Six science-backed reasons to practice yoga

June 1, 2023

Exercise is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle. No matter what kind of physical activity you participate in, you give your body what it needs. If you’re looking for a new way to move your body, consider the added benefits of practicing yoga.

Yoga is a great way to move your body and can help you get your twice-weekly muscle strengthening activities recommended for adults aged 18 to 64. But beyond that, yoga can have a more significant impact on your physical and mental well-being.

So grab your yoga mat and explore these six science-backed reasons to practice yoga.

Yoga can increase your strength

While yoga is often seen as a passive exercise, this is not the case. Every yoga pose targets a specific group of muscles. And even the simplest of poses work to strengthen and tone muscles. The benefits of yoga as a strengthening exercise have been widely studied. A study conducted in the United Kingdom found yoga improved multiple physical functions in older adults (aged 60 years and above), including flexibility, balance, and strength.

Yoga may improve your overall quality of life

There is something about yoga’s powerful mix of physical and mental activity that benefits the quality of life. The same UK study found that the practice of yoga positively affected the overall quality of life in old adults. Participants who practiced yoga were more likely to have better perceived mental health, physical health, sleep quality, and vitality than the control group.

Another study examined women who experienced chronic pain related to chronic pelvic pain (CPP). It found that practicing yoga helped participants manage their pain and improve their overall quality of life.

Yoga can boost your brain

If you’re looking for an exercise that is a workout for your mind and body, then look no further. Yoga activates brain areas responsible for executive function, motivation, attention, and neuroplasticity. One study looked at neuroimaging results and concluded that yoga has a structural and functional effect on the brain areas responsible for interoception1, posture, motivation, and higher executive functions.

Yoga can help you battle burnout

Burnout, a psychological condition that occurs when a person experiences prolonged periods of stress in their daily lives, is shared by 84% of the Canadian workforce. Yoga, and its unique blend of physical activity and mindfulness, can help fight against the symptoms of burnout. A 2021 study looked at hospice workers experiencing burnout. It concluded that yoga-based meditation interventions immensely helped reduce the effects of burnout by improving their interoceptive awareness—their ability to identify, access, understand, and respond to their own internal signals.

Read more about burnout and how it led one Canadian to a holistic health transformation.

Yoga may improve your sleep

Feeling relaxed is a big part of a great night’s sleep. A study by Health Canada found that 36.3% of adults who aren’t getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night reported having chronic stress issues. A great way to reduce stress at bedtime is to practice relaxation and mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques and exercise regularly. With yoga, you can do both of these things at once! Marlynn Wei, a board-certified psychiatrist and certified yoga teacher, tells Harvard Health that breathing is key to relaxing in your yoga poses. She recommends a calming yoga breath technique called Ujjayi Breath:

  • Inhale through your nose.
  • Exhale through your nose while constricting the back of your throat as if you are saying “ha,” but keep your mouth closed. 
  • Repeat slowly and steadily throughout your practice.

You can build your balance

Balance is a topic that comes up a lot as we age, but the importance of good balance at every age and stage of life can’t be underestimated. It is essential for many everyday movements that we often overlook. Bending to pick something up off the ground, walking down a set of stairs, and reaching up to a shelf are things most people do daily, and all require balance. And as we age, falling becomes a considerable risk—good balance can help mitigate that risk. Yoga can help you build your balance—from Tree Pose to Warrior 2 Pose, these poses help you increase your balance.

One study examined older adults and how practicing yoga for one year impacted their overall balance intending to decrease their fall risk. The study found that yoga did have a positive impact on their balance and decreased their fall risk.

Another fantastic thing about yoga is that all you need is space to get into your practice—no fancy equipment is required. If you’re looking for a place to start, try these six yoga poses that are great for everyone, no matter your age!

Please always check with a medical professional to ensure these strategies are right for you.

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