From my own personal experience, I think YOGA is one of the best holistic and most comprehensive health practices available. But you don’t have to take my word for it. More and more studies show Yoga’s tremendous benefits on a physical, emotional, mental and spiritual level.
1. Yoga is a powerful Stress-Reliever. By focusing on the breath and deepening the inhalations and exhalations, you are quieting the mind and switching on the parasympathetic nervous system and the relaxation response. The latter is calming and restorative; it lowers breathing and heart rate, decreases blood pressure, lowers cortisol levels, and increases blood flow to the intestines and vital organs. Women who suffered from mental distress and participated for 3 months in a twice a week 90 minutes Yoga class, showed significant improvements in perceived stress, anxiety, depression, well-being and fatigue (Michaelsen et al., 2005).
2. Yoga boosts your Immune System. A Norwegian study has found genetic evidence of yoga’s impact on the immune system. Examining the participants’ blood before and after four-hour yoga sessions showed that the yoga practice changed the expression of 111 genes in circulating immune cells. The data suggests that yoga’s many health benefits might come from its ability to alter gene expression in your immune cells (Qu et al., 2013).
3. Yoga stimulates the Lymphatic System. Unlike the cardiovascular system the lymphatic system is passive and does not have a central pump to assist its flow. Deep breathing and specific yoga asanas improve the circulation of lymphatic channels. Inversions, like legs up the wall (Viparita Karani), or shoulderstand (Salamba Sarvangasana), reverse the effect of gravity and drain lymph and used blood from the legs. Diaphragmatic breathing with breath retention is used to promote clearing from the lymphatic trunks. Breathing slowly and in time with the sequenced postures clears the central, then the peripheral lymph nodes and the slow movements of yoga ensure the emptying of the lymph vessels (Loudon et al., 2012).
4. Yoga keeps your Joints Healthy. Certain poses promote the release of synovial fluid (the slippery liquid in joint systems that along with hyaline cartilage, allows smooth, painless movement of the bones) while strengthening the muscles supporting vital joint system. Synovial fluid is found in joints like the knees, hips, and elbows. A style of yoga that is particularly supportive for the joints is Yin Yoga. Most of our flexibility, comes from our deeper connective tissues – our ligaments, tendons, fascia, and joints. The longer held postures of Yin Yoga intend to gently stress the joints to stimulate their strength and flexibility.
5. Yoga reduces Osteoarthritis Pain. A regular yoga practice may benefit people with osteoarthritis (a condition marked by the erosion of cartilage in your joints). Researchers found that taking part in a 90-minute yoga sessions once weekly for eight weeks led to significant reductions in pain and disability among patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. For 90 minutes, twice a week, participants were led through a sequence to increase their range of motion in the knee. Using props, such as chairs, blankets, blocks, and straps, the women practiced Virabhadrasana II (Warrior Pose II,), Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose), and Dandasana (Staff Pose) as well as many other poses.
6. Yoga decreases Anxiety & Depression. Consistent yoga practice improves depression and can lead to significant increases in serotonin levels coupled with decreases in the levels of monamine oxidase, an enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters and cortisol (Pilkington, Kirkwood, Rampes, & Richardson, 2005; Woolery, Myers, Stemlieb, Zeltzer, 2004; Javnbakht, Hejazi, Ghasemi, 2009). It was further found that GABA levels increased after a session of yoga. GABA acts as a neurotransmitter which inhibits nerve transmission to the brain, resulting in calming and quieting the mind. This suggests that the practice of yoga should be explored as a treatment for disorders with low GABA levels such as depression and anxiety disorders.Follow @AlexandraCMBB