The ancient practice of yoga is the meditative discipline of performing different body postures to achieve balance in body, mind, and soul — both in life and death. Even though people prefer to avoid morbid topics like funerals and death — yoga is appreciated by people from all walks of life due to yoga’s therapeutic relaxation techniques.
The whole philosophy of yoga is rooted in health and mental well-being, where each limb of the practice guides us toward gaining wisdom to live a meaningful and purposeful life. It is no wonder then, that yoga can help us live a longer, healthier life with the potential of extending our lifespans here on earth.
10 ways that yoga heals us
Far more than rolling out a mat and performing intricate stretches and positions; yoga is a practice that brings body, breath, and mind together to achieve ultimate health and vitality. In fact, the word yoga itself means ‘to join or yoke together’. Through mindful breathing, movement, and meditation, the body can heal in miraculous ways. Here are 10 benefits of yoga on the mind and body:
1. Improves flexibility and joint health
One of the most obvious benefits of yoga is improved flexibility. The stretches performed in a yoga practice allow muscles to lengthen and increase their range of motion. Increased flexibility is important to long-term physical health, as it keeps the muscles in our bodies supple. As we get older, our muscle tissue loses moisture, which can lead to stiffer bodies and increased tension.
Regular stretching through yoga practice will keep the body supple and help the muscles to support our vital organs and joints. Just like our muscles, our joints and joint cartilage receive nutritive benefits from stretching. This helps prevent injury and also prevents degenerative arthritis.
2. Helps bone health
Many postures in yoga require balance and weight-bearing, which strengthens bones and prevents conditions such as osteoporosis. Building strength through weight-bearing yoga postures such as downward dog helps to build bone density in the arms and legs, as well as improving balance and coordination, protecting against falling – a major cause of osteoporotic fractures.
3. Improves blood flow
Relaxation and the deep cyclic breaths during yoga practice helps our blood circulation, bringing more oxygen to our cells. If you’re using the right yoga mat, certain poses also improve blood flow to different areas of the body, with twisting helping to bring oxygenated blood to organs and inversion postures carrying blood flow from the lower body to the brain and heart. Yoga also increases hemoglobin levels in red blood cells, preventing blood clots, heart attacks, and strokes.
4. Strengthens the immune system
Yoga relieves lymphatic congestion by increasing flow to the lymph and aiding drainage. The lymph nodes are important to your long-term health as they are the powerhouse behind your immune system. The act of yoga movement, therefore, aids the lymph nodes to produce immune fighting cells, preventing illness and disease, including cancer.
5. Strengthens the heart
Despite being a low impact, regenerative practice, yoga gets the heart pumping! Many forms of yoga (such as power yoga or hot yoga) can boost the heart rate into the aerobic range. This rise in heart rate strengthens the heart, lowering the risk of heart disease and heart attacks and improving your overall cardiovascular health.
6. Lowers blood sugar
Yoga has been found to lower blood sugar levels, including those with diabetes. By lowering cortisol and adrenaline levels, weight loss is encouraged and sensitivity to the effects of insulin is improved. Lowered blood sugar levels decrease your risk of diabetic complications such as heart attack, kidney failure, and blindness.
8. Increased lung health
Yoga, particularly when it comes to the yogi breath, helps to strengthen and stimulate the lungs and chest. In fact, yoga is so beneficial to lung health that it has been shown to improve asthma symptoms. Yoga postures and breath awareness helps to maintain the health of your respiratory system, as well as strengthening the muscles around the torso and chest that supports the lungs.
Studies have shown that mindful deep breathing helps to increase longevity due to the positive effects deep diaphragmatic breathing has on cardiovascular, reportorial, and neurological health.
8. Improves sleep quality
Studies have shown that yoga can help to promote better sleep. The meditative focus of yoga helps to calm down the nervous system and relax the body, which helps to improve sleep and sleeping patterns. By performing a yoga sequence before bed, individuals may find it easier to relax into sleep.
9. Reduces anxiety and depression
It has been well-received by many in the health and alternative health industries that yoga can help relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression. Yoga is a self-soothing practice which helps to manage the stress response systems in the body, reducing the heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and decreasing the stress hormone known as cortisol. Yoga also boosts the happy or feel-good hormones in the body known as dopamine and serotonin.
10. Improved digestion
The stretches and poses of yoga encourage healthy digestion by facilitating a more rapid and efficient transport of food and waste through the bowels. Improved digestion helps lower the risk of colon cancer and diseases of the digestive tract, as well as improving the symptoms of IBS and other gut-related issues. A healthy gut is linked to an improved immune system, which helps us to live a longer and healthier life.
Incorporating yoga into your daily routine can help you to maintain a healthier balance of body and mind, increasing overall health and longevity. The positive health benefits of yoga are proven to help increase your lifespan since healthy living has a significant impact on life expectancy.