Yoga is one the most popular physical activities in the world. In a recent survey, about 21,000,000 Americans practiced yoga during the last year. About 51% attended yoga classes.
Most people do yoga because it is known that yoga can improve body and mental health. However, yoga has a large number of functions that can increase the quality of life.
In a recent review published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, researchers systematically summarize the benefits of doing yoga based on previous studies. Getting to know these benefits can help us use yoga more wisely and effectively.
The benefits of yoga:
Physical fitness: yoga poses can increase flexibility of specific muscles and body balance. Yoga can also increase spinal mobility and muscle endurance.
Overeating: people who do yoga can have less desire of “emotional eating”. This in turn can reduce BMI, body weight, waist/hip ratio, and blood pressure. Yoga can also change the cholesterol in the body and reduce the risk o heart disease.
Pain: yoga can decrease pain, swelling and stiffness of arthritis. It can also reduce walking pain, knee disability, joint tenderness, and increase walking time. In addition, yoga can decrease low back pain and headaches.
Work stress: yoga can help reduce work stress and increase sleep quality. This is especially true in dentists and nurses.
Cognitive function: yoga can improve executive functions, such as attention, working memory, reaction time, and response accuracy.
Pregnancy: pregnant women who do yoga can have a lower incidence of prenatal disorders, lower levels of pain and stress, and better relationships. In addition, doing yoga can help with fetus growth, including fetal weight, head circumference, femur length, and parietal diameter.
Yoga is a better exercise than walking or standard prenatal exercises. It can also decrease perinatal/postpartum depression and anxiety.
PTSD: yoga can decrease PTSD symptoms including sleep disturbances, stress and anxiety.
Anxiety and panic disorder: Yoga can reduce these disorders and decrease heart rate and systolic blood pressure.
Depression: yoga can reduce depression in the long run. It can decrease symptoms like stress, anxiety, and ruminations.
Aging: yoga can improve mobility, postural control and walk speed in old people. It also can increase balance and reduce falls and pain. In addition, older adults doing yoga have better sleep quality and longer sleep time.
Type II diabetes: research finds that yoga can decrease blood sugar in the body. This may be because parasympathetic activation and decreased stress lead to better metabolic profiles and increased insulin sensitivity.
Multiple sclerosis: for people with multiple sclerosis, yoga can reduce fatigue and increase balance, step length and walking speed. It can also improve cognitive functions and mood.
Irritable bowel syndrome: yoga can reduce bowel syndrome symptoms including pain, constipation, and nausea.
Why does yoga have so many benefits? Researchers suggest that yoga can change brain activity and enhance brain functions. This may in turn improve the body and mental health. In the future, more well-controlled studies will be conducted to confirm and discover yoga’s benefits to people’s life.
Citation: Field T. (2016). Yoga research review. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 24: 145-161.doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ctcp.2016.06.005