The many potential holistic benefits of yoga are likely a big reason why its practice has persisted for millennia. The practice of yoga involves breathing exercises and postures perfected by centuries of scholarly study and practice around the world. Yoga practitioners often tout its ability to affect positive changes in both physical and mental health.
Intrigued? Read on for the many potential health benefits of yoga.
How A Regular Yoga Practice May Offer Mental And Physical Benefits
Yoga first originated in India thousands of years ago, and its singular goal is the union of mind and body through the breath. This union, or balance between bodies and minds, is manifested by the overall physical and psychological well-being of those who practice it. At first, yoga was considered a spiritual practice, but it has since evolved into a popular exercise or even lifestyle for some.1
Traditional yoga involves slow, intentional, or deliberate movements that stretch and warm up your body, accompanied by deep breathing techniques. This is designed to affect your body’s blood flow and processes at the cellular level. In this way, a regular yoga practice may give rise to a number of potential positive effects both in your mind and body.2
While much research is still being conducted, there is already strong evidence to support these specific potential yoga benefits below.
Strength, Balance, and Flexibility
As yoga gently coaxes your muscles, joints, and bones through guided positions and you practice more awareness of your body, you may notice an increase in your balance and flexibility. Multiple studies conducted across different age groups showed a significant improvement in mobility and sense of balance from yoga. This makes yoga a potentially good exercise to help support ease of movement or performance.3
Many yoga poses also rely on your various muscle groups for carrying body weight. With consistent practice, you may find these movements becoming easier as you build muscle strength. Research suggests that certain yoga poses may help support upper body strength and endurance. And those who consistently practice yoga may enjoy more defined core muscles thanks to yoga’s deep breathing techniques.4,5
Yoga May Help Support Heart Health And Optimal Blood Flow
As it turns out, practicing yoga may also help support heart health. Research suggests that those who practice yoga consistently show better markers for optimal cardiovascular health than those who don’t.6
Another potential benefit of yoga has to do with how well your body circulates oxygenated or healthy blood. The calming effect of the breathing technique in yoga helps support healthy blood flow. And the many different yoga postures or movements may allow blood to access your organs more optimally.7
Evidence shows that yoga may have beneficial effects on bone density. And healthier bones may mean less risk of injury, particularly as you age. Yoga poses also encourage full range of motion, which helps stimulate and strengthen your joints and protective cartilage.8,9
Studies suggest that yoga may help support optimal lung health. Yoga’s breathing exercises help optimize the lungs’ capability to take in and use air for various physiological processes.10,11
Good sleep is essential to your body’s response to stress and aging. If you’re having issues with sleep, yoga might prove beneficial. Studies have shown that a regular yoga practice might help to support sleep quality. A regular yoga practice could be restorative and restful, leading to greater overall health and well-being during waking hours.12,13
Yoga could help support healthy immune function by easing the effects of stress hormones on your body. The breathwork and movement in yoga helps support optimal blood circulation throughout the organs, potentially helping to promote better nutrient transport and the removal of toxins and waste from the body. More oxygen in the blood helps support cell growth and a healthy immune system.14
Yoga’s calming and restorative effects could potentially help lessen the impact of stress on both your physical and mental health. Scientific studies show that doing yoga regularly may help relax and reset your brain, improving your psychological response to stress.15
Energy And Mood
Could yoga help support your mood? As it turns out, the potential mental benefits of yoga may include helping with a more positive disposition. When you practice yoga, you focus on deep breathing exercises and you intentionally focus on yourself. Research suggests that this may greatly impact how well you respond to negativity and face your personal problems and inner thoughts.16
Yoga practitioners may also feel more energized and well-equipped to cope with life’s daily challenges, thanks to the sharpened concentration and mental clarity commonly associated with yoga.17
How To Start Practicing Yoga
If you’re new to yoga, it’s best to consult with a health professional before joining yoga classes. That’s always a good idea any time you start any new physical activity. Once you get the “go” signal from your doctor, find a yoga studio near you, and ask about the different types of yoga you might be able to try. It’s important to open up a dialogue with your yoga teacher — let them know you’re eager to learn, and ask that you be guided through the sessions as you embark on your very own yoga journey.