Yoga is more than just another way to spend a few hours a week getting some forced exercise. It’s a way of life, that once you start, you’re not likely to give up anytime soon.
Keep reading to learn more about the 8 surprising health benefits a few yoga sessions per month can offer.
1. Immune System Booster
Yoga immediately begins to improve gene expression, which has a direct effect on our immune system’s ability to eradicate disease from the body.
There are many processes that work together to accomplish this effect, but the main reason yoga has such an effect at the immune system level is due to the improvements in the rate and quality of your breathing (ie., breathing technique), increased blood circulation which helps the liver and kidneys eliminate waste, and increased full body movement which helps the lymph system (the core of our immune system) to move toxins from the tissues into the bloodstream where they’re quickly eliminated (learn more).
2. Improved Sleep Quality
Insomnia is no joke, afflicting millions of people worldwide on a daily basis. Yoga produces a very zen-like quality, connecting the mind to the body in a way that few exercises or activities can. Whereas meditation is great for the mind/body connection, yoga takes the mind/body connection to a whole other level, forcing them to work together in unison throughout the range of various exercises.
This study, performed at Harvard University in 2004, showed a significant statistical improvement in both improved sleep quality and the ease at which new yoga participants were able to fall asleep, to be profoundly different after clinically-diagnosed insomniacs engaged in twice-weekly yoga sessions and maintained for at least eight weeks.
3. Increased Sexual Desire and Performance
This benefit doesn’t just apply to one sex and not the other. Both man and woman are genetically designed to be creatures of movement. Modern sedentary lifestyles – office work, video games, television and many other factors, have severely hampered the human condition, resulting in poor erection quality and performance in men, and all-round lack of sexual desire in women.
This study showed a major improvement in male sexual performance and desire, labelled as “MSQ” (Male Sexual Quotient), after only 12 weeks of consistent yoga therapy.
This study, found a statistically profound difference in women’s “FSFI” (Female Sexual Function Index) after the same 12 weeks of yoga treatment. The interesting takeaway from this female study is that many of those positively affected were over 45 years of age, meaning yoga may reverse age-related loss of sexual desire in women.
4. Weight Loss
Yoga is most definitely an effective calorie-burning exercise, but the weight loss benefits of yoga aren’t limited to how many calories you burn during, or even after a yoga session. In fact, you’ll burn more calories jogging, sprinting, or circuit training with weights for 20 minutes than you will participating in a 45 minute yoga session.
The weight loss that’s been scientifically studied in people who participate in yoga sessions at least twice per week has more to do with the increased mental and spiritual awareness that yoga causes. This study, performed between January and May of 2007 at the University of Washington showed that the improved mind/body awareness resulting from regular yoga sessions increased the “MEQ” (Mindful Eating Questionnaire) scores of the majority of its participants – many of which were moderately obese women with an average age of 42.
The heightened MEQ scores from the study led participants to have an increased awareness of the types of food they put in their bodies and how it affected the way they felt and performed afterward.
5. Less Boredom Over Other Forms of Exercise
There is so much variety to look forward to when entering the diverse world of yoga exercise, it would be impossible, in a world where you can learn almost anything you want to from the comfort of your own home at your computer monitor, to get bored with yoga as form of exercise.
There’s the very fluid and relaxing, middle-eastern Vinyasa, focusing on bringing the mind and body together in complete unison. The very rigorous and physically taxing Anusara, developed recently by american John Friend, which has a very social therapeutic element to each session. Hatha yoga, which focuses more on postural improvement with the equal benefit of improved mind/body awareness and core strength.
There are hundreds of different disciplines of yoga one can venture in to. To learn more before getting started, read this beginner-friendly article about the 8 most common types of yoga that exist today.
6. Increased Physical Strength and Flexibility
It should be a given that working your body in various positions and postures, which often emphasize holding certain positions for extended periods, will certainly strengthen your muscles and increase overall flexibility.
The effect from yoga is much different from more static forms of exercise such as running, aerobics and weight training because of the increased emphasis on exaggerated movements the various disciplines employ.
7. Social Benefits
There’s just something about coming together with other like-minded human beings and engaging in an invigorating and fulfilling practise like yoga and its many disciplines. Not only do relaxing activities like yoga help to improve overall anxiety symptoms (source), the serene atmosphere you’ll find at a yoga class is very non-threatening and unobtrusive (learn more).
Nobody’s going to ask you to hold hands with anyone such as with dancing, or get into an awkward position with a stranger like you would in an MMA class. Yoga is perfect for both extroverts and introverts alike, allowing you to meet new people without the pressure of physical contact or intensive conversation with people you don’t know.
8. It’s fun!
If nothing else, yoga will give you a social outlet to look forward to while you’re stuck at the office for 8 hours or more every day.
Certainly your curiosity must be piqued at this point. Go on and find a yoga class in your area. Don’t worry about specific disciplines for now, just get out and try it!
Yoga is fun and most important: great for your mind, body, and spirit!