The practice of yoga is well known for its impact on strength, flexibility, balance and calming the mind. What’s less well known are the many hidden benefits that regular yoga practice can bring. Here are six surprising health benefits that will have you heading to your yoga mat with renewed vigour and enthusiasm.
1. Yoga practice can boost your immunity
Previous research has suggested that yoga boosts the immune system by increasing the circulation of blood cells, decreasing stress hormones, and stimulating the lymphatic system, which helps rid the body of toxins. It should be noted however that the research was early and while positive the results were not conclusive.
Five years ago additional research suggested that practices such as yoga which elicit the “relaxation response” may have a long-term effect on gene expression, the ‘switching on’ certain genes. A more recent Norwegian study has supported the findings that yoga practice results in rapid changes in gene expression that boost immunity at a cellular level, and what’s more it doesn’t take long. During the study gentle yoga postures, breathing exercises, and meditation showed to be more beneficial compared to a control group who went on a nature walk while listening to relaxing music.
2. Yoga can help ‘in the bedroom’
Two studies have shown that a three month course of yoga practice can help both men and women ‘in the bedroom’. Physically, yoga demands balance, core strength, and flexibility. It also encourages overall body awareness and boosts your body confidence
Another study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that yoga improved female desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, and sexual satisfaction.
3. Yoga practice boosts brain function in older adults
An august 2014 study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that an eight week course of yoga boosted performance on cognitive tasks related to everyday living among a group of sedentary adults aged between 55 and 79.
4. Yoga may help combat food cravings
While there is no doubt that any regular exercise will help with weight management, a study of more than 15,000 adults has suggested that yoga may help to combat food cravings. Researchers speculate that the relaxed muscles and mind-body connection helps you identify if you’re really hungry or just having a craving that will pass.
5. Yoga can support heart health
Yoga has long been known to lower blood pressure and slow the heart rate. A lower blood pressure can benefit people with heart disease and stroke. Yoga was a key component to the heart disease programme designed by American specialist Dr Dean Ornish.
6. Yoga can help to ease migraines
A small study has shown that a three month course in yoga can reduce the frequency and severity of headaches in those who suffer from migraines. Again while the results were positive the study authours note that additional research is needed.
Yoga was also endorsed as a possible treatment for migraine by Dr. Paul B. Rizzoli, co-author of The Migraine Solution, a book being published by Harvard Health Publications. Yoga is a personal favorite of his for his patients, said Dr. Rizzoli, because it is widely available, affordable, and very likely has benefits beyond migraine.
Feeling inspired? Find a yoga studio near you and get moving.
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