June 21st is hailed as International Yoga Day, declared unanimously by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). The origins of yoga date back to the 18th century, seen as a beautiful fusion of physical, mental and spiritual activity. It is practiced by millions around the world often times praised for having a myriad of health benefits. In fact, according to a randomized controlled trial at Johns Hopkins University, 12 groups of participants were assigned to take part in yoga classes. After 8 weeks, they showed significant reduction in pain, as well as better moods, improved physical functions and increased energy levels. Read on for detailed benefits on how rolling out the yoga mat can benefit your life.
- Improves Flexibility – Most of us find ourselves sitting at a desk staring at a computer all day. This unhealthy habit can lead to muscle aches and pains. Yoga is the perfect practice to help loosen your muscles and joints. By giving your muscles a greater range of motion, you are less prone to injuries as well as day-to-day pain.
- Prevents Sickness – No one likes to get sick. Did you know that practicing yoga can help reduce your chance of getting an infection? By practicing yoga, you contract and stretch muscles which moves organs around. This increases drainage of lymph (a fluid rich in immune cells) and helps the lymphatic system fight infections, destroy cancerous cells and dispose of toxic waste in the body.
- Lowers Blood Pressure — Two studies in the British medical journal, The Lancet, compared the effects of a yoga pose called Savasana to simply lying on the couch. After three months, individuals who practiced this yoga pose experienced a 26-point drop in systolic blood pressure and a 15-point drop in diastolic blood pressure. To learn more about blood pressure and other ways to reduce it, read our previous CardioMender, MD blog by clicking here.
- Makes You Happier — Consistent yoga practice has been found to increase serotonin levels, the hormone that contributes to happiness and wellbeing. A study at the University of Wisconsin by Dr. Richard Davidson discovered that consistent yoga practice resulted in the prefrontal cortex showing heightened activity in meditators, a finding that has been correlated with greater levels of happiness. Another study available in the International Journal of Yoga revealed that practicing yoga increases the levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. It is found that low levels of GABA are associated with anxiety and depression. This study identifies the therapeutic effects of yoga to increase quality of life.
- Helps You Sleep — Hold the second cup of coffee. Yoga can provide relief from the hectic days of modern life. The practice of yoga provides downtime for the nervous system which in turn can lead to a deeper slumber.