Yoga and Health: From Better Mental Health To Improved Sleep Quality

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Did you know that yoga and health are intertwined?

Although a spiritual practice at its core, the Western world views the ancient practice of yoga mostly through the lens of holistic healing. Even the National Institutes of Health classifies yoga as a form of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). But there is some truth to this because at the core of yoga philosophy is a focus on one’s health with the purpose of preparing the mind and body for enlightenment. Furthermore, the healing benefits of yoga are now widely recognized within the medical community thanks to a growing body of research confirming the yoga’s healing power.

Most of these studies found that yoga prevents stress-related diseases and improves overall health and well-being. Considered a holistic practice, yoga is said to heal the mind, body, and soul. Whatever ailment you may be suffering, yoga can help you without any risk of side effects.

If you need more convincing on why you should start practicing yoga, here are a couple of the health benefits yoga provides.

Better mental health

yoga mental health

According to an article published in the International Journal of Yoga, mental health problems such as anxiety and depression are one of the most common reasons why people seek alternative treatments such as yoga.

Yoga seems to be just as effective, if not better, like medication and talk therapy in relieving the symptoms of mental illness. The reason for this being that yoga helps one relax by downregulating the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis (HPA axis) which is, almost without exception, overactive in people with mental disorders.

Put simply, yoga helps one achieve tranquility of the mind, greater levels of well-being, relaxation, improved self-esteem, lowered irritability, and a positive outlook on life, all of which are lacking in people with anxiety and depression. The mood-boosting benefits of yoga are also long-lasting and become permanent aspects of one’s outlook on life.

Reduced stroke and heart attack risk

Chronic stress is now recognized as a major contributing factor for atherosclerosis, a condition which increases a person’s risk of stroke and heart attacks. But yoga does not solely reduce your risk of stroke via stress relief.

The deep breathing and stretching during yoga practice are known to help thin the blood and as such reduce your risk of blood clots. Twisting poses wring out the venous blood in internal organs, and this allows oxygen-rich blood to reach these organs once the twist is released.

Similarly, inverted poses help the venous blood in the lower extremities go back to the heart and into the lungs where it is oxygenated. Yoga postures that increase heart rate can also provide aerobic-like benefits to the heart muscle, strengthening the heart and with this reducing the danger of stroke and heart attack.

Greater flexibility and strength

Stiff joints, sore muscles, and poor function biomechanics are today’s common complaints that tend to get worse with age. Regular yoga practice can help prevent age-related decline in flexibility and strength.

This is simply because yoga postures help gets your body through a whole range of movements that inevitably lead to greater flexibility and muscle strength. One of the main reasons why people develop arthritis with age is simply limited and repetitive movements that lead to muscle atrophy and joint cartilage wasting.

Yoga can help with other age-related problems as well such as osteoporosis, cognitive decline, hormonal imbalances, and even urinary incontinence. Because incontinence can result from weak pelvic floor muscles, yoga postures that strengthen the pelvic floor can provide much relief just like Kegel exercises for men and women.

See Also: 13 Yoga Trends To Immerse Yourself In On Your Journey To Health & Happiness

Improved sleep quality

sleep quality

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC), as much as 1 in 3 US adults are not getting the sufficient amount of sleep. This is rather concerning considering that sleep disorders increase a person’s risk of systematic disease, mental illness, and even cancer.

One of the main reasons why people of today seem to have trouble sleeping is an overactive nervous system. Yoga calms the central nervous system by helping you turn your senses inward which inevitably bring you into a relaxed state of mind – something that is crucial for quality sleep.

A study that was published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine even found that older adults practicing meditative yoga for 12 weeks reported better overall sleep quality, reduced anxiety and depression, reduced fatigue, greater vitality, and improved sense of well-being.

See Also: Are You Sleep Deprived? 8 Health Risks Of Poor Sleep 

Stronger immune system

One of the strongest side effects of chronic stress is a weakened immune system. On the other hand, the stress-reducing benefits of yoga are known to lead to overall greater vitality by strengthening immune system functioning.

Our immune system protects us from pathogenic diseases but also from cancer, autoimmune disorders, allergies, and general disease-susceptibility. Because stress leads to the suppression of the mechanisms that control the immune system such as T-cell production, our risk of becoming ill increases.

Yoga can help keep us disease-free thanks to the stress-relief it provides but also by improving blood flow to vital organs, establishing hormonal balances, and making us more attentive to our health by increasing our awareness.

Conclusion

In today’s hectic world, stress is taking a toll on our health and well-being. Reducing your stress levels can make a big difference for your health, but this seems to be easier said than done.

Thankfully, the ancient wisdom of yoga that’s over 3000 years old has provided us with the secrets to keeping our mind’s at ease during the most stressful times. But the gentle stretching and deep breathing in yoga also help us stay healthy throughout life.

Yoga postures improve flexibility, joint health, and cardiovascular functioning. The result is no more aches and pains. Yoga also strengthens our immune system which research shows is important not just for fighting viruses, but also for preventing cancer and chronic illness.

In short, yoga as a holistic practice treats our body as a whole and provides healing from within. Practicing yoga will provide you with more health benefits than you can count.

 

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Author: David Gomes

David Gomes completed his M.S Professional degree in California Institute of Technology. He is working for ConsumerHealthDigest.

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