• 06 Feb - 12 Feb, 2021
  • Mag The Weekly

While all those yoga poses can seem intimidating at first, it’s actually a very approachable form of exercise. And that’s just one of the benefits of yoga anyone curious about the practice should be aware of. Here are some other advantages of the ancient form of exercise you should know.

Helps improve chronic low-back pain

If you work at a desk (or couch) all day, you may be experiencing some low back, shoulder, and neck pain due to poor posture. Yoga improves posture, which can prevent low-back pain, as well as shoulder and neck pain.

Yoga promotes low-back pain relief in two ways: First, the meditation techniques used in yoga encourages relaxation from the physical discomfort related to chronic low-back pain. Then there are the poses themselves: The physical practice builds core strength and stability – something important for posture too – which is one of the main lines of treatment for addressing low-back pain.

Fights fatigue

When you move – like by doing some yoga stretches during the day – your heart pumps more oxygen-rich blood to the muscles and organs in your body. This can help reduce fatigue and tiredness.

According to a small August 2017 study in the Journal of Science in Medicine in Sport, practicing Bikram yoga is linked to better energy and stress levels. When sedentary and chronically stressed adults followed a 16-week Bikram yoga programme, they reported improved perceived stress, energy, and fatigue levels and better overall health-related quality of life. Researchers also found similar fatigue-fighting benefits to hatha yoga.

Promotes balance

Balancing yoga poses, such as Warrior III, Chair, Eagle, Tree, and Crow, help challenge your stability, since removing a base of support (say, by standing on one leg) requires you to activate certain stabilising muscles. This helps improve your balance, which is particularly important as you get older.

Better balance can mean a reduction in injury risk and an improvement in athletic performance. That’s because when you have better balance, you have better awareness to fire up the right muscles to help you maintain stability. Think of doing a single-leg deadlift: If you’re able to fire up the correct muscles –your core, lats, and the glutes on your working leg – you’ll be able to complete the move more efficiently, helping you build strength.

Eases you into regular exercise

If you’re new to exercise – or are easing back into a workout routine after a break – vigorous exercise may not seem to be the most appealing. That’s why many people looking to get started exercising turn to yoga: It’s a low-impact workout that’s easy on the joints, is accessible for most fitness levels, and requires no special equipment.

Helps your heart health

A 2014 review in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology concluded that yoga has shown some promising benefits for improving cardiovascular disease risk, by lowering heart rate, blood pressure, and even cholesterol. It’s likely due to both the physical aspects of yoga as well as the focus on breath.

Reinforces better breathing

Follow a yoga flow for as little as five minutes, and you’ll realise just how calming and relaxing it can be to sync movement and breath. As you deepen the stretch in each pose, you’ll rely on your breath to hold them with proper form.

Improves sleep

With better breathing and relaxation, yoga can help you get more quality snooze time at night. According to a meta-analysis of 19 previously published studies on women with sleep problems, practicing yoga was linked to higher scores on measures of sleep quality. And the more time spent on yoga, the more robust the benefits were.

Improves your mood

Of course, no type of exercise can “cure” mental health conditions like anxiety and depression – and it can be annoying to be told to “just work out” if you’re dealing with them. But the combination of gentle movement and focused breathing may have some mental health benefits, meaning yoga may play a role in how you feel if you experience those conditions.

In fact, a study of 48 office employees published in the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment, & Health found that after six weeks of yoga, the workers reported feeling less stress in the workplace. They also reported feeling less anxious, confused, depressed, tired, and unsure than their coworkers who didn’t participate in yoga.

Helps your mind relax

Whether you’re doing a few Cat-Cow flows or lying down in Savasana, yoga turns on your relaxation response. By focusing on your breathing and releasing tension in your muscles and joints through the poses, you’ll usher in a sense of calm.

Improves focus

Holding a yoga pose correctly takes a combination of concentration and endurance: You need focus to move your body into the pose, and stamina to keep it there for that set amount of time. This combination not only helps your yoga performance, but it can also help you sharpen your mental focus on other stressful situations in your everyday life, too.