5 Benefits of Yoga

It might seem that everyone from your neighbor to your nail tech is taking a yoga class or following a yoga series on YouTube – and with good reason. The health benefits of yoga are myriad, from managing day to day stress to treating post-traumatic stress disorder.

Harvard has expounded on the health benefits of this ancient practice, which range from reduced blood pressure in those suffering from hypertension to healthier eating habits. Here are five benefits of practicing yoga.

Increased Cardiovascular Health

Practicing yoga regularly has been show to reduce elevated blood pressure by helping to boost baroreceptor sensitivity, which aids the body in keeping cardiovascular pressure balanced. It has also been shown to lower lipids in the bloodstream, and to lower high blood sugar levels. Because of this, yoga is being more often prescribed in cardiac recovery and diabetes management programs, and its inclusion has made some patients less dependent on medication to manage cardiovascular conditions such as hypertension, heart disease, and arterial diseases.

Reduced Anxiety Response

Yoga helps to reduce anxiety and stress responses, making it a valuable asset to practitioners suffering from anxiety disorders or post-traumatic stress. Yoga’s helpfulness in lowering blood pressure is related to its impact on the brain, which appears to reduce brain activity when presented with stressful or painful stimuli.

Yoga helps to control nervous system response and helps to reduce nervous over-arousal, which in turn helps to control the symptoms of nervous system disorders such as anxiety and PTSD. Yoga has been implemented in several programs aimed at assisting combat veterans recovering from acute or severe post-traumatic stress disorder, with notable success.

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Reduced Depression Symptoms

Hatha yoga features three central practices: controlled breathing, asanas or postures, and meditation. An adapted controlled breathing practice rooted in hatha yoga is still undergoing study, but has assisted patients hospitalized for depression in recovering from extreme depressive episodes and bouts of general or chronic depression. It also helps to reduce the levels of stress hormones in the body, which in turn also assists in relieving the symptoms of both depression and anxiety.

Mindful Eating

The practice of yoga encourages mindfulness of both self and environment – and this mindfulness extends well outside the yoga studio. The mindfulness induced by the practice of yoga has been shown to result in better eating habits, such as eating more slowly, ceasing to eat when one is full, and declining to eat when one is depressed, upset, bored, or saddened.

Increased Weight Loss

Partly due to increased mindfulness when it comes to eating habits, yoga also helps to boost weight loss and body maintenance. Yoga helps to regulate and boost metabolism, which in many practitioners resulted in less weight gain in middle age, weight loss for those already carrying excess weight, and overall resulted in a more positive relationship with food – critically important for those who may struggle with weight loss. Yoga also enhances flexibility, muscle suppleness, and endurance, leading those who already practice yoga to pursue other forms of exercise as well.

Yoga is an ancient system of bodily discipline and maintenance that has held its value well into the modern age, and the many benefits of yoga can help to ensure a more energetic and vibrant existence – along with greater longevity.