thigh. Tight hamstrings can cause flattening of the lumbar spine and this can cause back pain. It can also cause inflexibility in connective and muscle tissue like ligament and fascia, which can cause poor posture.

  3. Prevent the breakdown of cartilage and joints

    The joints are taken through their full range of motion each time one practices yoga. This can help mitigate disability or prevent degenerative arthritis by squeezing and soaking areas of cartilage that generally do not get used. The sponge nature of joint cartilage enables it to receive fresh nutrients only after after squeezing it out first. Neglected areas of cartilage can eventually wear out without proper sustenance. This would expose the underlying bone.

  4. It helps better bone health

    Exercises that involve weight-bearing helps ward off osteoporosis and strengthen bones. A lot of postures in yoga need one to lift their own weight. Some postures help strengthen arm bones. These bones are particularly vulnerable to osteoporotic fractures. Studies indicate that yoga increases bone density in the vertebrae. Yoga can lower the stress hormone cortisol levels. This helps keep calcium in the bones.

  5. Helps protect the spine

    The shock absorbers between the vertebrae are spinal disks, which can compress and herniate nerves and crave movement; this is the only way they get a supply of nutrients. When one gets a well-balanced asana practice, with many forwarding bends, back bandstand twists, the disks are kept supple. Long-term flexibility is a very relevant benefit for spinal health.

  6. Helps increase blood flow

    The relaxation exercise in yoga gets the blood flowing and helps in circulation, especially in the feet and hands. Yoga also helps to get more oxygen to the cells, making the cells function even better. Poses that involve twisting help wring out venous blood from internal organs. It also helps in the flow of oxygenated blood once the twist has been released. Poses like shoulder stand and headstand encourage blood flow back to the heart from the head and pelvis. This way, the blood can be pumped back to the lungs for fresh oxygenation.

  7. Helps increase heart rate

    The risk of heart attack and depression is lowered by regularly getting the heart rate into the aerobic range. Certain yoga-like ashtanga can help boost heart rate into the aerobic range. All the other yoga exercises that do not get a high heart rate also help improve cardiovascular conditioning. Research shows that yoga practice increases endurance, lowers the resting heart rate, and increases maximum take-up of oxygen while exercising (Cowen & Adams, 2017). All these shows improved aerobic conditioning.

  8. Improves balance

    When yoga is regularly practiced, proprioception is improved. This is the ability to feel what your body is doing. It also improves balance. People with dysfunctional movement patterns usually have poor proprioception. This has been linked to back pains and knee problems. When one has better balance, they are likely to encounter fewer falls.

The Mental Benefits of Doing Yoga

  1. Relief from anxiety and depression

    Since the practice is a combination of meditation, exercise, relaxation, and socialization, it is a good way of helping relieve depression and anxiety. When the stress response system is relaxed, the mind and thoughts are cleared to focus on the present (Evans et al, 2019).

  2. Helps reduce the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other similar conditions

    Yoga can help deal with myriad stress, including PTSD. The practice has better changes in perceived stress, the measure of sleep, stress, and anxiety.

  3. Helps boost focus and concentration

    Yoga boosts memory and concentration. This is because, during practice, one has to focus. The practice requires that one finds a focal point during his balancing postures. When standing on one foot, it is hard to think of anything apart from maintaining your balance. This makes you balance your senses, clear your thoughts and improve the ability of your brain to concentrate on one thing at a time (Ross & Thomas, 2018).

  4. Helps improve moods

    People who consistently do yoga enjoy higher levels of GABA in their brains. GABA is the neurotransmitter in the brain that controls how one feels. Low levels of GABA can make one suffer from depression or anxiety. Yoga can help boost GABA levels.

The Emotional Benefits of Doing Yoga

It is essential to point out that yoga:

  • Improves body awareness
  • reduces muscle tension
  • relieves stress
  • reduces muscle strain and inflammation
  • sharpens concentration and attention.

The practice helps calm the centers and nervous system (Evans et al, 2019). The positive benefits of mental health of this practice have made it an essential practice tool as far as psychotherapy is concerned. Studies also indicate that yoga can change mental chemistry. It may boost serotonin levels, which is a substance that regulates one’s mood. A regular practice can also help boost endorphins. Endorphins contribute to the overall feeling of well-being. Lastly, yoga can build positive emotions. Apart from feeling better physically, there is the emotional benefit of connecting with like-minded people in a way that is meaningful during the yoga practice sessions. Those who begin a yoga practice for stress management, physical exercise, or spiritual enlightenment get what they are looking for and even more.