If you’re a passionate yoga practicer, you are probably finding many ways to celebrate “Yoga Month” this September. As a 3,000 year old tradition, yoga has long been used as a practice in both Eastern and Western cultures to support well-being. The Sanskrit word, “yoga” literally means “union,” and speaks to it’s end goal: unification of body and mind.
What comes with this unification is a wide array of health benefits—physiological, emotional and psychological. Whether it’s through the promise of a better sleep, or a calmer mind, these 7 benefits can give you that extra nudge to get on your mat and salute your sun!
1. Better Sleep
If you’ve ever attended a yoga class, you are probably familiar with the feeling of a challenged body, but relaxed mind. Yoga is a multicomponent exercise that reduces mental arousal by bringing attention to the body and breath. Body awareness and a calm focus can be significantly improve sleep. Dr. Singh Khalsa from Harvard University conducted an 8-week sleep study with insomniac patients using with daily yoga as an intervention. After a period of 8 weeks, participants reported a significant improvement in sleep efficiency and total sleep time, along with a reduced number of waking throughout the night.
2. Weight Loss/Toning
The data on using yoga for weight loss is unceasing. From body weight resistance, to fat burning, to supporting more mindful eating, yoga has been used for decades as an effective way to shed extra pounds. Much like pilates, yoga uses one’s own body weight as a form of resistance, to support a thin and trimmed body. Additionally, by lowering cortisol production, yoga increases your ability to burn fuel for energy, instead of storing it as fat. Step on your mat to burn away fat!
3. Elevated Confidence
As silly as it sounds, yoga can actually increase your self-esteem and self confidence. There are several factors that contribute to this elevated state; for one, yoga improves your alignment and posture. Studies from Ohio University show that good posture subconsciously trigger more confident thoughts. Another factor is a strengthened body and mind. A stronger, leaner body combined with a relaxed and agile mind combine to help you put your best foot forward.
4. Improved Focus and Concentration
Taking a yoga class is like a guided physical, and mental meditation. Unlike other forms of exercise, yoga instructors challenge their students to deeply connect with their body, and push away other distracting thoughts. The intention is not to push the body beyond it’s limits, but to instead check in with the body and meet it’s needs of the moment. By training the mind to focus on 1 mindful task at a time, the mind can eventually learn to function in this way on other attention-needing tasks.
5. Stress Reduction
Perhaps the most well known benefit of yoga is its ability to reduce daily stress. Exercise in general has long been known to improve stress levels, by boosting endorphins and purposefully channeling physical energy. Yoga builds on these benefits by adding a mindful focus, and incorporating deep breaths. Deep breathing can modulate the stress response by reducing heart rate and calming the sympathetic nervous system.
6. Increase of Positive Emotions
This goes beyond those happy feelings from “endorphins.” Due to its meditative quality, yoga increases positive feelings by centering on the mind, body and breath. Studies from the University of Mississippi found daily yoga increased levels of serotonin (a brain chemical released when feeling happy) and lowered feelings of irritability. Some depression and bipolar treatments have even included yoga as a daily practice to increase positive feelings.
7. Lowered Blood Pressure
As a likely consequence of weight loss, and stress reduction, there is sufficient data to support that yoga can reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure. The exercise is both calming and restorative, with great effort spent on proper breathing. As a result, blood can effectively flow to intestines and vital organs, reducing overall blood pressure.
So what are you waiting for? If you’re a newbie or an experienced yogi, why not try a yoga class this week. We want you to enjoy your yoga practice, whether it’s at a gym, or in the comfort of your own home. If practicing alone, try listening to our ambient track in the background. It’ll help you get in a calm and meditative state.
Let your body and mind joyfully unite, and smile as you’re reminded of the ways you are supporting your happiest and healthiest self 🙂