27 Benefits of Yoga – Mental & Physical

By Camille Pierson
The Float Spa

Although we offer a wide range of yoga styles at The Float Spa, we see our clients receiving similar benefits whichever style they choose. Ancient tradition and modern medicine both highlight the physical and mental benefits of yoga and our staff observe many of these benefits in our clients every day.

Here is a long list of benefits we see daily:

  1. Improves flexibility – Improved flexibility is one of the first and most obvious benefits of yoga. During your first class, you may not be able to touch your toes, never mind do a backbend. But if you stick with it, you’ll notice a gradual improvement until, eventually, you find yourself doing poses you originally thought were impossible.
  2. Builds muscle strength – Strong muscles protect us from conditions like arthritis and back pain and help prevent falls in elderly people. When you build strength through yoga, it is balanced it with flexibility which helps maintain your range of movement and improve sporting performance.
  3. Perfects posture – Poor posture can cause back, neck and other muscle and joint problems. As you slump, your body may compensate by flattening the normal inward curves in your neck and lower back. This can cause pain and degenerative arthritis of the spine. Practicing yoga helps to improve your posture by strengthening weak muscles and stretching tight ones.
  4. Prevents cartilage and joint breakdown – Each time you practice yoga, you take your joints through their full range of motion. This can help prevent degenerative arthritis or mitigate disability by “squeezing and soaking” areas of cartilage that normally aren’t used.
  5. Protects your spine – Spinal disks, the shock absorbers between the vertebrae that can herniate and compress nerves, crave movement. That’s the only way they get their nutrients and prevents them from degenerating over time.
  6. Better bone health – It’s well documented that weight-bearing exercise strengthens bones and helps ward off osteoporosis. Many postures in yoga require that you lift your own weight. And some, like Downward- and Upward-Facing Dog, help strengthen the arm bones, which are particularly vulnerable to osteoporotic fractures.
  7. Increases your blood flow – Yoga gets your blood flowing. More specifically, the relaxation exercises you learn in yoga can help your circulation, especially in your hands and feet. Yoga also gets more oxygen to your cells which helps them to heal more quickly.
  8. Drains lymphs and boosts immunity – When you contract and stretch muscles, move organs around, and come in and out of yoga postures, you increase the drainage of lymph (a viscous fluid rich in immune cells). This helps the lymphatic system fight infection, destroy cancerous cells and disposes of the toxic waste products stored up in cells with limited blood flow.
  9. Ups heart rate – When you regularly get your heart rate into the aerobic range, you lower your risk of heart attacks and can relieve depression. While not all yoga is aerobic, if you do it vigorously or take flow or Ashtanga classes, it can boost your heart rate into the aerobic range.
  10. Lowers blood pressure – Two studies of people with hypertension, published in the British medical journal The Lancet, compared the effects of Savasana (Corpse Pose) with simply lying on a couch. After three months, Savasana was associated with a 26-point drop in systolic blood pressure (the top number) and a 15-point drop in diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) and the higher the initial blood pressure, the bigger the drop.
  11. Increases happiness – Feeling sad? Do yoga. A study found a consistent yoga practice improved depression and led to a significant increase in serotonin levels and a decrease in the levels of monoamine oxidase (an enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters) and cortisol (the stress hormone).
  12. Supports a healthy lifestyle – A regular practice gets you moving and burns calories. The spiritual and emotional dimensions of your practice can also encourage you to address any eating and weight problems on a deeper level.
  13. Lowers blood sugar – Yoga lowers blood sugar and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and boosts HDL (“good”) cholesterol. In people with diabetes, yoga has been found to lower blood sugar in several ways: by lowering cortisol and adrenaline levels, encouraging weight loss and improving sensitivity to the effects of insulin.
  14. Helps focus – An important component of yoga is focusing on the present. Studies have found that regular yoga practice improves coordination, reaction time, memory and even IQ scores.
  15. Relaxes your system – Yoga encourages you to relax, slow your breath and focus on the present, shifting the balance from the sympathetic nervous system (or the fight-or-flight response) to the parasympathetic nervous system.
  16. Improves balance – Regularly practicing yoga increases proprioception (the ability to feel what your body is doing and where it is in space) and improves balance. Better balance could mean fewer falls. For the elderly, this translates into more independence and delayed admission to a nursing home or never entering one at all. For the rest of us, postures like Tree Pose can make us feel less wobbly on and off the mat.
  17. Maintains your nervous system – Some advanced yogis can control their bodies in extraordinary ways, many of which are mediated by the nervous system. Scientists have monitored yogis who could induce unusual heart rhythms, generate specific brain-wave patterns, and, using a meditation technique, raise the temperature of their hands by 15 degrees Fahrenheit. If they can use yoga to do that, perhaps you could learn to improve blood flow to your pelvis if you’re trying to get pregnant or induce relaxation when you’re having trouble falling asleep.Book Now
  18. Releases tension in your limbs – Do you ever notice yourself holding the telephone or a steering wheel with a death grip or scrunching your face when staring at a computer screen? These unconscious habits can lead to chronic tension, muscle fatigue and soreness in the wrists, arms, shoulders, neck, and face which can increase stress and worsen your mood. As you practice yoga, you begin to notice where you hold tension. It might be in your tongue, your eyes or the muscles of your face and neck. If you simply tune in, you may be able to release some of that tension by focusing on it and willing it to relax.
  19. Helps you sleep deeper – Stimulation is good, but too much of it taxes the nervous system. Yoga can provide relief from the hustle and bustle of modern life and allow you to sleep better by allowing your mind to relax.
  20. Gives your lungs room to breathe – Yogis tend to take fewer breaths of greater volume, which is both calming and more efficient.
  21. Prevents IBS and other digestive problems – Ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation—all of these can be exacerbated by stress. By combatting stress through yoga, you’ll suffer less from these types of ailments.
  22. Gives you peace of mind – Yoga quells the fluctuations of the mind, according to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra. In other words, it slows down the mental loops of frustration, regret, anger, fear, and desire that can cause stress.
  23. Increases self-esteem – Many of us suffer from chronic low self-esteem. If you handle this negatively by taking drugs, overeating, working too hard, sleeping around, you may pay the price in poorer health physically, mentally and spiritually. If you take a positive approach and practice yoga, you’ll sense, initially in brief glimpses and later in more sustained views, that you’re worthwhile or, as yogic philosophy teaches, that you are a manifestation of the Divine.
  24. Eases pain – According to several studies, asana, meditation, or a combination of the two, reduced pain in people with arthritis, back pain, fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome and other chronic conditions.
  25. Gives you inner strength – Yoga can help you make changes in your life. In fact, that might be its greatest strength. Tapas, the Sanskrit word for “heat,” is the fire, the discipline that fuels yoga practice and that regular practice builds. This ‘heat’ can give you the strength to make important changes to your life as well as practice yoga regularly.
  26. Builds awareness for transformation – Yoga and meditation build awareness. And the more aware you are, the easier it is to break free of destructive emotions like anger.
  27. Benefits your relationships – A regular yoga practice helps develop friendliness, compassion and greater equanimity. This can help you build better friendships, sustain long term friendships and romantic relationships.

About the Author:

Camille Pierson
Camille is the managing director of the Float Spa and a Trustee of the Brighton Yoga Foundation. She’s immensely proud of the community she’s built at the float spa and takes real pleasure from seeing yoga & floating transform people’s lives. She’s also a mother of two.

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