Yoga is a form of fitness that focuses on mind-body practices that combine relaxation and meditation techniques, physical positioning, breathing, as well as mental enhancement applications. While this practice was initially viewed as a holistic or alternative form of exercise, it has become much more mainstream over the last 20 years. Today, most fitness chains, local workout hubs, and YMCAs offer some form of yoga-based fitness classes for members. Even community centers have recruited novice instructors who are familiar with various techniques to offer free or low-cost classes to the public. This is because this form of fitness has been linked to many health benefits and it is a form of exercise that is suitable for everyone, including the elderly and disabled. That being said, here are five health benefits associated with yoga.
1. Improved Conditioning and Fitness–Yoga can help individuals of varying skill levels get back on track fitness-wise, even in the aftermath of injury and/or illness. This is because this form of exercise has been shown to improve balance, strength, range of motion, flexibility, and conditioning.
2. Assist in Management of Chronic Conditions–Other health benefits associated with yoga techniques include their ability to aid in managing chronic health issues and reduce risk factors for diseases, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and elevated cholesterol levels. Furthermore, the practice of yoga can also assist in ameliorating other chronic conditions, such as insomnia, anxiety, pain, and depression.
3. Alleviate Migraines–Health benefits have also been attributed to migraine sufferers, who have experienced fewer and less painful headache episodes after three months or more of practice, according to recent studies. While the exact cause of migraines is not known or understood, researchers suggest it could be a combination of factors, such as mental stressors and physical misalignment, that create triggers for migraines and other related issues. Another trigger for migraines could be linked to poor or improper posture. For instance, if someone hunches over their computer or cell phone with their shoulders up and head forward, this action results in the overextension of one’s trapezius and tightening of the neck. As a result, this physical misalignment pulls the head forward and creates muscle imbalances that can contribute to migraines and headaches.
4. Improved Immunity–This form of exercise can help to boost immunity by increasing an individual’s overall health and sense of well-being. This is because as a person moves better, their breathing improves, and their circulation is restored, the other organs of the body will function better, as well. In fact, the results of a recent Norwegian study suggested that yoga practice could result in changes in gene expression that subsequently bolster immunity at a cellular level. These changes were not believed to be attributed to long-term practice but were also observed among the short-term practitioners.
5. Stress Management–One long-established benefit of this practice has been its ability to help alleviate stress. It is viewed by many as a stress buster for the ages. In addition to stress management, this form of fitness can also bolster one’s mood and overall sense of well-being.
Yoga has many different forms, styles, and techniques. It is also a form of exercise that can be customized and adapted to each person, depending on their abilities and/or impairments. It is very much individualized and each person must decide which form or movements work best for them. Nearly everyone can benefit from some style of yoga. Moreover, it is also an ideal form of fitness for older adults and those with mobility issues. The various health benefits–both physical and mental–associated with yoga and its adaptability make it a form of exercise that is suitable for virtually everyone. Furthermore, the benefits reaped from this mind-body concentrated form of fitness could allow users a new lease on life, especially those who are elderly, disabled, and/or suffer from various mobility issues.
Written and Edited by Leigh Haugh
Mayo Clinic–Stress Management
Yoga Journal–38 Health Benefits of Yoga
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