Everyone knows that yoga is good for you. Yoga creates strength, balance, and flexibility. Yoga is also known to bring about profound states of inner peace. Many people know that they should be going to yoga classes every week but, for some reason, they can never get around to actually doing it. If you fall into this category, then perhaps we need review some of the lesser known benefits of regular yoga practice:
1. Boost Immunity
A recent Norwegian study found that yoga practice results in changes in gene expression that boost immunity at a cellular level. The researchers found that changes occurred while participants were still on the mat, and they were significantly greater than a control group who went on a nature hike while listening to soothing music. Yoga also helps to boost immunity by simply increasing overall health, says Mitchel Bleier, a yoga teacher of 18 years and owner of Yogapata in Connecticut. "As you breathe better, move better and circulate better, all the other organs function better."
2. Ease Migraines
Research shows that migraine sufferers have fewer and less painful migraines after three months of yoga practice. The cause of migraines isn't fully understood, but Bleier says it could be a combination of mental stressors and physical misalignment that create migraines and other issues. Hunching over a computer or cell phone with your shoulders up and head forward causes overlifting of your trapezius and tightening of the neck. This pulls the head forward and creates muscle imbalances that can contribute to headaches and migraines.
3. Boost Sexual Performance
Studies have found that 12 weeks of yoga can improve sexual desire, arousal, performance, confidence, orgasm and satisfaction for both men and women. How? Physically, yoga increases blood flow into the genital area, which is important for arousal and erections, says Bleier, and strengthens the "moola bandha," or pelvic floor muscles. Mentally, the breathing and mind control involved with the practice can also improve performance.
4. Sleep Better
Researchers from Harvard found that eight weeks of daily yoga significantly improved sleep quality for people with insomnia. And another study found that twice-weekly yoga sessions helped cancer survivors sleep better and feel less fatigued. This can be attributed to yoga's ability to help people deal with stress, says Bleier. "Sleep issues are like anxiety. Your head can't stop spinning, you don't know how to relax," he says. "Breathing and mental exercises allow the mind to slow down, so you're going to start to see yourself sleep better."
5. Fight Food Cravings
Researchers from the University of Washington found that regular yoga practice is associated with mindful eating, an awareness of physical and emotional sensations associated with eating. By causing breath awareness, regular yoga practice strengthens the mind-body connection, Bleier says. The awareness can help you tune in to emotions involved with certain cravings, and yoga breathing exercises can help you slow down and make better choices when cravings strike.
Well Being is now offering a special introductory rate to first time students: 30 days for $30. How many more reasons do you need? Begin your regular yoga practice today and enjoy all of these health benefits and more. See our yoga page for more details.
This article was edited from the article, "5 Surprising Health Benefits of Yoga" by Kristen Domonell. The full article can be found here.
Nick Hughes is a massage therapist, yoga instructor and co-owner of Well Being.