While modern media and advertising may have us think that yoga is all about physical poses, the entirety of yoga includes a wide range of contemplative and self-disciplinary practices, such as meditation, chanting, mantra, prayer, breath work, ritual, and even selfless action. The word “yoga”comes from the root word “yuj,” which means “to yoke” or “to bind.” The word itself has numerous meanings, from an astrological conjunction to matrimony, with the underlying theme being connection. Yoga asana is the physical practice and postures of yoga. The scientific research into yoga’s benefits is still somewhat preliminary, but much of the evidence so far supports what practitioners seem to have known for millennia: Yoga is incredibly beneficial to our overall well-being.
1. Yoga improves flexibility - Flexibility is an important component of physical health. Yoga offers many styles to choose from, varying in intensity from high to moderate to mild. Even the lowest intensity styles have been found to increase flexibility. Yoga seems to be especially helpful for improving flexibility in adults ages 65 and older. Reduced flexibility is a natural part of aging, and a 2019 study found that yoga both slowed down loss and improved flexibility in older adults.
2. Yoga improves metal health - Major depressive disorder (MDD) is thought to be one of the most common mental health disorders in the world. A 2017 meta-analysis of 23 interventions looking at the effects of yoga-based treatments on depressive symptoms overwhelmingly concluded that yoga can now be considered an effective alternative treatment for MDD. Both movement-based yoga therapies and breathing-based practices have been shown to significantly improve depressive symptoms.
3. Yoga increases strength - While most people associate yoga with stretching and flexibility, some types of yoga classes can also be considered strength-building. It just depends on the class level, approach, and teacher. This makes yoga asana a multimodal form of exercise. Another study conducted on air force personnel found yoga to be an effective strength-building practice across many age groups of healthy participants
4. Yoga Boosts Immunity - When your immunity is compromised, you’re more susceptible to illness. However, as discussed earlier, yoga is considered a scientifically backed alternative treatment for stress. The research is still evolving, but some studies have found a distinct link between practicing yoga (especially consistently over the long term) and better immune system functioning. This is due in part to yoga’s ability to fight inflammation and in part to the enhancement of cell-mediated immunity.
5. Yoga can improve balance - Yoga has been shown to improve balance and overall performance in athletes. Likewise, a review of the research conducted on healthy populations suggests balance may improve for most people after consistently practicing yoga. Newer research suggests yoga can improve balance in older populations. Yoga asana can also be helpful at improving balance in people with brain injuries. Adaptive yoga or chair yoga can be especially helpful for older adults or people with injuries who are less mobile or for whom balance is a concern.
6. Yoga may reduce inflammation - Often, the precursor to illness is chronic inflammation. Heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and many other conditions are linked to prolonged inflammation. One review examined 15 research studies and found a common result: Yoga — of various styles, intensities, and durations — reduced the biochemical markers of inflammation across several chronic conditions.
7. Yoga reduces anxiety - Numerous studies suggest that yoga asana may be effective as an alternative treatment for anxiety disorders, though several of the researchers request additional replicated studies before conclusively stating as much. Yoga nidra, which is a body scan/guided meditation, has been shown to conclusively reduce symptoms of anxiety.
8. Yoga helps to improve sleep - Yoga has been shown to improve both how quickly people fall asleep and how deeply they stay asleep. This is partly due to the aftereffects of exercise and the mental calming and stress relief provided by yoga specifically. In addition to improving anxiety (or perhaps because of it), numerous studies show yoga nidra to be particularly helpful at improving sleep.
9. Yoga may improve self esteem - Body image and self-esteem are often particularly challenging for adolescents and young adults. The good news is that several recent studies show positive results when using yoga for improving self-esteem and perceived body image in these populations. There has also been promising evidence that yoga could help with the accompanying symptoms of obsession, anxiety, and depression in patients with anorexia nervosa.
10. Yoga can improve brain functioning - Yoga truly is a mind-body exercise, studies suggest. The research has found that practicing yoga activated areas of the brain responsible for motivation, executive functioning, attention, and neuroplasticity.
Numerous practices fall into category of yoga, and most do not involve physical activity, instead focusing on meditation techniques. Even karmic or philanthropic action can qualify as yoga! Because yoga is not limited to physical movement, it’s a practice you can do every day.
Amity University Kolkata