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10 Health Benefits of Yoga Supported By Science

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Ever wondered what yoga does apart from making you touch your toes? Besides spiritual learning, modern science has also accepted the magical health benefits of yoga in the modern era. Yoga – derived from the Sanskrit word Yuj meaning ‘union’ is an ancient practice that is highly restorative and therapeutic for your body. It is rooted in the sacred land of India. It began as a spiritual practice in the beginning, but today, it is widely known for promoting mental and physical well-being.

Here are ten health benefits of yoga supported by science in the modern era:

1. Natural stress buster

Stress exhibits itself in many ways including physically, emotionally, and mentally but thank goodness yoga can ease us from stress and enhance relaxation. 

A study has shown that the regular practice of yoga can eliminate the secretion of cortisol – the primary stress hormone. The study was conducted on 24 emotionally distressed women. They were sent to a 3 month long yoga program. It was observed that after 3 months their cortisol levels dropped significantly. They also had a lower level of anxiety, stress, depression, and fatigue.

Yoga is highly beneficial in improving the quality of mental health and life. When you practice alone or along with other methods like meditation, it can be a helpful way to keep stress in check. It helps in the secretion of endorphins known as a natural stress and pain fighter. This hormone acts as a drug called codeine and morphine to help you feel relaxed.

2. Get rid of anxiety

Anxiety attacks are described as immediately escalating and unbearable. You can have anxiety attacks whenever you feel stressed with an unfamiliar environment. Additionally, you can feel  anxious because of mental and physical issues also. Anxiety attacks are characterized by shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, muscle spasms, shaking, fatigue, and weakness.

Yoga is known as the best way to cope with the feeling of anxiety. It is interesting to know that research proves that yoga helps in reducing anxiety. It is not completely clear how yoga cures anxiety, however, yoga highlights the necessity of being present in the moment, finding a sense of peace, and helps in treating anxiety.

3. Reduced inflammation

The regular practice of yoga improves mental health and cures chronic inflammation. Inflammation is a general immune response, but severe inflammation can add to the development of pro-inflammatory diseases like diabetes, cancer, and heart diseases.

A study was done on 218 participants by dividing them into two groups. Both groups participated in strenuous and moderate exercises for inducing stress. The group who practiced yoga had a lower level of inflammatory elements than those who didn’t. Yoga helps protect you from certain diseases caused by inflammation. The advantageous effects of yoga on inflammation are still needed to be confirmed.

“Yoga begins with listening. When we listen, we are giving space to what is.” – Richard Freeman

4. Improved heart health

The health of our heart is crucial for maintaining normal functions like supplying tissues with necessary nutrients and pumping blood regularly to all the organs. Studies prove that practicing yoga regularly improves heart health and lowers the risk of heart diseases. 

A study was done on people aged over 40 years. They practiced yoga for 5 years. Results showed that they had a lower pulse rate and blood pressure than those who didn’t practice yoga. Many types of research also state that having a healthy lifestyle with yoga slows down the progression of heart diseases.

5. Quality of life

Yoga has become a general adjunct therapy for improving the quality of life for numerous individuals. A study was performed on 135 seniors. It showed that practicing yoga improves their quality of life and mood. Yoga also helps in reducing the symptoms of cancer and the effects of chemotherapy, such as vomiting and nausea. 

Another study states that yoga improves the quality of sleep, improves social functions, enhances spiritual well-being, and reduces the symptoms of depression and anxiety in cancer patients.

6. Yoga fights with depression

Yoga has antidepressant effects and helps in reducing the level of cortisol – a stress hormone that influences the level of serotonin – the neurotransmitter, which is often associated with depression.

During the study, participants (in an alcohol dependency program) were told to focus on yoga and rhythmic breathing. After two weeks, participants had a lower level of cortisol and symptoms of depression. Another study also proved the same. Acquired results showed that yoga helps in fighting with depression alone or with the help of traditional methods. 

7. Reduces chronic pain

Chronic pain can be a result of many severe causes from arthritis to injuries. Research has demonstrated that the regular practice of yoga reduces numerous types of chronic pain. In a study, 42 people suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome did yoga for eight weeks or received a wrist splint. People who practiced yoga had positive results by improving their grip strength and experiencing less pain than those who received a wrist splint. Another study states that yoga helps in decreasing pain and improves the physical function of people suffering from osteoarthritis of knees. 

“Yoga is a dance between control and surrender — between pushing and letting go — and when to push and when to let go becomes part of the creative process, part of the open-ended exploration of your being.” – Joel Kramer

8. Cures insomnia

Poor sleep quality is associated with high blood pressure, depression, and obesity, amongst other disorders. Studies show that incorporating yoga into your life helps in promoting better sleep. 

In a study, 69 elderly patients were assigned three different programs – practice yoga, be a part of the control group, or take herbal preparation. The group who were assigned to do yoga fell asleep quickly and slept for a long time, and were well-rested in the morning. 

Another study was performed on the patients of lymphoma. The regular practice of yoga decreased sleep disturbance, while improving the duration and quality of sleep. Yoga increases the secretion of melatonin – a hormone that regulates wakefulness and sleep. Yoga has notable effects on the causes of sleep issues such as anxiety, chronic pain, stress, and depression. 

9. Promotes flexibility and balance

Numerous people incorporate yoga into fitness routines for improving balance and flexibility. It’s well known that practicing yoga regularly improves your balance and flexibility. A study was performed on 66 older people. They were assigned to 2 different groups. One group was told to practice yoga and the other one was told to practice calisthenics. After one year, the flexibility of the yoga group increased 4 times as compared to the calisthenics group. 

According to a study in 2013, yoga can improve mobility and balance in older adults. Daily practice of yoga for just 15 to 30 minutes can make a big difference. It can enhance performance by improving balance and flexibility. 

10. Invigorates the nervous system 

It is crucial to have a strong nervous system that reacts to stress and relaxes in the absence of stressors. Unfortunately, numerous people fail to react in the absence of stressors. People who are often overstressed are prone to stroke and heart diseases. 

Stressed people also adopt unhealthy behaviors, such as overeating, physical inactivity, and smoking. A study shows that yoga and meditation help in keeping our body relaxed, calm, and working. It also reduces the chances of engaging in bad behaviors, which can affect your health. It reduces blood pressure and allows the body to be active. It also strengthens the nervous system.

Do you practice yoga? If so, what’s your favorite part about it? Let us know in the comments below!

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7 Ways You Can Increase Your Concentration Right Away

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In today’s world, an overabundance of information and a large number of distractions is making it increasingly difficult to concentrate on performing the necessary tasks. In this article, I propose 7 simple methods that will train your ability to concentrate, while not taking you from your usual activities. (more…)

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5 Simple Hacks to Help You Develop the Habit That Will Transform Your Life

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It’s excruciating when we know what’s killing us but we can’t do anything about it because as you know, it is not easy to pull the brake on a high way. According to Napoleon Hill, “remember this always – the best (and one might say the only) way in which old habits may be removed is to form new habits to counteract and replace the undesirable ones”. (more…)

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Why Do We Have An Unconscious Bias and How Can We Manage It?

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When I hear someone using my name once in a while throughout the conversation we are having, I cannot stop myself thinking “this person must have read Dale Carnegie’s books or must have been influenced by someone who read them…” Have you just recalled a similar moment and it felt nice?

As Dale Carnegie famously said, “Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and the most important sound in any language”. Why did Dale Carnegie highlight the importance of an individual’s name to that person in his “How to Win Friends and Influence People” book published in 1936?

Each and every one of us wants to feel special and unique. I guess he recommends using the person’s name in the conversation because that is one of the easiest ways to grab that person’s attention so that we can enhance the chances of getting our point across. However, I am more interested in this from the other side; hearing our names directly addresses our individuality, our need or desire to feel special and unique.  

Let’s park this one for now and we will come back. 

Categorization is essential to our survival

There is countless scientific research telling us about how our brains recognize similarities and put things into categories, which has been crucial to our survival in evolution and still helps us with a lot of things from learning new things to coping with the continuous influx of massive amounts of information through our senses. 

The continuous influx of information is mostly handled by our subconscious mind rather than conscious. It is estimated that our brains receive about 11 million bits of information every second through our senses, of which only 40-50 bits can be processed by our conscious mind. We process more information than we are aware of. The magic here is the subconscious mind.

An example is when you are at a very loud party where you hear a lot of words flying around without you recognizing each one of them, then suddenly, you immediately catch it when you hear your name. Your subconscious had been processing all of those words, without your awareness, but informed your conscious mind when your name was out there because it was relevant to you.

In order to most effectively process this much information and inform the conscious mind with only the relevant ones, our subconscious employs categorization as one of its strategies.

When our ancestors encountered some deadly predators in the African savanna, their subconscious prompted their conscious mind to immediately fight or flight by categorizing the information gathered through their senses into “predator / life threat / take action”. Most probably we are not descendants of the ones that were frozen rather than fighting or flighting! 

Although it is a completely different situation, the same strategy applied in remembering lists. Let’s look at the below two lists.

  1. lion, eagle, shark, leopard, hawk, whale, panther, falcon and dolphin 
  2. lion, leopard, panther, eagle, hawk, falcon, shark, whale and dolphin

The second list is easy to remember because it is reordered into relevant groups even though the content of the both lists are identical.

Subconsciousness is the magic and categorization is one of its key strategies. It is essential to our survival, learning new skills and processing information as well as bringing back the information we had processed and stored. 

This amazing skill has its drawbacks

As a result of our brains’ categorization strategy, we also categorize people, especially if we don’t know them as well as our closest ones.

Imagine I am sitting at the table next to yours while you are having your favorite coffee and working on your computer or reading your novel at your neighborhood coffee shop. I stand up, very calmly grab your bag, and start walking away. Your reaction might be quite different depending on my outfit. It could be much more vocal and harsh if I have a dirty T-Shirt and a pair of torn jeans on. However, if I have some navy colored, 3-piece suit and well-pressed white button up shirt on, you might even say something like “Excuse me, you might have picked up my bag by mistake”. (There is an experiment done by social psychologists which reported similar results)

Similarly, I would not be surprised to hear that my co-worker’s spouse is very skilled and knowledgeable in English grammar and literature because he is an English teacher. However, I would not expect it from my co-worker herself because she is an outstanding chemical engineer.  

This is defined as unconscious bias or stereotyping, as a result of our subconscious brain’s categorization strategy. The outfit I have at the coffee shop impacts your response to my action, because it puts me into a different category in your mind depending on my outfit. My co-worker’s and her spouse’s backgrounds make me put them into different categories, which might mislead me sometimes.

Just like we categorize things, it is very natural that we categorize people.  

The key question here for me is; how do we truly treat people as individuals so that they feel unique, just like as they would want, while we know that our brains categorize people

We can overcome unconscious bias 

Leonard Mlodinow, in his enlightening book “Subliminal”, suggests that “if we are aware of our bias and motivated to overcome it, we can.” That doesn’t mean that we need to fight our brain’s categorization strategy. We just need to employ our conscious mind more when we are working or dealing with individuals. 

Our unconscious bias might tell us scientists are bunch of technical nerds who cannot understand abstract concepts that marketers are talking about or it might say that marketers are some daydreamers who need to be grounded by scientists to the real world all the time. I am an engineer and I love thinking in abstract terms and I worked with quite a lot of marketers who thought primarily in factual and concrete terms. 

Spending some effort to learn more about individuals will help overcome unconscious bias. Gathering more information and qualities about them will make it easier for us to treat them as individuals rather than a member of the category we put them in our minds. 

The moral of the story here is to recognize the fact that our brains do categorize, and it is essential; but also, to recognize that every individual wants to feel unique. When we appreciate these two and keep reminding them to ourselves, we are one step closer to figuring out our own way to overcome unconscious bias and treat people more like individuals. 

What was the most interesting part of this article for you? Share your thoughts below!

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The Problem Is Not Actually the Problem: Here’s Why

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With my understanding of the Three Principles, which is deepening month-by-month, I’m becoming more curious about whether the ‘problem’ that we think we have, is really a problem. Not for one second am I dismissing a persons’ experience; I’m human after all and I encounter challenges and what I think are ‘problems’ just like the next person. (more…)

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