“In truth, yoga doesn’t take time – it gives time.” - Ganga White
Many of us have tried and failed to incorporate a regular yoga practice into our daily lives, hearing all about its wonders from celebrities who praise its healing powers, and seeing endless images of influencers on beaches in downward dog. With the stresses of work, family, social life and trying to look after yourself, fitting in a yoga session may seem practically impossible, but as the quote above says, yoga can actually give you back some of the control you feel is slipping out of your grasp. Here’s how:
Say goodbye to stress
It’s commonly known that yoga is a great fitness choice if you’re looking to reduce your stress and anxiety, and its ability to promote relaxation is supported by real scientific evidence. Many studies have concluded that yoga practice can decrease the secretion of cortisol in the body, which is the main stress hormone. One study worked with 24 “emotionally distressed” women for a 3 month yoga program. Upon completion, their cortisol levels had reduced, and they reported a reduction in stress, anxiety, tiredness and a general boost in their mood. Just 15 minutes of yoga each day could help you feel less stressed and therefore able to take on whatever life throws at you, ultimately, giving you back some much-needed time.
Inflammation has come to be known as the enemy in modern wellness studies, and the finger is pointed at everything from sugar to processed foods. Inflammation is a normal immune system response, however chronic inflammation can negatively affect your health, and is thought to contribute to conditions like heart disease, diabetes and cancer. In a 2015 study, a group of 218 participants were split into two groups. When the study ended, the group who did yoga were found to have lower levels of inflammatory markers than the other group, and similar studies have concluded the same result. More research is needed around chronic inflammation and whether or not yoga is the answer, but it is believed that yoga could help tackle the problem.
Hello healthy heart
Yoga is also thought to improve heart health, which helps reduce our risk of heart disease, heart attacks, strokes and other serious illnesses. Research has found that yoga can lower blood pressure, which can have a positive effect on our heart. A regular practice is also thought to slow the progression of heart disease by lowering cholesterol. Most studies to date have been conducted using other variables such as diet changes, but if you’re looking to keep your ticker in good shape, yoga certainly isn’t the worst idea.
More postures, less (chronic) pain
Those who suffer with chronic pain, whether from an injury, arthritis, or other causes, are starting to explore the benefits of yoga to help with their condition and manage the pain in a healthy way. One interesting study saw a group of 42 individuals with carpal tunnel syndrome split into two groups, with one group wearing a wrist splint and the other doing yoga for 8 weeks. Eventually, yoga was found to be the most effective for reducing pain and improving grip strength. If you suffer from a chronic pain condition, consider speaking to your doctor about starting a gentle yoga practice.
Sun salutations = better sleep
In recent years, the importance of sleep has become a mainstream wellness topic, and for good reason. With better sleep comes better health, more energy, and an overall improved quality of life, but what if you struggle to achieve good quality sleep? Studies have found that regular yoga practice could help get you the slumber you’ve been craving. In one study, a group who were asked to practice yoga regularly reported that they fell asleep faster, slept for longer, and felt they had more energy in the morning. But how? Essentially, yoga is thought to increase the secretion of melatonin, which is the sleep regulating hormone, so next time you can’t get some shut-eye, roll out your mat.
Drishti for better balance and flexibility
One of the primary things yoga can help with is improving balance and flexibility, since so many poses help to stretch and loosen muscles and tendons that otherwise remain tight. It also works to strengthen the muscles that give us more balance, so is an all-round great fitness routine to target many different areas of the body. Studies have shown the benefits yoga can have on other exercises too, with many athletes and fitness professionals choosing to complement their high-impact workouts with yoga to keep their muscles in ship-shape.
The downward dog diet
Yoga has even been known to help you be more mindful and intuitive when eating, which can have an overall positive effect on your diet. Yoga is essentially a mindfulness practice, so learning to be more present in the moment when practicing yoga can help to strengthen this ability within your brain, and help you make better food choices when it comes to dinner time. Regular yoga practice has even been used to help with the treatment of eating disorder patients, helping them regain control of their unhealthy eating habits.