The number of people practicing yoga has crawled up an inclined plane. As of 2012, the Yoga Journal reports that 8.7% of the US population took the time out for yoga. In numbers, this equates to 20.4 million. The same source also indicates that an additional 44.4% Americans call themselves, “aspirational yogis.” Starting with meditation is up on their to-do list for all the long-term benefits of yoga.
A more recent survey by the Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance indicates a jump in the number of practicing yogis too. Yogis have grown from 20.4 million in 2012 to 36 million in 2016. At the same time, the past four years have witnessed soaring spending on yoga clothing, equipment, classes, and accessories. The expenditure is up from $10 billion to $16 billion during the same time period of 2012-2016.
These statistics show that the beneficial health worth of yoga is increasingly being realized. In this regard, Carin Gorrell, editor in chief of Yoga Journal remarks, “The data tells a compelling story. More people than ever across all age groups are realizing the benefits of yoga, from stress relief to flexibility to overall well-being. Yoga is a thriving, growing industry.”
Long-term benefits of yoga
The survey mentioned above also pointed out that all yoga practitioners exhibited a friendly demeanor. It highlighted that the top reasons for starting yoga practice include flexibility, stress relief, general fitness, better overall health, and physical fitness. Statistics for each reveal that 61% commenced yoga for flexibility, 56% for getting rid of stress, a tie figure of 49% for general health and optimal health, and 44% for the sake of physical fitness.
In truth, yoga affords all these health benefits that can be broadly divided into mental health benefits, physical health advantages, an overall improvement in general health, and physical fitness alongside better flexibility. Yoga also kindles spiritual development that chips in polished morals such as greater compassion.
Resultantly, the survey agreed that 86% of the practitioners reported mental clarity, 79% gave back to the community with their sharpened compassion, and 73% reported good fitness. All these numbers are significantly higher than people who do not practice yoga.
Therefore, without further ado, here is a detailed account of the health benefits of yoga:
Enhances flexibility and bids farewell to aches and pains
A person doing backbends or strung around his own limbs is a common sight when it comes to yoga. It’s attributed to improved flexibility. However, at first sight, it feels that it is nearly impossible for you to ever reach such a point. But like they say, all good things happen with time and practice in this case.
Simultaneously, as you gain flexibility, the typical body aches and pains slip to the background. This is not a coincidence. Tights hips can lead to knee joint due to the incorrect alignment of the shinbones and thigh. Likewise, tight hamstrings contribute to the flattening of the lumbar spine that leads to backache.
Moreover, inflexibility in connective tissues and muscles like ligaments and fascia add to poor posture. However, yoga loosens the muscles for encouraging flexibility. This takes off the strain and inflexibility of bones and muscles, respectively, helping to get rid of such pains.
Treatment for back pain
It’s pretty common to fall prey to a backache. Largely, it can be attributed to consistent sitting. Regardless of the reason though, the good news is that daily yoga practice can help eliminate the back pain. Evidence proves that people with chronic lower backache indicated improved back functioning after only a few months of yoga practices.
Another study also backs this claim. A participant pool of 80 individuals that suffered from chronic lower back pain reported improved flexibility and less disability. These results were relative to patients practicing other physical exercises for their back ailment. Even if relief from back pain is not your primary objective, you can always practice yoga as the stretching in the plan serves as a mean to boost spinal flexibility.
The long-term benefits of yoga also extend to the reproductive department, as it aids in improving fertility. Several couples turn to yoga to de-stress and brush up their odds of conceiving a child. There isn’t an immense amount of clinical studies that confirm the correlation between the two. However, certain studies see a positive link between better fertility and yoga.
Bethany Grace Shaw, founder, and president of YogaFit, Inc. explains the role of yoga in enhancing fertility. She comments, “Yoga can help with infertility in a variety of ways. [It] allows the mother-to-be to relax, de-stress, and open up energetic channels, thereby improving chances of conception.”
She also elaborates that it is likely to have better blood flow to the reproductive organ with yoga, which boosts organ function and with it, hormone function. Shaw further adds, “Finally, by reducing stress, conception becomes easier.”
Increases lung capacity
A critical component of yoga is breath work or prayanama. Such exercises help the practitioner lengthen and deepen his breath. In fact, yoga increases lung capacity by ideally stringing together the lungs, skeletal system, and diaphragm. This improves the maximum breath capacity.
Yoga practices like deep breathing and inhale/exhale retention tutors the body to amp up its lung capacity and oxygen intake. This also takes more oxygen throughout the bloodstream, providing increased oxygen levels to all the organs.
Polishes joint health
As you creep up the age ladder, creaking joints is a given. To this end, maintaining joint health is a must. Yoga helps with regulating joint health too. Yoga promotes movement that, in turn, encourages the production of synovial fluid. This is the viscous liquid that occupies the space between joints to provide improved mobility of the joints, and decline friction as bones make contact with each other at the connecting points of joints.
As the synovial fluid thins or its production takes a dip, the cartilage, the cushioning between the joints, becomes worn down. This culminates in pain and limits mobility and flexibility of joints eventually. Yoga session, however, move the body to a complete, full-ranged motion that stimulates the production of synovial fluid. This keeps the joints mobile and stable, maintaining their health to a maximum.
Keeps diseases at bay
Yoga practice corresponds with improved cardiovascular health, declined risk of arthritis, and also easing of asthma among other health merits. Since yoga sessions improve the breathing capacity, it is able to improve the symptoms of asthma. Another study of 19 patients with heart failure practiced yoga for eight weeks showed that yoga assisted in better heart health, enhanced capacity of exercise, and improved overall quality of life.
A study also highlights that yoga corresponds with helping rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. It helps with improving pain, vitality, depression, and pain disability. Therefore, yoga is helpful for maintaining good heart health, lung capacity, and treating the symptoms of asthma and arthritis.
Supports emotional health
In the short run, you might feel that by practicing yoga, you are marking down at least something from your list of goals. This gifts a sense of accomplishment, making you happy. However, in the long haul, yoga practice boosts your emotional health. The practice is linked with a decline in depressive symptoms. Research outlines that yoga can help curb depression and other mental ailments like schizophrenia too.
Yoga that is practiced in a group setting like in a yoga class encourages the secretion of oxytocin, which is the love hormone. McGrath add to this, as she opines, “Practicing mindfulness through yoga and meditation also results in higher serotonin levels (the happiness hormone), and long-term practitioners have shown more mass in the areas of the brain associated with contentment.” This shows that with greater happy hormones in your system, your emotional health remains more stable as well as peaceful.
Top this up with an improved sense of self-esteem and confidence, and your emotional health will improve. At the same time, yoga is associated with improved compassion.
Yoga nourishes other important morals as well including self-disciple, kindness, and truthfulness besides compassion.
Roughly 50% of the yogis tend to donate to their community. Coral Brown, an internationally recognized vinyasa yoga teacher and psychotherapist claims, “Practicing the ethical codes from every perspective helps fortify the concepts within the body and the mind. And what you practice, you become.”
These are numerous long term benefits of yoga. Linda Schlamadinger McGrath, founder of YogaSource Los Gatos in California, sums up the health advantages well. She says, “On a physical level, yoga helps improve flexibility, strength, balance, and endurance. On an energetic level, yoga teaches you how to cope better with stress by cultivating a sense of ease in both active or passive poses. On a psychological level, yoga helps to cultivate mindfulness by shifting your awareness to the sensations, thoughts, and emotions that accompany a given pose or exercise.”
It is only wise to get started with yoga at your earliest so that you can reap as many health benefits as possible.