5 Surprising Health Benefits of Yoga
If you’ve made a commitment to improving your health and wellness this fall, you may want to give yoga a try. Some people think of yoga as just ‘zoning out’, while others know it to be a good form of exercise. But recent studies shows that the health benefits of this ancient tradition can extend well beyond simple relaxation and flexibility.
Here are 5 surprising ways that yoga may enhance your health:
1) Better sex. Yoga means ‘union’ or ‘connection’. In Sanskrit, the word yoga is used to signify any form of connection. It is centered on fusing the mind and the body, so it makes sense that practicing it regularly could also give a lift to your love life. According to a recent study reported in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, a 12-week yoga program improved sexual desire and arousal in people with sexual dysfunction. Many yoga poses improve flexibility, increase blood flow, and can help you reduce stress – all of which can result in more sizzle in the bedroom!
2. Depression. Although yogic breathing techniques can take some time to master, they are a powerful ally in combating stress, anxiety and depression. One study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine found that a 30-minute daily yoga practice could enhance well-being, mood, attention, mental focus, and stress tolerance. Researches believe that yogic breathing can lower the heart rate and calm the nervous system — which have very real benefits for mental health. Researchers have even compared yogic breathing with traditional treatments for depression. A study comparing a consistent yoga practice with electroconvulsive therapy and the tricyclic antidepressant imipramine found that after four weeks of treatment, 93% of those receiving electroconvulsive therapy, 73% of those taking imipramine, and 67% of those using the breathing technique had achieved remission.
3. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Relief. A recent University of Pennsylvania study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) showed that eight weeks of Iyengar-style classes significantly reduced pain and improved grip strength in people suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. In fact, yoga was found to be more effective in reliving symptoms than wrist–splinting. Researchers also believe yoga may help prevent the original onset of carpal tunnel issues.
4. Weight Loss. Several recent studies indicate that a consistent yoga practice can help you shed pounds and keep them off. In a survey of 15,000 adults, researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle found that those who didn’t practice yoga gained about 18 pounds more over a 10-year period than those who practiced for at least four years. Another study from the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in California found that people who practiced yoga and meditation regularly, exercised, and watched their diet lost more weight than those who exercised and ate a healthy diet but skipped yoga.
5. Menopause. Got hot flashes? It maybe time to get some yoga! A study at the University of California found that menopausal women who took two months of a weekly restorative yoga classed reported a 30% decrease in hot flashes. A four-month study at the University of Illinois found that many women who took a 90-minute Iyengar class twice a week boosted both their energy and mood; plus they reported less physical and sexual discomfort, and reduced stress and anxiety.
The Bottom Line:
Yoga can enhance your health – both mental and physical – in some surprising ways. Whether you try bikram (or “hot” yoga), vinyassa flow, yin yoga, hatha yoga, Iyengar yoga or other forms, you will likely see a boost in your fitness level and overall wellbeing. (Note: As with any exercise, check with your doctor before starting a new program.)
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