Yoga is a 5,000 year old practice that aims to improve both our physical and mental health. Its origins can be traced back to India, which is why Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for the UN to declare an International Day of Yoga. This was put into effect in late 2014, and now the 21st of June is the official International Day of Yoga.
Yoga has always been a popular form of exercise and relaxation, and with good reason. Research from institutions as reputable as Harvard has shown time and time again that yoga has measurable benefits in many different areas. Many of these, such as flexibility or tranquillity, are well-known, so we’re going to look at some of the more obscure health benefits that yoga can have.
Numerous studies have shown that yoga can improve our immune systems. While most of these look at the immune system in relation to overall fitness levels, which can be improved with yoga, a 2013 study took a different approach. Researchers in Norway found that practicing yoga could improve the immune system on a genetic level almost instantly, and was even more effective at doing so than taking a hike with relaxing music.
It is not known what exactly causes migraines, and it is likely that the root cause varies from person to person. Regardless of the cause, many people suffer migraines frequently, which can be both distressing and inconvenient. Thankfully, a study in India showed that yoga can reduce the pain and frequency of migraines, which in turn makes those who suffer from them less depressed and less reliant on medication.
Research from universities such as Harvard & Rochester has shown that yoga can have very positive effects for people who have trouble sleeping. This includes people who suffer from certain types of physical pain, anxiety, insomnia and even cancer.
Yoga benefits our bones in a surprising number of ways. Perhaps the most beneficial effect of yoga on the bones is increased density. The fact that yoga makes us place our weight on bones that normally wouldn’t experience that kind of pressure keeps them dense and strong. Similarly, yoga also benefits our joints and cartilage by causing us to use them in ways we normally wouldn’t.
Finally, yoga helps our spines tremendously. The spine has so many moving parts to it, and yet we only tend to lean slightly forwards or backwards with it. Yoga makes sure your spine gets maximum mobility and stays as healthy as possible.
The various positions that are practiced in yoga encourage the flow of blood to areas that are typically the most difficult for blood to move around. Both the physical movements involved and the effects of gravity help to encourage blood flow. Additionally, yoga has the same effect on the flow of lymph fluid, which helps our immune system fight off infections. It has also been shown to reduce blood pressure and blood sugar levels, as well as increasing the heart rate and regulating cortisol levels.
Yoga has long been associated with the positive effects that it has on our mental health. These benefits stem not only from the improved quality of life that yoga can offer people from a physical standpoint, but also from reduced levels of stress and depression, combined with increased levels of dopamine and serotonin. However, few people realise the extent of its physical benefits, and it seems that yoga, despite its consistent popularity, is still vastly underrated as a form of exercise.