You’ve undoubtedly heard of yoga before. Likewise, you’re probably aware of how important physical activity is for us. But have you ever stopped to consider what would happen if you combine the two?
The truth is, yoga is one of the simplest and most peaceful ways to stay active and elevate your health. Let’s look at why that is and how you can get started today.
The Importance of Staying Active
Leading a sedentary lifestyle is one of the leading predictors of health issues and early death. Lack of regular movement is linked to:
- Weight gain and obesity (1)
- Lower bone mineral density (2)
- Muscle loss and sarcopenia (3)
- Cardiovascular disease (4)
- Increased risk of depression and anxiety (5)
- Higher risk of certain cancers (6)
Not moving also makes us less functional and more dependent on others, especially as we get older. On top of that, not moving makes us feel lazy and unmotivated. In contrast, physically active folks report feeling happier and more optimistic (7). Such people are also at a lower risk of mental illness (8).
What Is Yoga, And What Benefits Does It Offer?
Yoga is an ancient practice with a vibrant history. With origins dating as far back as ancient India over 3,000 years ago, yoga has helped countless people achieve bliss, become more mindful, and maintain physical health.
There are countless definitions of yoga, but perhaps an accurate one would be:
“Yoga is a practice that brings mind, body, and spirit into one.”
As a discipline that focuses on all aspects of health, yoga is bound to offer numerous benefits for practitioners. Some of them include:
1. Yoga Improves Stability and Strength
Yoga might seem easy at first glance, but the discipline pushes you to your physical limits. Most of the poses you will practice are excellent for strengthening all of the major muscles in your body, leading to more strength, explosiveness, and stability.
Research also supports these ideas, as numerous experiments suggest that as little as 12 weeks of regular practice leads to significant improvements in strength and balance (9).
2. Yoga Makes Us Flexible
The second benefit of yoga is that the practice makes us flexible and light on our feet. We don’t need research to prove this benefit because countless people have practiced yoga to open up their hips, improve shoulder mobility, develop an excellent thoracic range of motion, and more (10).
Still, we have research in the area, and all trials find that subjects who practice yoga become more flexible and feel lighter after just a few weeks.
3. Yoga Brings About a Variety of Health Benefits
Research finds that yoga is beneficial for:
- Weight loss (11)
- Normalizing blood pressure (12)
- Reducing resting heart rate
- Lower cholesterol levels (13)
One likely reason is that yoga burns calories and supports weight loss, which is a significant predictor of cardiovascular health.
4. Yoga Is Excellent For Melting Stress
Another huge benefit of yoga is that it makes us more mindful and helps us deal with stress. For one, research finds that practicing yoga is a fantastic way to reduce the secretion of cortisol, the stress hormone (14).
Second, experiments show that moderately-stressed individuals experience stress relief and lower anxiety levels after just a few weeks of starting yoga (15).
5. Yoga Improves Our Breathing
Our breathing can have a significant impact on our health. The great news is, yoga teaches us to breathe deeply and provide enough oxygen for every cell in the body.
In one study, researchers looked at various breathing yoga exercises and their impact on lung capacity (16). They concluded:
These findings are consistent with other research studies reporting the positive effect of yoga on the vital capacity of the lungs.
How to Become More Active Through Yoga
The great thing about yoga is that you can start practicing the discipline in the comfort of your home right now. All you need is a bit of free space and something to put on the floor for cushioning. A yoga mat works best, but you can also use an old blanket initially.
One excellent option is to open Youtube and start watching some instructional videos. You shouldn’t try to master complex or advanced poses. Instead, get familiar with the standard practices and learn the fundamentals of keeping your balance, transitioning between poses, and breathing correctly.
You can later look up some local yoga classes to improve your skill and reap the benefits of group exercise. Luckily for us, there are yoga studios behind every corner these days, so it’s easy to find one, no matter where you live.