IgaYoga 7 reasons why yoga is good for you header

7 reasons
why yoga is good for you

A few days ago I was standing in line to buy groceries, when I heard two friends happily chatting behind me. I really didn’t want to eavesdrop, but my ears rose when I heard the word “yoga”. “If you feel that way, you should really try yoga! It’s so good for you!,” one of them advised the other. The other one said something about the lack of time and being rigid… the usual excuses 😊 Then she asked, “But why is yoga actually good for you?”. I almost turned around, but well… I didn’t want to just burst into a private conversation.

Of course, I’m going to tell you that yoga is good for you. I’m a yoga teacher, practicing every day, living it and believing in it. Yet to make my arguments stronger, here are 7 reasons that are actually backed by science! Yeah, I love science and statistics.

1. Yoga releases stress and fights depression:

It is scientifically proved by numerous studies that yoga and meditation lower the stress hormone, cortisol. Yoga is not the only form of physical activity that lowers cortisol, sports in general have that power, yet the advantage of yoga over other disciplines is that it also works on mental level. While yoga asanas keep the body fit and flexible, meditation and Pranayama (breathing techniques) quieten the mind and oxygenate the brain. As a result, we are more relaxed, calm and cheerful. If you ever tried Savasana at the end of a yoga practice, you know what I’m talking about. Here are a couple of studies to support that: 1, 2.

We shouldn’t underestimate yoga’s effect on the levels of cortisol, as this hormone is not only making us stressed, but it may also lead to depression. It influences levels of serotonin in our body and low serotonin is directly linked to depression. There are studies which show how practicing yoga lowers symptoms of depression. One study was made on a group of young adults, who participated on 1-hour Iyengar Yoga class per week for the duration of 5 weeks. The results showed that “Subjects who participated in the yoga course demonstrated significant decreases in self-reported symptoms of depression and anxiety. These effects emerged by the middle of the yoga course and were maintained by the end. Changes also were observed in acute mood, with subjects reporting decreased levels of negative mood and fatigue following yoga classes”.

Yoga asanas that help release stress and fight depression are for example forward bends, as they are deeply relaxing and invite us to loose control, surrender and trust ourselves. Examples of stress releasing yoga asanas:

7 resons why yoga is good for you 1

Sukhasana Uttanasana – Easy Pose Forward Bend

IgaYoga downward dog

Adho Mukha Svanasana – Downward Dog

IgaYoga halasana plough pose

Halasana – Plough Pose

2. Yoga improves sleep

Yoga is full of surprises. Although scientists still don’t understand in what way yoga influences better sleep, studies inarguably show that practicing yoga increases the levels of melatonin, the sleep hormone. In this case yoga is also linked to the point number one. With lower cortisol, we are calmer and, as a result, sleep better. It’s all connected.

In this study, we can see how people practicing yoga regularly started to fall asleep quicker, sleep longer and felt more rested in the morning. There are yoga asanas which are particularly known for calming our subtle nervous system and improving the quality of sleep.

Examples of yoga asanas that improve sleep:

IgaYoga sphinx pose

Salamba Bhujangasana – Sphinx Pose

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Sukhasana – Easy Pose 

IgaYoga balasna child pose

Balasana – Child Pose Hands Extended

3. Yoga reduces inflammation and improves heart health

Apart from its positive effects on mental health, yoga also has power to improve our physical health. It may reduce inflammation and even though it is a normal response of our immune system, long term inflammation may lead to heart diseases, diabetes and cancer. Here is a study that shows how yoga can affect heart health.  

What is more, calming yoga (for example Hatha Yoga and Yin Yoga) and meditation slow down the heart rate, which in turn lowers blood pressure, improves immune system and lowers cholesterol. Not without reason in recent years yoga has been introduced in many cardiac rehabilitation programs as a tool to improve cardiovascular health.

IgaYoga yoga for heart health

4. Yoga improves flexibility, balance, strength

One of the most common things people say is that they are not flexible enough to do yoga. Well, yoga is not about fancy splits, but about personal practice with respect for our body’s possibilities. Runners’ legs are tight, but it doesn’t mean that a runner cannot practice yoga. Quite the opposite, yoga would do their muscles good. During yoga practice, we don’t just stretch muscles, but also our ligaments and tendons, which increases the range of motion. That’s why after yoga practice we feel light and our movements are more fluid and free.

Examples of yoga asanas that improve flexibility:

IgaYoga cobra pose bhujangasana

Bhujangasana – Cobra Pose

IgaYoga camel pose ustrasana

Ustrasana – Camel Pose (hands on floor variation)

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Jathara Parivartanasana – Revolved Abdomen Twist Pose

Apart from flexibility, yoga significantly increases body balance as well. One study shows 26 young male athletes who after 10 weeks of yoga developed significant body balance, compared to a control group that didn’t do yoga. Another study based on elderly people also showed much higher development of balance and flexibility compared to another group practicing calisthenics over the same period of time.

Examples of yoga asanas that improve balance:

IgaYoga yoga for balance

Dandayamana Bharmanasana – Balancing Table Pose 

IgaYoga ardha utkatasana half chair pose

Ardha Utkatasana – Half Chair Pose

IgaYoga yoga for strength

Eka Pada Setubandha Sarvangasana – One Legged Bridge Pose

And the cherry on top – body strength! Numerous yoga asanas strengthen the whole body. Downward and upward dog strengthen the upper body, standing poses work on our legs and phalakasana (plank) improves core power. Only 15-30 minutes of yoga every day may bring an incredible change by improving body flexibility, balance and strength. 

Examples of yoga asanas that improve strength:

Iga Yoga Ashta Chandrasana asana for sleep

Ashta Chandrasana – High Lunge Pose

IgaYoga chair pose utkatasana

Utkatasana – Chair Pose 

IgaYoga the wild thing pose

The Wild Thing Pose (simplified variation)

5. Yoga improves posture

As a result of better flexibility, balance and strength, our body also gains a better posture. Abdominals and back muscles are able to better support the spine and the weight of your body. As a yoga teacher, while practicing yoga, I pay a lot of attention to the correct alignment of the spine, especially the lower lumbar part. In many asanas the pelvis should be rotated inwards, elongating the lumbar back and if we get into a habit of doing it also in our daily life, we could save ourselves from back pain and discomfort. Plus, we become more mindful of the alignment of our back throughout the day.

Examples of yoga asanas that improve posture:

IgaYoga tree pose vrksasana

Vrksasana – Tree Pose

IgaYoga locust pose salabhasana

Salabhasana – Locust Pose 

IgaYoga king cobra pose

Raja Bhujangasana – King Cobra Pose (simplified)

Iga Yoga importance of breath in yoga

6. Yoga improves breathing

Breathing is key in yoga practice. The focus on breath is in fact one of the main factors that differentiate yoga from other physical activities. We breathe in when we are still and breathe out then we move. It’s a continuous flow of oxygen in and out of the body. A regular yoga practice increases lung capacity, which in turn favor our stamina and endurance.

Breathing exercises and Pranayama (which is a powerful yogic breathing technique, but needs to be practiced under a yoga teacher’s supervision) significantly improve vital capacity – a measure of the maximum amount of air that can be expelled from the lungs. This is especially important for people suffering from lung diseases and asthma. Here are a couple of studies (Study 1, Study 2)where the relationship between yoga and breathing disorders are examined. 

7. Good eating habits - mindful, fresh, vegetarian

A yogic diet is based on vegetarian, whole, fresh produce, which is a foundation of any healthy diet. Eating like a yogi lowers blood sugar, increases weight loss and improves heart health.

Moreover, it has been shown that yoga develops mindfulness not only on the mat, but also in daily life. Mindfulness means bringing attention to what we are experiencing in the present moment without judgement. In case of diet, it means fully focusing on the act of eating, on taste, texture and smell. Taking the time to savor every bite.

chickpeas pear seeds

To finish off

I hope that you found this article informative and if you’re not practicing yoga just yet, reading about these benefits takes you a little closer to this magnificent discipline. The fact is that there are so many notions incorporated in the word yoga. It’s not just one thing, but a wide range of factors from mental and physical health to diet and lifestyle. Once you step on its path, it’s most likely that you’ll stay on it. Just like me 😊

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