We all know that yoga can help you improve flexibility, strength and balance. Yoga also helps to improve your health and well-being in less obvious, but extremely important ways. Once you understand them, you’ll have even MORE motivation to roll out your mat and get practicing!
Here are 9 more ways yoga brings health and healing to your body, mind and relationships.
I know it FEELS like magic, but science shows that yoga:
1. KEEPS YOU MENTALLY SHARP
When you practice yoga, you are challenged to learn completely new ways to move your body, your breath and your mind. Every new activity causes the brain to build new neural connections. Continuously learning new things helps you to maintain brain function as you age.
2. HELPS YOU FOCUS
One of the key principles of yoga is concentration. To that end, many practices hone your ability to focus. When you can turn off distracting thoughts and pay attention to what’s happening in the here and now, you free up a lot of brain real estate. An uncluttered mind is better for problem-solving, information retrieval and clear thinking.
3. LOWERS YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE
High blood pressure contributes to numerous medical problems, including heart attacks, kidney failure and strokes. Yoga and meditation can slow your heart rate down and induce your body’s relaxation response, bringing blood pressure levels down to safer levels.
4. IMPROVES YOUR MOOD AND RELATIONSHIPS
Yoga has been shown to increase serotonin levels and improve psychological health which translates into better moods, decreased anger, improved self-esteem and better relationships with others. Psychological well-being has a major impact on physical health and on your relationships. It’s all connected.
5. RELEASES TENSION
Have you ever noticed that when you’re stressed you clench your jaw? Or your shoulders start rising? Or your stomach tightens? Little unconscious tension-holding habits can lead to chronic tightness, pain and stress. Restorative Yoga and Savasana can train you to notice when and where you are holding tension and how to consciously relax.
6. HELPS YOU SLEEP BETTER
Research shows that yoga can be useful in treating sleep disorders. Stretching, breathing exercises and restorative practices reset the resting tone of your muscles so that you feel less tense – both mentally and physically. Concentration and meditation practices teach you how to dial down the mental chatter that might prevent you from falling asleep. When you sleep better you can think more clearly, you cope with stress better and you are less accident prone.
7. BOOSTS IMMUNE FUNCTION
When you move, you increase the flow of lymph in your body. Your lymphatic system is part of your immune system. It fights off infection, cancer cells and disposes of cellular waste. Unlike your circulatory system, your lymphatic system doesn’t have a pump. In order to move lymph through your body so it can work its healing magic, you need to move.
8. GIVES YOU PEACE OF MIND … AND BODY
Yoga can teach you how to quiet your mind and disengage from unhelpful thought loops of worry, fear, anger and regret. This also leads to peace in your body. When you are stressed and worried that creates muscular tension. When you turn off muscle tension, it sends a signal to your mind that it can relax too. And it’s a two way-street. When you relax mental tension, it sends a powerful signal to your body that it can relax too.
9. TURNS OFF STRESS AND TURNS ON YOUR RELAXATION RESPONSE
You’ve probably heard that stress is the number one cause of disease, and it is. Indirectly. Stress wreaks havoc on every system of your body and is involved in all kinds of health problems from high blood pressure to insomnia. Mindful movement, breathing and meditation can shift you out of your stress response and into your body’s relaxation response, which lowers your heart rate and blood pressure, improves digestion, allows tissue repair and other restorative functions to take place.
10. EMPOWERS YOU TO TAKE YOUR HEALTH INTO YOUR OWN HANDS
It’s empowering to know that you can gain a measure of control over physiological processes like your stress hormone levels, heart rate, blood pressure, and mood by adopting a regular yoga practice.
There you have it! 10 great reasons to motivate you to get on your mat and get practicing today.
Amanda Tripp, Yoga/body nerd and woman of a 1000 opinions