10 unlikely benefits of yoga
For those who practise yoga, the benefits are obvious: flexibility, mindfulness, relaxation and strength. But there’s so much more this ancient practice can offer. Amber, who edits Muddy Stilettos down in Surrey, asked the people behind the newly-opened Ebb and Flow yoga studio in Farnham about some of the lesser known benefits.
1. Yoga has medical benefits for cancer patients
Yoga helps to manage fear and anxiety, as well a helping to manage the physical pain brought on by emotional stress. In the US, the findings of a study led to calls for yoga to be prescribed to those struggling with pain and fatigue. The study found that those who practised yoga were 61 per cent less likely to say that their pain had worsened, while nearly 50 per cent were less likely to have mood problems and 31 per cent less likely to feel as though their cancer interfered with their day-to-day activities.
2. Yoga and heart disease symptoms
Heart disease causes more deaths in the UK each year than any other disease or condition. A study by the American College of Cardiology found that doing yoga improves heart disease risk factors by helping deal with anxiety and stress; improving wellbeing; and developing flexibility, strength, balance and coordination.
3. Multiple Sclerosis and yoga
Those that suffer from multiple sclerosis – a chronic, unpredictable disease that effects the central nervous system – will benefit from yoga, particularly those that suffer balance issues and use a cane or walker to get around. Yoga instructors have developed techniques to strengthen core muscles which aids balance.
4. The benefits of yoga on depression
Numerous studies have shown yoga to be of benefit for those suffering with depression. One study on participants with major depression found that 20 sessions of yoga led to an elevation in mood, and a decrease in anger and anxiety. Another study on young adults with mild depression found that bi-weekly yoga classes resulted in improved mood and reduced anxiety and fatigue.
5. The benefits of yoga for improve memory and concentration
Yoga can boost brain power even more than doing conventional exercise. Just one session of Hatha yoga was found to significantly improve working memory and concentration, with study participants performed significantly better after 20 minutes of yoga than after other forms of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise done for the same length of time. The top yoga poses for better concentration include the prayer pose, the eagle, warrior 2, and the alternative nostril breathing exercise
6. How yoga protects against brain ageing
There’s evidence that yoga protects the brain from the shrinking that usually occurs with age. Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), researchers found a correlation between doing yoga and increased brain volume. Older yoga practitioners had larger brain volumes than expected and, in fact, their brains were typical of younger people. This preservation of brain volume occurred mostly in areas of the brain responsible for positive emotions and the relaxation response.
7. Yoga helps you sleep better
It’s a well-known fact that sleep disorders such as insomnia are endemic in our stress-filled, caffeine-driven contemporary lifestyles. In a recent study, it was shown that Britons are the world’s most sleep deprived, with 37 per cent of the population reporting that they regularly don’t get enough shut eye. The health implications of sleep deprivation are equally shocking: when the brain is starved of sleep it can trigger the release of a chemical in the brain that leads to Alzheimers.
8. Soothes rheumatoid arthritis
There are different types of yoga and one of them, Iyengar yoga, involves the use of more than a yoga mat. In this type, a student will use positioning props, such as blocks and belts; studies show that this can help with rheumatoid arthritis.
9. Increases fertility
You might be wondering how yoga can increase fertility but couples who have trouble conceiving are often told by their doctor that their stressful lives are responsible. Since yoga is known to decrease stress, not to mention regulate the flow of blood, it makes more sense than you might first think.
10. Improves other’s perception of you
Yoga improves posture, making you stand (and sit) tall and come across as confident and capable. Enough said.