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-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.
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.
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.
4. Practicing Yoga Can Lower the Risk of Cancer
Cancer remains one of the leading causes of death in the United States. In fact, one of four deaths in the U.S. can be attributed to some form of cancer.
Practicing yoga may prevent the genetic mutation from expressing in those who have a family history of cancer. This means that it can have powerful cancer prevention properties. It can also help reduce fat stores in the body, which reduces the likelihood of cancer developing and spreading.
Chronic stress, which yoga helps to reduce, weakens your immune system and leaves you more susceptible to diseases like cancer. It can also enable cancer cells to grow and spread as it increases negative hormones and certain growth factors.
The stress-busting quality of yoga can boost your immune system and regulate hormones, both important cancer-fighting tools.