International Yoga Day: How Does Yoga Benefit You Physically?

In this blog we are covering everything about yoga - what it is, its health benefits and the scientific studies that investigate it. The 21st June is International Yoga Day.

In order to boost physical and mental wellbeing, yoga focuses on flexibility, strength and breathing; it is an exercise that has been in practice for over 5,000 years. There is more to traditional yoga than just stretching. The practice covers eight key areas: restraints, observances, postures, breathing, withdrawal of senses, concentration, meditation and absorption. Most people today do focus mainly on the postures, breathing, concentration and meditation aspects of yoga.

Government guidelines on exercise include advice to do muscle strengthening exercises at least twice a week, and a regular yoga session is a great way to achieve this.

The great thing about yoga is you can be any age, any level of fitness and it doesn't matter all that much if you're not particularly flexible either.

Physical and mental benefits of yoga

As discussed on the NHS direct website, yoga can help with an array of things. It can help strengthen your body (especially your ankles & knees), help with balance & coordination, make you more flexible, whilst the breathing aspect boosts mental and physical well being.

Lower back pain:

A study in 2017 showed a link between yoga and lower back pain relief, and showed yoga can improve the function of the lower back too. Another study conducted on military veterans showed a reduction in opioid use and an improvement in the veterans pain intensity, simply from taking part in a 12 week yoga programme.

Heart disease:

Studies have found that yoga can have a positive effect on the key factors that cause heart disease. For example, yoga can help to reduce blood pressure, BMI and cholesterol. When yoga and aerobic exercises are combined, the patients had twice the reduction in these three key areas. Finally, yoga may also improve vascular health by decreasing changes in the blood vessels themselves, as one study suggests.

Arthritis, knee osteoarthritis & rheumatoid arthritis:

Studies have found that people with arthritis can benefit from yoga. Over 8 weeks, people with knee osteoarthritis took 90-minute yoga classes once a week, and later reported improvement in stiffness of their joints and physical function, alongside reductions in pain. For some sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis, yoga classes may not have made the pain disappear or ease, but they had noticed that their relationship with the pain had changed. They were able to do more for longer.

Prostate cancer:

It has been suggested that teaming prostate cancer radiation treatment with twice weekly yoga classes helps to reduce fatigue, alongside urinary and sexual function problems.

Stroke:

Yoga practice can improve motor function and balance post-stroke, even there is a delay of six months or more between the stroke and starting a class.

Yoga and Muscular related AnatomyStuff resources:

Understanding Low Back Pain Poster

Paul Miniature Skeleton Model with Flexible Spine

Musculature Anatomy Poster

"Every Day is a Yoga Day" Art Print Poster

"Yoga Morning Noon and Night" Art Print Poster

"I Can Touch My Toes" Art Print Poster

"Inhale Exhale Repeat" Yoga Art Print Poster

Further reading / sources:

History of yoga:
https://www.yogabasics.com/learn/history-of-yoga/
Yoga as a whole:
https://www.yogajournal.com/meditation/yoga-questions-answered
Guide to yoga:
https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/guide-to-yoga/
Yoga and lower back pain study:
https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD010671.pub2/full
Military veterans study:
https://www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(17)30290-8/fulltext
Yoga and heart disease study:
https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/2047487314562741
Yoga and aerobic exercises study:
https://www.onlinejacc.org/content/71/11_Supplement/A2115
Yoga improving vascular health study:
https://physoc.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1113/EP086725
Benefits of yoga for arthritis:
https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/healthy-living/physical-activity/yoga/yoga-benefits-for-arthritis
Yoga and prostate cancer:
https://www.redjournal.org/article/S0360-3016(17)30744-7/fulltext
Yoga and stroke:
https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/STROKEAHA.112.658211

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