Yoga originated over 5,000 years ago in India. It focuses on strength, flexibility and breathing to boost both physical and mental wellbeing through a series of movements and a focus on breathing. There have been many studies that have shown the multiple benefits of yoga, both physical and mental. Incorporating it into our routine increases strength and flexibility, reduces symptoms of stress and improves our overall health and wellbeing. But how specifically can yoga help us?
Increasing Strength and Improving Flexibility There is considerable research to suggest that adding yoga to our fitness routines improves our flexibility and balance. This is true for a wide range of age groups. For example, a 2016 study from the International Journal of Yoga looked at the impact that 10 weeks of yoga had on 26 male college athletes which found that the participants’ measures of flexibility and balance increased significantly. Another study from the same organisation assigned 66 elderly participants to practice yoga or the body weight exercise calisthenics. After one year, the flexibility of the yoga group increased by nearly four times that of the calisthenics group. And it works for building strength too. In a study by the Asian Journal of Sports Medicine, 79 adults performed a series of foundational poses six days a week for 24 six months. They experienced a significant increase in upper body strength, endurance and weight loss. The women in the group also decreased in body fat percentage.
Improves Breathing Improving our breathing can help build endurance, optimise performance and keep our lungs and heart healthy. As yoga often focuses on breathing, it is naturally a great way to do this. Pranayama is a practice in yoga that focuses on controlling the breath through exercises and techniques. Most types of yoga incorporate breathing exercises, and several studies have found that practicing yoga could help improve breathing. Vital capacity is a measure of the maximum amount of air that can be expelled from the lungs. It is especially important for those with lung disease, heart problems and asthma. Many studies – such as one conducted in 2000 by Dr. A Birkel – have found that yoga increases vital capacity significantly.
Can Yoga Improve Our Mental Health? Yoga is increasingly common as a supplementary therapy technique to improve mental health and overall quality of life. Oregon Health and Science University in particular have found that yoga specifically improves mood, fatigue and improves symptoms of illnesses, as well as alleviate depression and anxiety. There is a scientific explanation for this; yoga’s anti-depressant effect is likely due to the fact that practising it decreases levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Overall, this means yoga helps to improve sleep quality, enhances spiritual well-being, improves social our functions.