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Does Yoga Improve Your Overall Health?

Not a day goes by without another article or blog post preaching the benefits of the ancient health practice – but does yoga actually improve your health and wellbeing in a significant way?

Beyond the headlines:

Does yoga improve your overall health?

Not a day goes by without another article or blog post preaching the benefits of the ancient health practice – but does yoga actually improve your health and wellbeing in a significant way? We did some digging and found a wealth of surprising ways yoga can positively affect your health, both physically and mentally. Aside from the obvious fitness benefits, it seems yoga is a no brainer for the health conscious among us.

Physical benefits

Suffer from insomnia or migraines? Separate studies have shown that regular yoga practice can help with both of these issues. Research by Harvard University into treatment of chronic insomnia with yoga shows improved sleep quality after eight weeks of practicing. For migraine sufferers, research undertaken on the subject shows fewer and less painful migraines in participants who undertook three months of yoga.

Of course, improved fitness and weight loss are two positive benefits of yoga, but who knew it could improve your sex life? A 2009 Harvard study on this exact subject showed improved sexual function after a 12 week yoga session – another great reason to get on the mat.

Mental health benefits

Yoga is about mindfulness just as much as it is about fitness. Given how hectic our daily life is, being able to take some time out, look inwards and reflect is very important especially for easing stress and anxiety. A 2010 study by Boston University Medical Centre linked yoga with mood and anxiety, and showed that just 12 weeks of yoga can help improve anxiety and other mental conditions linked to depression.

Studies have also shown that particular kinds of yoga can boost your brain power. Participants in a University Of Illinois study on the subject had significantly improved brain function in a number of aptitude tests after 20 minutes of Hatha yoga, compared to 20 minutes of typical aerobic exercise.

Yoga has even been reported to improve more serious mental conditions. Recent research published in The Journal of Psychiatric Practice outlines a wealth of self-reported benefits among sufferers of bipolar disorder, with one in five calling the practice “life-changing”.

Long term benefits

Yoga is often taken up on a whim, or during a health kick, and dropped after a few months. However, sticking at yoga for a long time can have some unexpected health benefits. One such benefit is stronger bones – a pilot study by Loren Fishman, MD shows that yoga can “improve upon or substitute for traditional Western medical treatments for osteoporosis.”

Long term yoga practice can also keep your heart healthy, with studies showing a reduction in high blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar.

And last – but certainly not least – regular yoga has been linked again and again with maintaining a healthy weight. The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle conducted research on more than 15,000 healthy, middle aged adults and found a strong association between regular yoga practice and a maintained healthy weight. Now if that’s not a reason to say Namaste then we don’t know what is!

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