Yoga is an ancient practice that brings together mind and body, incorporating breathing exercises, meditation and poses, all designed to encourage relaxation and reduce stress. Just what we need to pull ourselves out of our chairs and sofas, and not be slaves to our WFH desks.
Ahead of International Yoga Day (June 21), check out these 10 reasons why learning yoga is good for you:
1. Lowers stress levels
Several studies have shown that yoga can decrease the secretion of cortisol (the primary stress hormone), thus reducing stress and promoting relaxation. This then has the knock on effect of lowering levels of anxiety and fatigue too.
2. Reduces depression
Yoga is also believed to have an anti-depressant effect on the body, as cortisol influences levels of serotonin (the neurotransmitter associated with depression), hence lowering levels of cortisol mean lowering the levels of depression. Yoga also helps lower levels of ACTH, a hormone responsible for stimulating the release of that cortisol itself.
3. Cardiovascular benefits
Research shows that yoga can have a positive effect on heart health and cardiovascular risk factors, as it helps lower blood pressure and hypertension. Yoga can also improve lipid profiles, especially in people with coronary artery disease; and lower excessive blood sugar levels in people with non-insulin-dependent diabetes.
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4. Improves quality of sleep
Incorporating yoga into your daily routine can help promote better sleep, as it increases the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness.
5. Enhances fitness, flexibility and balance
Practicing different yoga poses for just 15-30 minutes a day helps improves flexibility and balance, especially in older people, where mobility is an issue. Yoga also helps with overall exercise capacity, leading to greater muscle strength and endurance, and overall cardio-respiratory fitness.
6. Improves breathing and vital lung capacity
Pranayama, or yogic breathing, focuses on controlling the breath through specific breathing techniques, to improve breathing, lung function and vital lung capacity (maximum amount of air that can be expelled from the lungs).
Improving breathing helps build endurance, optimise performance and keep lungs and heart healthy, all especially important for those with lung disease, heart problems and asthma.
7. Encourages healthier, mindful eating habits
Mindfulness is focusing your attention on what you are experiencing in the present moment without judging yourself, without being aided with external factors such as mood swings or emotional eating.
Studies show that people who practice yoga are more mindful eaters as practicing yoga helps you be more aware of how your body feels with every bite or sip at mealtimes.
8. Protects your spine
Spinal disks, the shock absorbers between the vertebrae that can herniate and compress nerves, need movement as that’s the only way they get their nutrients. A well-balanced yoga practice with plenty of backbends, forward bends, and twists, helps keep your disks supple and healthy.
9. Perfects posture
And having a strong spine and good posture means less work for your neck and back muscles to support your head. Poor posture can cause back, neck, and other muscle and joint problems.
10. Improves 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.
Practicing yoga and meditation helps being able to focus better on issues at hand, while being less distracted by thoughts or mind wandering.
This article was first published in Wonderwall.sg.