Many research have been done on yoga on its health benefits. Majority of the studies consider yoga to be a safe and effective manner to increase physical activity. For instance, balance, flexibility and strength. But what is Yoga? What does it consist of? Where does it originate from? What are the health benefits of yoga?
Yoga are exercises whose origins can be traced back to India 5,000 years and was then adapted in different manners in other countries around the world. It aims to increase one’s health and wellbeing. It consists of postures and breathing. Posture aims to increase strength and flexibility. Yoga classes can take place in many locations such as hospitals, surgeries, schools and leisure centres. There are various styles of yoga for instance, Iyengar, Ashtanga and Sivananda. However, one style is not better than the other style and is dependent on your level of fitness. The duration of the session is between 45 minutes to 1 and a half hours. There are a range of health benefits of yoga:
It builds muscle strength – The difference between building strength via yoga and building strength via gym and weights, is the former balances strength with flexibility. Alternatively, the latter builds strength by using flexibility causing an imbalance. An advantage of muscle strength is that it protects us from conditions such as back pain and arthritis as well as preventing falls.
It releases muscle fatigue, chronic tension, soreness in the limbs - This can decrease stress and lower mood. Tension can present tension in the muscles.
Improves flexibility – inflexibility in muscles and connective tissues can cause poor posture. Having tight hamstrings can flatten the lumbar spine and can cause back pain and degenerative arthritis of the spine. Inflexibility can also cause neck, other muscle and joint problems. Tight hips can affect the knee joint, this is due to improper alignment of the thigh and shinbones.
Supports connective tissue - The whole body is connected. If you change the posture and change the way you breathe. An alteration in the way one breathes, can affect the nerves of the nervous system.
Eases pain – besides back pain and arthritis, other conditions yoga helps are fibromyalgia and carpal tunnel syndrome. Relieving pain can improve the mood.
Improves balance – Bad posture or movement patterns can lead to poor proprioception. Proprioception is the ability to sense movement in the joints. Poor proprioception is associated with knee and back pain. So by doing yoga, it increases proprioception which leads to better balance.
Increases health of bones – it can improve bone density and lowers the level of the stress hormone cortisol. This in turn aids calcium in the bones.
Prevents breakdown of cartilage and joint – yoga allows the joints to be in full motion and aid in preventing arthiritis.
Increases blood flow – this allows more oxygen to the cells. It also aids in circulation especially in the hands and feet. Twisting movements increases movement of venous blood (blood from veins that have low oxygen) out from internal organs and allow oxygenated blood (blood with oxygen) to flow.
Inverted poses such as shoulderstand, headstand and handstand can increase venous blood from the legs and pelvis back to the heart, where it can be pumped to the lungs to increase the amount of oxygen. Swelling in the legs is one of the symptoms of heart and/or kindney problems. Thus, yoga can lower the swelling that occurs.
It increases the level of haemoglobin and red blood cells – This increases the amount of oxygen to the cells. Haemoglobin is the iron-rich protein pigment found in the red blood cells. The role of the red blood cells is to carry oxygen around the body via the blood. How? Haemoglobin binds to the oxygen to form oxyhaemoglobin.
It thins the blood – It makes the platelets less sticky and lowering the level of clot-promoting proteins in the blood. This in turn reduces heart attacks and strokes.
Increases heart rate – It lowers the risk of heart attack by lowering the resting heart rate, increase endurance and improve the amount of oxygen uptake. It can also relieve depression.
Lowers high blood pressure – A study took place where they compared the effects of Savasana (Corpse Pose) of yoga with simply lying on a sofa. After three months, they discovered that Savasana lowered both the systolic and diastolic blood pressures.
It improves immunity – When stretching muscles, it increases the draining of lymphs. Lymphs is a viscous fluid rich in immune cells. By increasing the drainage of lymphs, it increases the body’s ability to fight infection, destroy cancer cells and remove toxic waste products.
Regulates adrenal glands – Cortisol is the hormone responsible for stress. Adrenal glands secrete cortisol which can increase immune function and improve long-term memory.Very high levels of cortisol is linked to depression, osteoporosis, hypertension and insulin resistance.
It lowers blood glucose levels – Yoga lowers levels of glucose in the blood and also lowers bad cholesterol known as Low density lipoproteins and increases the levels of good cholesterol known as high density lipoproteins. It also lowers levels of cortisol and adrenaline which increases weight loss and improve sensitivity effects of insulin. Lowering the blood glucose levels, will reduce the risk of diabetic complications such as blindness, heart attack and kidney failure.
It increases happiness, focus, relaxes the body, increases you to sleep, increases self-esteem, inner strength and allows one to be drug-free. A study investigating the effects of people with asthma, diabetes and high blood pressure discovered that yoga aided them in lowering the dosage of medications and even some were taken off medications.
Moreover, it increases awareness, helps in relationships and self-care.
Furthermore, a study discovered that yoga nidra which involves contemplating an image in one’s mind, improves the quality of life for individuals with cancer and HIV. It also lowers headaches and postoperative pain.
Improves a healthy lifestyle
It prevents Digestive problems – Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcers, constipation are amongst the digestive problems that can be increased by stress. Yoga eases constipation. It can also lower the risk of colon cancers because moving the body helps more transport of food and waste products via the bowels.
It maintains nervous system which induces relaxation when having difficulty to sleep. Improve blood flow to pelvis if one is trying to improve pregnant.
Meditation, Asana, and pranayama are yoga exercises that can improve immune system. It increases the levels of antibody levels, and lowering it when needed when there is an aggressive immune function.
Kriyas, Jala neti and other exercises can increase breathing via the nose which filters the air, warms it as cold, dry air triggers asthma attack, it humidifies it and removes pollen and viruses from the nose, drains sinuses and prevents the mucus from building up.
A study published in The Lancet revealed that in yoga, there is a technique known as ‘complete breathing’ which helps patients with congestive heart failure as they have lung problems. This led to increased oxygen saturation of their blood and improves various measures of lung function, including the maximum volume of the breath and the efficiency of the exhalation.
What's stopping you from doing yoga ;)
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