- Date : 17/06/2020
- Read: 7 mins
You may have at least one person in your life who strongly advocates yoga and its benefits. Learn why they are right and how it can help you too.
Everyone seems to know about and talk about yoga. But think about it for a moment – what do you really know about yoga? Is it the fact that it originated in ancient India? Or that the teachings of yoga are linked to the Vedas and Sanskrit? Or that there are a host of health benefits of yoga?
All of that is correct. But take a minute to dive deeper. Do you really know the exact health benefits of yoga and how it helps your mind and body? If the answer is no, don’t worry. You’re not alone. Most people are aware that yoga offers a host of health benefits, yet not many can say what exactly these benefits are. And even if they can, a lot of it is speculation and guesswork, not factual.
Therefore, on the occasion of International Yoga Day (21 June), we have compiled a list of benefits of yoga for women as backed by science. Let’s see what these are.
1. Better overall physical health
According to Harvard Health Publishing, some general benefits of yoga for the physical body are greater muscle strength, increased flexibility, better posture, reduced joint pain, improved respiration, enhanced balance and mobility, and better endurance.
Other benefits of consistent yoga practice include reduced migraines and fewer instances of health complication such as multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, etc.
2. Lower heart risk
The bad news is that women are now at a greater risk of developing heart disease than men. The good news is that yoga can reduce this risk. As per the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, regular yoga practice can have a positive influence on cardiovascular health and help to reduce cholesterol levels.
According to cardiologists at the Penn Heart and Vascular Center, yoga can also improve blood sugar levels by improving metabolism and lower blood pressure by improving artery relaxation.
3. Prenatal health benefits
Expectant mothers who practise prenatal yoga get multiple benefits. In 2018, the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine published a report that proved this. Two hundred women between the ages of 20 and 35 from 30 weeks of gestation onwards were studied.
The researchers found that prenatal yoga led to a decrease in induced labour and fewer caesarean sections. It also showed a shortened first stage of labour, enhanced pain tolerance, and a lower instance of low birth weight in babies. An interesting fact was that none of these women had practised yoga before this study during their pregnancy.
4. Sustainable weight loss
In terms of calorie count, traditional yoga doesn’t burn more calories than a cardio workout. Though there are other forms of yoga such as power yoga and hot yoga that are more intensive. Alternatively, a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), found that restorative yoga is effective in helping overweight women with weight loss.
Practising yoga consistently can improve your metabolism and tone your muscles. Most importantly, yoga is seen as a sustainable way to lose weight. This is because of the associated benefits of behavioural change, reduced stress, and mindfulness, which help reduce binge-eating and emotional eating.
5. Improved mental health
You must have often heard people say that yoga and meditation help in reducing stress and anxiety and in improving one’s mood. That is factually true. Studies have shown that yoga increases the levels of the chemical GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) in the brain. GABA helps regulate nerve activity, and increased levels of it can help reduce anxiety disorders and improve the mood.
Studies have established the positive mental health benefits of yoga. Practising yoga helps with depression, stress, and insomnia. It also changes the brain structure and shape, such as reducing the size of the amygdala, the part of the brain that plays an important role in emotions and behaviour. Better emotional and impulse control, enhanced focus and concentration, increased self-awareness, and quicker decision making are some other benefits of yoga.
Ways to incorporate yoga in your daily routine
Now that you know the proven health benefits of practising yoga, here are some ways in which you can incorporate it in your daily life. Now, with the coronavirus pandemic, it’s perhaps the best time to start yoga for all its physical and mental health benefits.
- Understand the logic: Simply doing yoga asanas will not have as much impact as knowing the reasoning behind it. Understanding why you’re doing what you’re doing will help you believe in its power and apply it effectively when required. For instance, in yoga, each of your fingers represents a certain element of nature – earth, fire, water, air, and space. Depending on which element in your body you want to focus on or reduce, there are different mudras (hand/finger positions) to adopt.
- Eat sattvic food: Yoga believes in the power of food and the impact it has on your body and mind. As the food, so the mind; as the mind, so the thought; as the thought, so the act. In basic terms, sattvic food is simple vegetarian food that is high in fibre and low in fat. These foods are believed to be balanced and pure, helping one to achieve a state of calm and happiness. While trying to follow a sattvic diet, it’s also important to eat freshly prepared food, seasonal food, local food, etc.
- Practise deep breathing: Deep breathing is an essential part of yoga and by focusing on your breathing you’re doing yourself a great service. Every time you take a deep breath, think of it as giving a ‘love note’ to your body. The best part is that you don’t to do this only in the 30–40 minutes that you sit to practice yoga. You can do this at any time – when you wake up, before you go to bed, when surrounded by nature, etc.
- Be flexible and adaptable: You don’t need a yoga mat or a fixed time or place to do yoga every day. That would be ideal, but if it’s not possible, you can still find simple ways to incorporate yoga in your daily routine. When you wake up every morning, you can start with some basic hand, leg, neck, and shoulder stretches in your bed. Do the same at night before sleeping.
- Go easy on yourself: Yoga is about discipline. But one common misconception people have about yoga is that you need to push your body. Yoga teaches quite the contrary. It believes in being comfortable with your body and loving it. It doesn’t believe in pushing it to the point of pain and discomfort. So, while you might want to do all those cool asanas you saw on Instagram, start small and don’t be harsh on yourself.
- Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness is the quality of being present in whatever it is that you’re doing at that moment – eating, talking, relaxing, etc. It is being aware of your thoughts, free of all distraction and staying away from any form of judgement, anxiety, or worry. One great way to start being mindful is by quitting multitasking. Chanting ‘om’ is another integral part of yoga. Doing this three times at the end of your yoga session can be powerful because it lets positive vibrations flow in your body.
This International Yoga Day, make a commitment to your body and mind by making yoga an integral part of your lifestyle. Namaste. Mindfulness during coronavirus: Read these 7 Practices that can make big change to your life.