8 Reasons Why Yoga Makes You Happier and Healthier
Develop Superpowers With Yoga
Yoga stretches the body, supports circulation, flushes the lymphatic system and stimulates major organs. It also alleviates common ailments and may be considered preventative medicine.
1. Reduce Pain
According to Harvard Health Publications, several studies found that a weekly yoga practice can reduce lower back pain and may be more effective for addressing pain than standard medical care or exercise therapy. Yoga improves the daily function of people struggling with curvature of the spine due to fibromyalgia and osteoporosis-related conditions.
2. Alleviate Anxiety
Anxiety has become one of the most common disorders in the US and studies have shown that yoga may be more effective, and possibly less expensive, than pharmacological treatment in alleviating symptoms, according to a 2007 study published in Evidence-Based and Complementary Alternative Medicine. The study found that a yoga session increased brain Γ-Aminobutyric (GABA) levels by 27 percent in yoga practitioners; anxiety and depression are traditionally associated with low GABA levels.
While yoga may not erase all attachments to a painful past, another study found that it can promote healing for people with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) through peaceful embodiment and an awakened sense of calm.
3. Get Out of the Clouds
Conducting scientific studies to prove that a yoga class has a positive effect on the mood may seem unnecessary to a dedicated yogi but nonetheless, when those who struggle to get out of bed manage to muster the strength to strike a pose and breathe through the low point, the effort is proven to uplift.
Researchers at UCLA, Moscow Research Center of Narcology and University of Bologna, found that, of the 17 subjects that completed the study: 1) all experienced significant reductions in anger, depression, neurotic symptoms and low frequency heart rate variability; and 2) 11 of the 17 subjects achieved remission levels post-intervention. Not only does yoga have the power to reduce depression, but it is potentially a practice that can sustain improved mental health.
4. Reduce Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
According to a 2014 study published by the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology, adults involved in a yoga practice, compared to those who did not exercise, exhibited improvements to body mass, weight, blood pressure and cholesterol, over time. The evidence is promising for cardio-metabolic health.
5. Improve Quality of Life for Cancer Survivors
Many studies explore quality of life impacts, as well as psychosocial and symptom-management benefits, of yoga as an intervention tool, usually with positive findings. For example, a 2012 study published in the journal of Evidence-Based and Complementary Alternative Medicine supported preliminary evidence of the significance of yoga for improving quality of life and symptoms in cancer survivors.
6. Improve Gene Expression
According to a 2013 study conducted by researchers at the University of Oslo and Oslo University Hospital, yoga can improve gene expression, especially in terms of immune function. Experimental sessions of gentle yoga postures, breathing exercises and meditation had a significantly greater effect on gene expression in peripheral blood mononuclear cells of subjects, compared with the control group protocol of walking in nature and listening to relaxing music.
Nature explains that, “genes encode proteins and proteins dictate cell function.” Gene expression refers to the ability of DNA to replicate, express and repair itself. Improved gene expression may be connected to improved immune function, cellular integrity and adaptability, in the evolutionary sense.
7. Support Smoking Cessation
Yoga may squash cravings in general but it has also been proven to reduce perceived stress and negative affects associated with smoking cessation, according to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Women’s Health.
8. It’s Never Too Late
It is never too late to get started or resume your yoga practice. Patanjali’s first Yoga Sutra states “Now begins the practice of yoga.” Remove the limitations that you identify with from the past, as well as your expectations for the future, and just get on your mat.
An Ancient Practice That Can Heal
Stress has become a way of life. Whether the days are full of multiple goals and endless obligations, traffic jams and transit delays, complex systems of bureaucracy and finance, or an overwhelming array of in-person and virtual relationships, the pace of current human existence is bursting at the seams.
“Yoga has the power to heal the world, one human at a time.”
For centuries, sages have relied on yoga to transcend earthly limitations. Each meditative pose is an effort to identify pockets of pain that accumulate inside the body. Each inhale confronts suffering. Each exhale is an attempt to transcend it. Through this process, worry is replaced with loving kindness. Now, bodies of research are proving that yoga is more than a niche spiritual force for particularly enlightened beings.
Mind Yoga: Master Your Mind, Master Your Life
Everyone is faced with challenges and obstacles throughout their lives and on their path to fulfillment, happiness and success. It’s not what happens to us in life that determines our outcomes, but rather how we respond to what happens to us. Having a knee-jerk emotional reaction to the challenges in life can create disappointing results. When we take a moment to process these challenges, and “choose” an appropriate response, we are more likely to make a wise decision.
In the human brain, when we have stress and experience the emotion of fear, our body sends out a massive amount of adrenaline into our system. This actually shuts down our logical thinking frontal lobe. Therefore, when fear rises, intelligence plummets. When you look back, can you match some of your worst decisions with a highly emotional state?
Meditation is a practice where you learn to “observe” your thoughts and emotions. As you do this, you can slowly begin to detach and analyze them so that you can slow down and make better decisions. The longer you meditate, the more that you’ll realize that while you can “have” emotions, you don’t need to “be” your emotions. This is a powerful distinction that builds your emotional intelligence.
We practice emotional intelligence when we allow ourselves to feel an emotion and then choose how we want to process and respond to that emotion. This allows us to create a more proactive response. The quality of our life depends on the quality of our perspective. When we are open-minded and willing to put our ego to one side, we can change the way we look at our life’s challenges. Meditation gives you the flexibility to change your perspective on life’s events.
A small adjustment in perspective may give you the power to make a dramatic and positive change in your life’s experiences.
Achieve Mental Strength
We are constantly bombarded with negative messages from the world. If we let these messages control and affect our own thoughts, then we too are letting the outside world control our thoughts. We end up having thoughts which are not actually ours. They are the thoughts of our culture, our society and of our environment. If you have any contact whatsoever with the daily news, internet news, newspapers of any kind or radio, you will be continually attacked with messages of negativity and fear. One would think that the world was always coming to an end! Unfortunately, disaster and bad news sells.
Creative and successful people have learned to monitor, control and choose their thoughts. This requires mental strength and mental discipline. They choose thoughts that support their visions and their dreams. They discard thoughts that are fear-based, negative and unproductive. This makes them original thinkers, innovators and leaders. Meditation is an effective practice for learning mental discipline.
It always amazes me how many people have discipline in so many areas of their life (their diet, their fitness and their schedule); however, few people practice any form of mental discipline – which is what really determines the outcomes and results that we have. The quality of your thoughts, determines the quality of your life.
Master your mind and you master your life! Successful, happy and balanced people have mental discipline, mental flexibility and mental strength. Just as your yoga practice helps you to create physical strength and flexibility, meditation assists you in developing mental flexibility and strength. When practiced with patience and persistence, meditation is the tool that will help you to master these areas as well.