The benefits of yoga extend well beyond being able to smugly tell people you do yoga regularly (although it is nice). In fact, as a form of exercise, it’s hard to beat for accessibility or ease – you need little to no equipment and it can be done anywhere you have enough room to move in.
Yoga is a great way to work on your flexibility and strength. Just about everyone can do it, too — it’s not just for people who can touch their toes or want to meditate.
Some types of yoga are about relaxation. In others, you move more. Most types focus on learning poses, called asanas. They also usually include attention to breathing.
Yoga for Flexibility
Yoga poses work by stretching your muscles. They can help you move better and feel less stiff or tired.
At any level of yoga, you’ll probably start to notice benefits soon. In one study, people improved their flexibility by up to 35% after only 8 weeks of yoga.
Strike a Pose for Strength
Some styles of yoga, such as ashtanga and power yoga, are very physical. Practicing one of these styles will help you improve muscle tone.
But even less vigorous styles of yoga, such as Iyengar or hatha, can provide strength and endurance benefits.
Many of the poses, such as downward dog, upward dog, and the plank pose, build upper-body strength. The standing poses, especially if you hold them for several long breaths, build strength in your hamstrings, quadriceps, and abs. Poses that strengthen the lower back include upward dog and the chair pose.
When done right, nearly all poses build core strength in the deep abdominal muscles.
Better Posture From Yoga
When you’re stronger and more flexible, your posture improves. Most standing and sitting poses develop core strength, since you need your core muscles to support and maintain each pose.
With a stronger core, you’re more likely to sit and stand “tall.”
Yoga also helps your body awareness. That helps you notice more quickly if you’re slouching or slumping, so you can adjust your posture.
Benefits for women undergoing breast cancer treatment
Breast cancer charities recommend yoga as a therapy for those living with the disease, to help improve overall quality of life.
A review of all the findings surrounding the impact of yoga on breast cancer symptoms was carried out in 2012.
Twelve studies were reviewed, with a combined sample size of 742 participants, both patients and survivors.
Short term improvements were seen in patients following yoga practice, helping to reduce levels of stress and anxiety.
Improves symptoms of the menopause
Studies have also focused on how yoga could help menopausal women cope with hot flashes.
54 perimenopausal and postmenopausal women made up the sample group, with each experiencing at least four hot flashes a day.
A huge 66% (two-thirds) of women reported a reduction in hot flashes following just 10 weeks of classes.
Not only that, but they stated that their hot flashes were less intense than they had been previously.
Closer investigation in to all the research surrounding yoga for menopausal symptoms was conducted in Germany in 2012.
They wanted to understand whether the practice could help with the psychological symptoms of the condition.
Overall results showed improvements and researchers felt it should be recommended as a treatment option.
Reduces the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome
An article published in the International Journal of Women’s Health and Reproduction Sciences highlights how powerful yoga can be for PMS.
Researchers focused on the emotional, behavioral and physical symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome.
Improvements were seen in all three areas, with the study concluding that yoga should be recommended as a treatment option for those struggling with PMS.
Improves your sex life
Yoga can mean even more fun in the bedroom! A study conducted in India focused on 40 healthy and sexually active women.
Following a 12 week yoga program, 75% of the participants said they were more satisfied with their sex life.
In fact they showed improvement in all six sexual functioning areas, including desire, lubrication, and orgasm.
Though the sample size was small, the results were overwhelmingly positive, particularly for women aged over 45.
Helps during pregnancy and labor
Research has proven that practicing prenatal yoga can help throughout both pregnancy and labor.
A close look at all the findings in 2015 found that not only did it help with stress management and reducing pelvic pain, but it could also improve birth outcomes such as reducing delivery time.
You should however always check with a medical professional before starting to practice, as researchers noted that in rare cases yoga could cause uterine contractions.
Helps those coping with gestational diabetes
The number of women suffering from gestational diabetes is increasing around the world.
A study in to the condition in 2015 looked at how gentle exercise could help both mother and child.
It concluded that low intensity exercise such as yoga can have a number of advantages for both general health and birth outcomes.
Guidance was advised:
With researchers stressing that women should always speak to a medical professional before taking up yoga practice.
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Improves heart health
Heart disease is the biggest killer of women in the United States.
Thankfully exciting insights published in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology, shows that regular yoga can improve cardio-metabolic health.
Significant improvements were seen in a number of different factors including systolic blood pressure and both low-density and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels.
However indications suggest it could be a useful tool, particularly with the use of phone apps to help people access yoga programs without leaving their home.
Delays the onset of Alzheimer’s disease
Nearly two thirds of Americans living with Alzheimer’s are women.
Findings published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Research found that yoga could delay the onset of the disease.
Combined with the healing powers of meditation, yoga was found to delay the cognitive impairment that is normally the first indicator of Alzheimer’s.
Improves back pain
According to the latest statistics, women report suffering from back pain more than men.
Luckily there are a number of yoga positions you can try to help relieve your suffering!
A study published in 2017 looked at those suffering from moderate to severe lower back pain.
Focusing particularly on those from a low income background (that might not typically practice yoga) 320 individuals were analyzed.
After 12 weeks of practice, the new yogis reported improved physical movement and a decrease in pain.
Helps with the symptoms of anxiety
Women are nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
Looking at eight different studies focused on yoga and anxiety, results were consistently positive.
Showing how regular practice can help to manage the symptoms of the condition.
Further research looking particularly at Yoga Nidra, demonstrated how the practice can significantly reduce symptoms of both anxiety and depression.
While the research is still young (especially in comparison with how long people have been practicing yoga), the results are promising and confirm what yoga practitioners have been touting for thousands of years: Yoga is beneficial for our overall health.
Numerous practices fall into category of yoga, and most do not involve physical activity, instead focusing on meditation techniques. Even karmic or philanthropic action can qualify as yoga!
Because yoga is not limited to physical movement, it’s a practice you can do every day.
Find the modality that works best for you and remember: Investing in a yoga practice is investing in you!