holistic benefits of yoga
We all know that yoga is associated with wellness and meditation – its praises have been sung by yogis, beauty bloggers and youtubers alike. What you might not know however, is that yoga isn’t just a bit of stretching and breathing; it actually has physical, mental and cognitive benefits.
I’ve personally trawled through the scientific studies about yoga and its benefits and the research supports what everyone’s always been saying – it’s really good for you! It seems obvious that frequent yoga will be beneficial for you physically, by toning and strengthening your muscles, and increasing flexibility. Yoga not only does this but it can improve cognitive and mental health.
The meditation aspect of yoga – the breathing, mindfulness and concentration – can help the synapses in your brain to strengthen, therefore benefiting your mind as well as your body! Research has found that these benefits can be so profound that they can even help people who have suffered a brain injury to improve on areas of cognition. That’s powerful stuff!
For those with reduced balance or mobility, or for people who are older and more frail, yoga has been found to have a hugely positive effect on reducing the likelihood of falls. This is because it strengthens the muscles around the hip flexor and improves overall balance. As the hip becomes less stiff and more flexible, you can achieve a wider gait, and this means better stability.
Even if you’re healthy but tend to get pain and stiffness (as many of us do!), yoga can do a great job of releasing tension in your muscles, easing pain and improving flexibility and strength which should prevent pain in the future. Yoga can also improve joint and cartilage health by stretching your joints and allowing them full range of motion. This goes for the spine too, as the more you stretch and move it, the stronger and healthier it gets! In fact, there are so many physical benefits to yoga it’s hard to list them all.
While mental health issues are complicated, vary greatly, and by no means is there an ‘easy fix’, yoga has been found scientifically to improve mood and reduce depressive symptoms and anxiety. This could be extremely soothing if you do suffer from any issues, and if not, it can just help to relieve the types of stress that everyone experiences. Through this, people have been found to have improved confidence and self-esteem.
The great thing about yoga is that you can do it in groups, in a class (we offer several here at The Bridge!), or even just at home if you have a spare 30 minutes. You don’t need to be an expert or particularly flexible, (I’m certainly not), as long as you tailor the yoga to your abilities or go to a beginners’ class. Once you start doing it, you’ll find yourself craving a good stretch!