11 Unique Benefits of Yoga

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Exercise is truly a “magic pill” for optimal wellness but there are unique benefits of yoga that you will not achieve in other forms of fitness!!  These benefits will show the importance of yoga and how it will improve your physical well-being and increase your longevity. 

Here is a list of the exclusive benefits of yoga:

#1 Improved Balance

Our bodies move in different directions all day.  We move forward, backward and side to side.  We twist and rotate.  To improve our balance we need to move through all these planes of motion.  Traditional exercises usually utilize one plane of motion (think bicep curls or push ups).  You may have a Fitness Trainer that is taking you through multi-planar exercises (if you are my client – we are doing multi-planar movements in our H.I.I.T. Training).   Yoga is one of the BEST ways to incorporate multi-planar activity.   Yoga poses will allow your body to move in all 3 planes: sagittal, frontal and transverse and will improve your ability to balance.

Studies with stroke survivors have proven that yoga positively impacts balance.  Arlene Schmid, PhD, a rehabilitation research scientist at the Roudebush VA Medical Center  says “Yoga improves balance because it’s complex—it includes the mind and the body, and helps to coordinate movements.”   Our mind and body work together to perform multi-planar movements.

#2 Improved Flexibility

There are 5 components to fitness.  These 5 things together measure your fitness.  They are cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, and body composition. Flexibility is often overlooked and under-rated.  Our flexibility WILL decrease as we age.  It is part of the aging process.  If you are not actively engaging in activities that improve your flexibility you are only going to become less flexible.  As the saying goes “use it or lose it”.

Not being flexible is usually the excuse people use for why they do not do yoga when that is the very reason why you SHOULD participate in yoga.  Yoga poses stretch your muscle fibres and increase your range of motion.  With consistency you can become more flexible at any age!

#3 Improved Digestion 

Yoga has many poses that involve twisting.  This type of movement activates our digestive system and improves function.  You could say it’s like giving your gastrointestinal tract a massage.  Many people suffering from IBS and other digestive disorders have found natural relief through yoga.

#4 Increased Body Awareness

One of the great benefits of yoga is that your body learns positions and postures that you may have never tried before.  You begin to notice your limitations and imbalances.  Maybe you can twist more to the left; maybe you can lift your leg higher on the right.  The poses allow you to see where your weakness are; where you need to improve and which muscles are tight.  It lets you understand your own body.

#5 Improved Lung Capacity

Most of us are guilty of inefficient breathing.  We “chest breathe” by filling only the top of our lungs.  This leads to a lack of oxygen in our blood vessels which can create a strain on our heart and lungs.  This type of breathing also contributes to our feeling of stress and our fight-or-flight response.  Learning how to breathe properly allows you to connect your mind and body, be more mindful and present, and initiate your parasympathetic nervous system (see more below).

#6 Decrease in cortisol levels and Improved adrenal function

We live in a world of non-stop stress.  We are constantly bombarded by an overwhelming load of information and electronic alerts.  We have deadlines and duties that are set to repeat everyday.  It’s hard to feel refreshed or rested when we have no “real” relaxation time.  Our bodies are stressed out and overloaded with cortisol because our adrenal glands (which secrete cortisol) are on overdrive.

Here is where yoga (unlike most forms of exercise) can give you the relaxation you need.  When we step on our yoga mats we focus on our breath.  We take slow, deep breaths instead of quick, shallow breaths.  This allows our bodies to transition to our parasympathetic nervous system.  It tells our bodies we are no longer in a fight-or-flight state.  We can actually rest.  We can feel the restoration and calm wash over our bodies. 

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#7 Improved Spinal Health and Posture

We sit for extended periods of time on our computers.  We slump forward while driving or watching tv.  We hunch over our cell phones and iPads.  It results in terrible posture.   Yoga helps us do the opposite.  We learn to open our heart centres.  We learn to pull our shoulders away from our ears.  We stand tall with dynamic tension engaging our postural muscles.  During yoga classes we are taught proper alignment and positioning.  Yoga gives us a heightened awareness of proper posture and spinal alignment.  In addition it strengthens our postural muscles.

#8 Improved Pelvic Floor Function

For women this is critical.  Anyone who has given birth can relate to a little “pee-leakage”.  This is not an uncommon problem.  Exercising our pelvic floor is so important but often forgotten. 

Yogis understand “Root Lock” which is called “Mula Bandha” in Sanskrit.  This is our pelvic floor.   These muscles are essential for certain postures like Bridge pose.  Yogis learn how to engage these muscles. Aging and childbirth both bring strain and dysfunction to our pelvic floor muscles.  Body awareness and learning how to engage these muscles are taught in yoga classes and helps improve their function.

#9 Improved Circulation with Inversions

Let me start by saying that I am not encouraging you to try doing handstands.  Often people can injure themselves by trying to do too much too fast.  Doing headstands and handstands is so enticing and sexy.  It’s all over Instagram!  You must be careful though and do them correctly.  Inversions are beneficial because they provide the brain with more oxygen and blood.  This increases mental functioning, and improves concentration, memory, and processing abilities.  But, let’s face it.  Inversions are not for everyone.

I suggest starting out with something much simpler but equally beneficial.  There are terrific benefits with “legs up the wall” pose.  Studies have shown that holding legs up the wall pose for 10 slow yogi breaths is as rejuvenating as a 20 minute nap!  This is a simple pose that anyone can do.  It encourages blood flow back to your brain.  It is rebalancing and re-energizing.

#10 Improved Immune Function though the Lymphatic System

Our lymphatic system has many roles, one of which is to remove waste and toxins and maintain our immunity.  The lymphatic system has no pump and relies solely on muscular contractions, body movements and breathing.  Though the twisting, rotating, bending and inverting postures of yoga our lymphatic system is stimulated.  This improves our immunity and our ability to fight pathogens. 

#11 Improved Joint Health

Yoga helps circulate the synovial fluid inside our joints.  Synovial fluid is the cushioning inside our joints that allows the ends of our bones to smoothly glide over each other with out friction.  Within the joint there is also cartilage which covers the ends of the bones.  The synovial fluid supplies nutrients and oxygen to the cartilage. 

Yoga poses take your joints through a full range of motion.  This helps circulate the synovial fluid which in turn feeds the cartilage and keeps it nourished and healthy. 

Besides all the physical benefits of yoga there are many mental and emotional benefits.   In yoga we are taught to let go of competition and judgment.  We learn to accept ourselves and others for where we are.  We learn to be more mindful on and off our mats.  It is a wonderful form of exercise.  It is something you can do from age 3 to 93. 

I encourage you to start your own yoga practice.  The reason it is called a yoga “practice” because that is what you do.  Constantly practice.  Constantly learn and constantly improve.  You will receive all these amazing benefits of yoga and so much more once you begin.

“Yoga adds years to your life and life to your years.”

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Are you ready to get started on your yoga journey.  Receive the free Beginner’s Guide to Yoga & Meditation.  Learn yoga poses and yogic breathing in just 2 minutes a day!

YES!  I want the Guide!

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