Physical Benefits

I do yoga so that I can stay flexible enough to kick my own arse if necessary.

~Betsy Cañas Garmon

From helping with asthma to lowering blood pressure, the physical benefits of yoga are incredibly varied and abundant.

Aging Hot Flashes & Night Sweats
Asthma Immune System
Balance Insomnia
High Blood Pressure Integrated Function of the Body
Body Awareness Lymphatic Drainage
Cardiovascular disease Memory
Cholesterol Osteoporosis
Circulation Chronic Pain
Core Strength Posture & Flexibility
Cross-Training for Athletes Pregnancy
Diabetes Respiratory problems
Digestion Sexuality
Endocrine Function Sodium Levels
Energy Strength
Great Exercise Weight Loss
Fatigue
  1. Aging
  2. Yoga stimulates detoxification in the body, which has been shown to delay aging as well as provide other health benefits. 5

  3. Asthma
    • Two separate studies found that adults with asthma practicing yogic breathing and meditation had less need for inhalers and reduced frequency of asthma attacks. 10, 12
    • Several Indian studies reported impressive results of yoga in improving asthma.  One study of showed an improvement or cure in 74% of patients.  A year-long study of found a 76% improvement or cure.  A third study of found a 93% improvement rate over a 9-year period.  Another 40 day study found a significant increase in pulmonary function and exercise capacity, with fewer asthma symptoms and reduced medication. 11
  4. Balance
  5. An integral part of yoga is performing poses that practice your balance and control of the body. With consistent practice, balance will improve off the yoga mat and will be especially critically as you age, as having good balance helps to prevent falls in the elderly. 5

  6. High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
    Practice yoga consistently to decrease blood pressure by improving circulation and oxygenation in the body 

    • In a 3-month study of 20 patients with high blood pressure (hypertension), a combination of biofeedback and yoga exercises allowed 5 patients to stop taking blood pressure medication completely, 5 to significantly reduce intake of medication and 4 to lower their blood pressure. 11
    • In another study a 12-week yoga program was successful in helping lower blood pressure. 21
  7. Body Awareness
  8. Focusing on alignment in yoga poses and making micro-movements to adjust the body increases the level of comfort and awareness of the body. This in turn results in better posture, smoother movements and more self-confidence. 5

  9. Cardiovascular disease and heart rate
    • Two benefits of yoga are a lowered heart rate and better oxygenation in the body, both of which increase cardiovascular endurance. 5
    • Other studies have shown that yoga can lower blood pressure and heart rate and improve overall cardiovascular endurance. 12
  10. Cholesterol
    • After one year of yoga training, patients in one study showed statistical significant changes in serum total cholesterol (23.3% reduction), serum LDL cholesterol (26% reduction) and regression of disease.4
    • Studies from Sweden and India found that and triglycerides were significantly lower and “good” HDL cholesterol was higher in the group doing yoga than in the control group. 22
  11. Circulation
  12. One of the great benefits of yoga is improvement in blood flow and circulation. The breath synchronized movements in yoga and special yogic breathing increase the flow of oxygen rich blood. In particular, inverted postures relax the sympathetic nervous system, which relaxes muscles surrounding sympathetic veins and cause an increase in blood flow. 15

  13. Core Strength
  14. Yoga strengthens the core of the body, which improves posture, helps heal and reduce injuries and contributes to overall body strength. 5

  15. Cross-Training for Athletes
  16. Yoga stretches, strengthens and invigorates the entire body and internal organs. It increases core strength, flexibility and range of motion and improves balance. In other words, it is great cross-training! All these yoga benefits help with improving performance in another sport, reduce risk of injury and increases your longevity in the game. 23

  17. Diabetes
     

    • Certain yoga postures massage and improve circulation in various organs and glands. Postures (such as backbends) benefiting the pancreas, when practiced correctly, can help reverse diabetes. Yoga also decreases stress, one of the factors that complicate diabetes. 16
    • A study found that a 12-week yoga program was successful in helping participants lose weight and decrease blood sugar levels. 21
    • Other studies from Sweden and India found that waist circumference and blood sugar were significantly lower in the group doing yoga than in the control group.22
  18. Digestion
  19. Food travels an average of 35 feet (11 meters) through the body! So there is a lot of room along the way for digestive troubles and disorders. Yoga poses increase blood flow to digestive organs and release tight and blocked areas, both of which help digestion. In addition, certain yoga poses (such as twists) massage the abdominal organs and thus aid food movement and elimination. 5,6

  20. Endocrine Function
  21. Yoga helps regulate and control hormone secretion (controlled by the endocrine system). Balanced hormones promote better overall physical and emotional health. 5

  22. Energy
  23. An Oxford study found that yoga breathing restores energy better than relaxation or visualization. Also, like any workout, it stimulates the blood flow, heats up muscles and releases endorphins, giving you a feel good energy boost. 1

  24. Great Exercise
  25. Yoga is simply another good way to exercise and keep your body moving. You body was not meant to sit all day, like an expensive car in a garage. It needs to and wants to move and yoga is a wonderful way to do it. Best of all, it’s accessible to all ages and body types; there are modifications for each pose and many different yoga styles to choose from.

  26. Fatigue
     

    • During a 6-week trial of twice weekly yoga with breast cancer patients, researchers found that the women undergoing radiation had less fatigue and fewer problems with daytime sleepiness. 17
    • In another study researchers found that restorative yoga helped fatigue issues with women undergoing breast cancer treatment. 17
  27. Hot Flashes and Night Sweats
  28. Practicing yoga, breathing exercises and meditation led to 50% fewer hot flashes and night sweats than a control group that did only stretching exercises. 3

  29. Immune System
  30. According to the American Cancer Society studies show yoga strengthens the immune system. Stress contributes to immune-based disease (e.g. cancer and AIDS) and yoga helps combat stress, thus strengthening the immune system. 17

  31. Insomnia
     

    • A study showed that lymphoma patients (compared with a control group) had fewer sleep interruptions, fell asleep more quickly and slept longer after going through a seven week yoga program. 18
    • In a randomized control trial, 20 participants doing 45 minutes of yoga daily for 8 weeks had significant reduction of insomnia as compared to the trail group. 19
  32. Integrated Function of the Body
  33. The word “yoga” comes from the Sanskrit (ancient Indo-Aryan language) word “yoke” or “union.” It is the union of a person’s consciousness with the greater universal consciousness. Yogis find that their body works together much better when they practice yoga regularly and movements become more graceful and efficient. 5

  34. Lymphatic Drainage
  35. The lymphatic system eliminates toxins and because it’s rich in white blood cells it strengthens immunity. It’s vital that the lymphatic fluids move around, and the only way to get it flowing is by contraction and stretching of skeletal muscles. Yoga is one of the best ways to stimulate healthy lymph flow because it uses movements you wouldn’t normally do everyday or with traditional exercise. 5

  36. Memory
    • Yoga improves blood circulation not just in the body but also in the brain. In addition, yoga brings an enhanced ability to focus and concentrate. Both of these benefits results in better memory. 2
    • An Indian study of 120 women found that when they practiced yoga, breathing exercises and meditation the practitioners reported improved memory. 3
  37. Osteoporosis
    • It’s well documented that weight bearing exercise strengthens bones, which in turn helps prevent osteoporosis.  While practicing yoga, you are supporting your own body weight in a wide variety of postures.
    • A two year study of 10 minute daily yoga found that osteoporosis patients significantly improved on their bone density tests for the spine and hip.  Several patients who had full blown osteoporosis improved enough to be re-classified in the milder version of osteopenia.  Those with osteopenia improved enough to re-enter normal bone density range. 13
  38. Chronic Pain
    You can not only increase your pain tolerance with yoga, but also reduce and eliminate pain altogether. 

    • A group of patients with herniated discs and lower back pain did an exercise routine consisting of 70% yoga for 15 minutes a day, three times a week. 80% of reported pain was reduced by at least half. 7
    • A study showed that veterans (average age 55) with chronic lower back pain showed significant reduction in pain after at least eight weekly yoga classes. In addition, their mood and energy improved. 8
    • Another study found that women with metastatic breast cancer had significantly less pain and fatigue the day after practicing yoga. 9
  39. Posture & Flexibility
     

    • One of the first things many people think of when yoga comes to mind is someone stretching themselves into a pretzel shape. Yoga certainly promotes flexibility, but don’t let those funky complex poses scare you away. There are plenty of basic poses that will give the great benefits listed on this page.
    • When you work on flexibility it becomes easier to have a good posture. In addition, a large part of the Yoga practice is to focus on alignment of the body in a healthy position, body awareness and control over the body and mind. By practicing yoga regularly (once a week or more), posture will improve so that you will feel and look more healthy and confident. 5
  40. Pregnancy
  41. Yoga for pregnant women is a great way to relax and stretch muscle tension associated with pregnancy. It also strengthens the core and entire body, getting it ready for birth. Gentle yoga and meditation teach you how to relax and breath in preparation for labor. Moreover, yoga enhances body awareness and mind-body connection, which help the mother be more aware of the body’s and the baby’s needs, increasing the bond between mother and child. Yoga will also help you lose any excess weight you may have gained during pregnancy. There are certain poses that are not beneficial though, so make sure the teacher knows you are pregnant and advises you of any adjustments you need. 24

  42. Respiratory problems – Bronchitis and Emphysema
  43. In an Australian study of patients suffering from chronic bronchitis and emphysema, half underwent standard physiotherapy and the other half did yoga breathing and postures. After 9 months, they were examined, and the yoga group showed significant improvement in their ability to exercise, but the physiotherapy group did not. In addition, the yoga group gained the ability to control their breathing problems and their breathing pattern changed to a slower and deeper cycle, letting them tolerate higher work loads. The physiotherapy group’s breathing pattern continued to be shallow and rapid. 14

  44. Sexuality
  45. Want to feel more relaxed and confident and invigorate your sexual life? Yoga can improve sexuality by stretching, strengthening and invigorating the body, which lead to better postures, control, relaxation and self-confidence. 5

  46. Sodium Levels
  47. Yoga reduces sodium levels in the body, like any good exercise program. Nowadays, many people have elevated sodium in the body due to a highly processed and fast food diet. 5

  48. Strength
  49. An integral part of yoga is that the practitioner uses and supports their own body weight in various postures. This leads not just to strength, but to a more holistic strengthening of different muscle groups. 5

  50. Weight Loss
    Rev up your metabolism and burn those calories with a great yoga routine! 

    • Regular yoga practice (30 minutes once a week) was connected to weight loss in one study of subjects aged 45 – 55.   Not only do certain types of yoga raise the heart rate into an aerobic range (which burns calories) and strengthen muscles, but yoga strengthens the mind-body connection, which in turn makes you more aware of when you are full and not like the feeling of overeating.  20
    • A 2009 study found that a 12-week yoga program was successful in helping participants lose weight. 21
    • Other studies found that waist circumference were significantly lower in the group doing yoga than in the control group. 22


1 http://www.oohoi.com/physical_therapy/yoga/effectiveness.htm
2 http://www.nursingdegree.net/blog/24/77-surprising-health-benefits-of-yoga/
3 http://living.health.com/2009/01/04/yoga-hot-flashes-boosts-memory/
4 The Yoga Institute, Santacruz, Mumbai, a study of 114 patients http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15636328 Beneficial effects of yoga lifestyle on reversibility of ischaemic heart disease: caring heart project of International Board of Yoga.
5 http://www.nursingdegree.net/blog/24/77-surprising-health-benefits-of-yoga/
6 http://www.iremia.net/newsletr/KYNL03.pdf
7 Dr. Vijay Vad, sports medicine specialist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan http://www.hvk.org/articles/0702/212.html
8 November Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine http://www.research.va.gov/news/research_highlights/yoga-120108.cfm
9 March 2007 Journal of Pain and Symptom Management http://www.emaxhealth.com/1506/51/34310/yoga-benefits-cancer-patients.html
10 P.K. Vedanthan, an allergist and associate professor of medicine at the University of Colorado in Denver http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9532318
11 http://www.holisticonline.com/yoga/hol_yoga_benefits.htm
12 The Lancet (1990) and Mary Jo Kreitzer, director of the Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota Alternative Medicine Center http://www.oohoi.com/physical_therapy/yoga/effectiveness.htm
13 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/loren-fishman-md/pilot-study-and-new-book_b_384430.html
14 http://www.holisticonline.com/yoga/hol_yoga_benefits.htm
15http://yoga.lovetoknow.com/Yoga_Poses_to_Help_Circulation_in_Hands_and_Feet
16 http://www.bikramyoga.com/testimonials/Diabetes.htm
17 Researchers from the MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas and April 2009 Journal Psycho-oncology http://www.emaxhealth.com/1506/51/34310/yoga-benefits-cancer-patients.html
18 http://www.emaxhealth.com/1506/51/34310/yoga-benefits-cancer-patients.html
19 Sat Bir Khalsa, PhD, a neuroscientist and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School http://www.apa.org/monitor/2009/11/yoga.aspx20 http://psychology.suite101.com/article.cfm/yoga_and_your_health
21 2009 University of Pittsburgh http://acam.typepad.com/blog/2009/12/utilization-of-3month-yoga-program-for-adults-at-high-risk-for-type-2-diabetes-a-pilot-study.html
22 http://in.reuters.com/article/health/idINSAT87408420071228
23 http://sportsmedicine.about.com/od/tipsandtricks/a/yoga.htm
24 http://www.womenshealthcaretopics.com/preg_yoga_during_pregnancy.htm

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