With all the science (and pseudo-science) around the benefits of yoga, I sometimes wonder where the truth about yoga’s benefits lies. There are claims every which assert that a yoga practice helps one accomplish everything from stress-reduction to stopping one’s heart. (I actually read an in-depth report about that one!) Yoga has been touted to make you a better lover, listener, and a better you. And, undoubtedly, many people experience such benefits. But, from a practical standpoing, what does yoga actually do?
1) Yoga Asana Practice Increases Your Physical Range Of Motion
Yoga postures are designed to increase blood flow to different areas of the body. This helps to release stored lactic acid and help you access the soft tissues surrounding your bones. Regular practice results include: sustained or increased mobility and increased lubrication of your joints. Studies have even found that a engaging in a regular yoga practice (even for a short time) allowed for increase in flexibility by 35%! Yoga asana keeps your body pliable.
2) Yoga Pranayama Loves Your Lungs
The practice of yogic breathing (pranayama) helps you breathe with your full lung capacity. And, as you breath like this regularly, you will find that your overall sense of energy and well-being improves. This is because the steady and even breathing you learn in yoga promotes your relaxation response, which helps the body regulate your cortisol and adreneline levels.
3) Yoga Improves Your Relationship With Your Body
Studies have shown that a regular yoga practice promotes a holistic connection between your mind-body. The effects of this connection are profound! There has been a positive correlation between mindful eating and yoga practice. Also, regular yoga practice has been shown to have a positive effect in treating depression.
4) Yoga Practice Helps Regulate Your Digestion
Yoga asana practice activates your parasympathetic system which is responsible for all relaxation and digestive function. The parasympathetic response is where healing and assimilation happens! Additionally, asana practice tones the abdominal viscera on the inside, which increases secretion of you digestive enzymes. Practice also promotes peristalsis, allowing for better movement of waste products through your digestive tract. In a nutshell, yoga helps you poop well!
Of course yoga is not magic. And, of course, this is a limited list of yoga’s REAL benefits. Still, it’s nice to remember how a yoga practice does some wonderful things the a regular practitioner!