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health insider: 7 AMAZING BENEFITS OF YOGA, ACCORDING TO SCIENCE

YOGA IS BECOMING MORE MAINSTREAM IN WESTERN CULTURES AS THOSE WHO PRACTICE IT REALISE THE AMAZING PHYSICAL, MENTAL, & EMOTIONAL BENEFITS THAT COME WITH
THE ANCIENT ART.

Science has proven that yoga can have a transformative effect on the body, resulting in everything from lowered blood pressure to disease prevention.


Here are some of the many health benefits of yoga, as proven by science.

1. Regular Yoga Practice Relieves Stress and Anxiety

Almost every benefit that comes from regularly practicing yoga stems from the activity’s proven stress-reducing properties.

Stress has become the norm in our everyday society. With high-pressure careers, children’s demanding schedules, and little time to focus on self-being, care, more adults than ever are experiencing dangerously high levels of stress.

Those who experience frequent stress and anxiety are at a higher risk for clinical depression, high blood pressure, chronic disease, insomnia, and a host of other problems. When the body becomes regularly anxious or stressed, it may never get the signal to return to normal functioning.

This can lead to a prolonged ‘fight or flight’ response that is incredibly draining on the body and the mind.

Preliminary research shows that practicing yoga can have the same stress-reducing effects as exercise and relaxation techniques, which makes sense because it is essentially the combination of the two.

The controlled breathing that is inherent in practicing yoga is probably the biggest factor in reducing stress. When focused on breathing, participants have little room to engage in irrational fear, worry, or other obsessive thoughts, many of which are contributing to their stress levels.

Yoga also helps increase mindfulness and the focus on gratitude, both of which help to ease anxiety.

When we take the time to practice yoga, we are taking time to care for ourselves. This has taken a back seat in our current culture, and yoga can teach us to get back to basics.

Focusing just 20 to 30 minutes a day on the self-healing practice of yoga can then lead to other beneficial activities. It can be a gateway to a more calm, focused life.

Bottom Line: Yoga can help reduce stress and anxiety by focusing on breathing and increasing mindfulness and focus on gratitude.

2. Practicing Yoga Improves Cardiovascular Health

Heart health is crucial to our overall wellness. Hypertension and coronary blockage leads to hundreds of thousands of deaths every year.

Relaxation is incredibly helpful when it comes to heart health as it relaxes the blood vessels and reduces blood pressure while increasing blood flow to the heart. Because of its combination of breathing, meditation, and slow controlled movement, yoga is one of the most relaxing exercises on the planet.

Yoga, especially the more energetic forms, also increases the heart rate. This makes it as beneficial to your heart as any other form of exercise. In fact, yoga may actually lower the risk of heart disease as much as traditional exercise such as brisk walking.

Those who are interested in the cardio benefits of yoga should try out the more active forms such as ashtanga yoga, which provide more of a bump in heart rate than other forms. They might also consider pairing a vigorous form of yoga in the morning with a relaxing form in the evening to provide more stress-reducing and sleep benefits.

Individuals who have suffered a heart attack or are recovering from other heart-related issues also benefit from yoga. Because they are unable to perform more strenuous exercises such as jogging or bicycling, the low-key and less strenuous poses of yoga give them the exercise they need without taxing their already strained heart muscle.

In addition, those who have suffered a cardiac event also benefit from the stress-reducing effects of yoga. Having a life-threatening heart attack or stroke can induce acute emotional stress, which continues to have a negative effect on the heart even after the event is over.

Those who have heart-related illnesses often have to face the fact that they have a life-altering condition. This can often cause grief or depression, both of which are proven to be eased by yoga.

Bottom Line: Yoga improves cardiovascular health by lowering blood pressure, offering relaxation benefits, and increasing blood flow to the heart. It’s also beneficial for those recovering from a heart attack.

3. Yoga Strengthens Brain Activity

As we age, our brains change. Certain parts, such as the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus, shrink. Because these areas are crucial to our learning, memory, planning and other mental activities,

This can lead to frustrating memory lapses, inability to focus, and a struggle to retain new information. In extreme cases, in can even lead to neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Not surprisingly, yoga promotes a more focused, calmer mind through its controlled breathing and focus on relaxation. What may come as a surprise, though, is that yoga can actually change the physical makeup of your brain matter.

Using MRI scans, scientists have detected more cells in certain brain areas of those who practiced yoga regularly. Yoga practitioners had larger brain volume in their somatosensory cortex, visual cortex, hippocampus, precuneus and posterior cingulate cortex. These areas are in charge of visualization, concept of self, and directing attention.

Scientists attribute these benefits to the focused breathing in yoga, which maximizes oxygenation and blood flow to the brain. These benefits also led to fewer depressive symptoms and increased memory performance in practitioners.

The happier and more positive thoughts that flow from yoga can also help change the chemical composition of the brain and ‘rewire’ it to focus more on positive thoughts.

When we break the habit of reacting to stressful events with anxiety and negative thoughts, which yoga helps us do, we encourage the mind to embrace more beneficial thinking. This helps us embrace the present moment and let go of harmful anxiety.

Bottom Line: Yoga helps increase brain matter in various areas of the brain, leading to better memory, less depression and more focus. It also helps rewire the brain for positivity and promotes a calm mind.

4. The Deep Breathing and Poses of Yoga Improve Digestiony

Devotees of yoga believe that all health begins in the gut. If we are digesting food, air, water, and energy properly, every other part of the body and mind suffer.

Yoga improves our body’s internal rhythms, which assist in how we digest and detoxify. Even if you don’t currently suffer from any outward signs of impaired digestion, increasing our body’s ability to remove toxins is extremely beneficial.

Many people suffer from poor digestion and constipation. Not only is it uncomfortable, but it can also lead to colon cancer and other diseases.

Still others have developed chronic digestion disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn’s disease. These disorders can have a serious impact on our quality of life.

Relying on laxatives or other interventions is not a good way to combat digestive issues, and many find that a high fiber diet is not enough to resolve their issues. That’s where yoga can come in handy.

Deep breathing, the cornerstone of all yoga practices, is like a mild massage for the digestive tract. Breathing brings life force into the body, and helps cleanse it of dangerous toxins.

There are also a number of different poses, such as the peacock and nauli, that are designed specifically to get waste moving through and out of your body. Many of these are best done in the morning on an empty stomach and after a glass of warm water with lemon.

In addition to being helpful for improved digestion on its own, the practice of yoga also encourages individuals to take care of themselves with a healthier diet, more rest, and fewer processed foods and beverages.

The increase in self-care helps not only with digestion, but with feeling good as a whole.

Bottom Line: Yoga helps move toxins through the body with deep breathing and specific poses aimed at improving digestion.

5. Those Who Practice Yoga Are More Aware of What’s Going on in Their Bodies

The term ‘body awareness’ can take many forms, each of which can be enhanced by the practice of yoga.

As we grow into adults, most of us start losing touch with our bodies as matters of the mind take over. We focus so much on our thoughts and feelings, we forget about the mind-body connection and how powerful it is.

This can lead to a reduction in the enjoyment of simple pleasures such as the feel of the sun on our face, or the warm breeze across our skin.

It can also lead to a disconnection between ourselves and our bodies. As we age, this disconnection becomes more pronounced, which is why we often hear of seniors experiencing more falls and accidents than their younger counterparts.

When we’re aware of and connected to our bodies as we step into our yoga pants, we’re able to better enjoy the present moment and understand what impact it has on us both physically and mentally.

Yoga brings body awareness to the forefront. Each pose is focused on one or more body parts and as we breathe in and out, we are only only aware of that breath but also of the part of the body we are currently stretching.

Yoga is also based on being aware of what your body is and is not capable of. Because no pose should be forced, those who are practicing yoga must listen to their body and make adjustments based on what it is telling them.

Bottom Line: Yoga helps increase the mind-body connection. This enhances enjoyment of the present, and also encourages us to be more in tune with how our bodies move.

6. The Healing Powers of the Breath Aid in Improved Respiration

Yoga is all about harnessing the healing powers of the breath. Though all of us must breathe to live, most of us do not breathe efficiently.

Experts agree that to feel your best, you should breathe approximately 5 to 6 breaths per minute. However, most of us take anywhere from 14 to 20 breaths per minute, which is three times faster than what is healthy.

Breath changes depending on emotion, and vice versa. When we get panicked, upset, or angry, we tend to breath more shallowly and at a faster rate. When we get used to breathing this way because of chronic stress, our body gets used to it and we develop the habit of breathing quickly even in normal circumstances.

When we breathe at a slow and relaxed pace, we are signaling to the brain that it can rest and that no dangers are present. This reduces stress hormones, turns off danger warnings, and allows our body to recover.

Not only do we turn off the ‘fight or flight’ response of our nervous system when we breathe deeply, but we also increase chest wall expansion and lung volumes. This is beneficial to all who practice yoga, but can be especially important for those dealing with a respiratory illness or condition such as asthma.

Everything in yoga is based on the breath. Pranayamic breathing exercises can be performed anywhere when you are in need of stress relief or relaxation. Make sure the air quality in your practice environment is good, however – consider getting an air purifier if that is not the case.

All other forms of yoga, from the extremely gentle restorative yoga to the more intense vinyasa and ashtanga practices, also rely on a basis of breathing deeply and being aware of how your breathing affects every part of your body and mind.

Bottom Line: All forms of yoga are based on breathing. The regular practice of yoga teaches us how to pay attention to the breath and can improve lung volume and chest capacity, helping those who deal with respiratory issues.

7. Practicing Yoga at any Time of Day Helps You Sleep Better

Sleep is crucial to our energy levels, mood, concentration, and ability to be happy and successful in our everyday lives.

Those most sleep experts recommend that adults get 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep per night, most of us get far less than this. Even if you are in bed for the necessary hours, inability to get to sleep, waking up frequently, or tossing and turning can turn those hours into less-than-quality rest.

Insomnia or reduced sleep quality can be the product of stress, underlying illness or disease, poor sleeping conditions, vitamin deficiency, or hundreds of other factors. This often makes it difficult to identify what issues are at play.

Though every person may have a different reason for not sleeping well, yoga can have a beneficial effect on everyone’s sleep quality. Because the nervous system is responsible for a restful sleep, yoga’s calming effects are especially helpful.

A calm mind leads to a calm body, both of which play a part in how easy it is to get to sleep and how restful that sleep is. Many people are bothered by a ‘busy mind’ that simply cannot shut off at the end of the day.

Yoga teaches us how to breathe deeply and disconnect from our worries and from those distracting thoughts that tend to keep us up at night. By giving ourselves the tools to put thoughts aside and instead focus on our breath, we give ourselves an excellent tool for the perfect night of sleep.

Although a regular yoga practice done consistently at any time of day will undoubtedly affect your sleep, those who really struggle may benefit from poses done at night that are specifically aimed at helping you sleep more soundly.

These poses include uttasnasana, halasana, and savasana and should be done as close to bedtime as possible.

Others benefit more from a Kundalini yoga sequence before bed that incorporates long, slow breathing and meditation. It’s best to try out both methods to see what leads to a better night of sleep for you.

The Bottom Line: The stress-relieving benefits of a consistent yoga practice can help improve your sleep quality. Those with sleeping problems can also benefit from a bedtime routine that includes specific poses or deep breathing paired with meditation.

{Source: Jen’s Reviews}

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