While modern media and advertising may have us think that yoga is all about physical poses, the entirety of yoga includes a wide range of contemplative and self-disciplinary practices, such as meditation, chanting, mantra, prayer, breath work, ritual, and even selfless action.

The word “yoga” is derived from the Sanskrit root “yuj” which means “to join” or “to yoke”; the related meaning is “to focus attention on” or “to use”. The aim of yoga is to calm the chaos of conflicting impulses.

Numerous studies have been conducted on the benefits of yoga, and the results consistently show that regular practice can have a significant positive impact on overall health and well-being. Let’s look at 12 of the many benefits of yoga in greater depth.

12 Research-backed Health Benefits of Yoga

1.Reducing Stress

People often practice yoga to reduce stress and aid relaxation. Research studies has shown that people who practice yoga regularly have low cortisol levels. Studies have also found out that practising yoga for at least 3 months may lower cortisol and perceived stress and reduce pro inflammatory cytokines that cause inflammation.

2.Stimulating brain function

Yoga stimulates brain function and give a boost to energy levels. One 2017 study showed that Hatha yoga (traditional style) improved the brains executive functions, as well as people’s mood. Executive functions are brain activities related to goal directed behaviour and regulating emotional responses and habits. Research study in 2012 found out that a single yoga session improved speed and accuracy of working memory more than one session of aerobic exercise.

3.Improves Cardiovascular Health

Yoga has been found to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease. A study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology found that practicing yoga for just one hour per week for six months led to significant improvements in blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

4.Pain management

One study in the American journal of preventive medicine showed that a 12-week yoga program improved scores for disability and pain intensity and reduced opioid use among military veterans.
Other research suggests that yoga is just as effective at relieving back pain as physical therapy. Yoga may also have lasting benefits for several months

5.Improving quality of life during illness

Many people use yoga as a complimentary therapy alongside conventional medical treatments to improve their quality of life.
Prostate cancer: Research suggests that attending a yoga class twice per week during prostate cancer radiation treatment may reduce fatigue and improve sexual and urinary function.
Stroke: Yoga may improve post-stroke balance and motor function even when a person starts practising it 6 months or more after stroke.
Rheumatoid arthritis: study shows an 8-week intensive yoga course may improve physical and psychological symptoms in people with RA, as well as reduce inflammation.

6.Yoga improves flexibility

Research study done in 2016 on college athletes suggests that a regular yoga practice may increase the flexibility and balance.

7.The breathwork in yoga strengthen lungs

Pranayama or breathing exercises causes increased expansion of the chest wall and lungs. It improved lung capacity and all lung functions.

8. Yoga may reduce inflammation

Often, the precursor to illness is chronic inflammation. Heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and many other conditions are linked to prolonged inflammation.
One review examined 15 research studies and found a common result: Yoga — of various styles, intensities, and durations — reduced the biochemical markers of inflammation across several chronic conditions.

9.Improves sleep quality

Yoga intervention results on trial group have shown yogic breathing is effective in improving the overall sleep quality (measured on different sleep scale).

10.Boost immunity

Research shows that yogic breathing downregulates proinflammatory markers. It also has beneficial effects on cell mediated and mucosal immunity. If practiced regularly and for a longer duration, it can help to achieve consistent effects on circulating markers.

11.Improves digestion

A research paper reflects that breathing exercises in yoga has effects on the autonomic response which is helpful in treating disorders like irritable bowel syndrome .

12.Yoga can promote better posture and body awareness

As a modern society reliant on technology, we seem to be spending more and more time sitting or hunched over devices. But one recent review of 34 research studies found an emerging pattern: Yoga improved brain functioning in the centres responsible for interoception (recognizing the sensations within your body) and posture.

Additionally, yoga’s focus on mobility and flexibility can contribute to better alignment by releasing muscles that are often tight, such as the hamstrings, and improving mobility of the spine. Doing yoga poses during breaks in your workouts can also promote better posture.