What is Yoga?

Yoga is much more than just exercise. It’s more than the crazy poses you see on the internet and on social media. Derived from the Sankrit word “yuj” which means “yoke or to unite or integrate,” yoga is a 5000-year-old Indian discipline or practice. Yoga is all about harmonizing the body, breath, and mind through the combination of sequencing postures, breath, and mindfulness.

Why Yoga? The Health Benefits of Yoga

After Class

Improved Brain Function

Just 20 minutes of Hatha Yoga — an ancient form of the practice that emphasizes physical postures rather than flow or sequences — can improve cognitive function. This boosts focus and our working memory. In a University of Illinois study, participants performed significantly better on tests requiring high brain functions after they practiced yoga as compared to their performance after 20 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise.

Lower Stress Levels

Yoga’s stress-busting powers may come from its ability to lessen the activity of proteins that are known to play a role in inflammation according to a study published last year from University of California, Los Angeles researchers.

Alter Gene Expression

A small Norwegian study suggested that yoga’s many healthy benefits might come from its ability to alter gene expression in immune cells.

Increased Flexibility

A Colorado State University study found that Bikram Yoga — a form of yoga in which a series of 26 postures are performed for 90 minutes in a heated room — is linked with increased shoulder, lower back, and hamstring flexibility as well as greater deadlift strength and decreased body fat compared with a control group.

After A Few Months

Lower Blood Pressure

A study from University of Pennsylvania researchers found that it helped to lower their blood pressure levels. Researchers found that people who practiced yoga had greater drops in blood pressure compared with those who participated in a walking/nutrition/weight counseling program.

Improved Sexual Function

A 2009 Harvard study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine showed that yoga could boost arousal, desire, orgasm, and general sexual satisfaction for women. Yoga can also improve women’s sex lives according to a review of studies published in The Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy as reported by CNN.

Anxiety Relief

A 2010 Boston University study showed that 12 weeks of yoga can help to reduce anxiety and increase gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) levels in the brain (low levels of GABA have been linked with depression and anxiety disorders).

Relief from Chronic Back Pain

Researchers at West Virginia University found Iyengar Yoga to be more effective in reducing pain and improving mood than standard medical treatment among those with chronic lower back problems.

Steady Blood Sugar Levels in People with Diabetes

Adding yoga to a typical diabetes care regimen could result in steady blood sugar levels according to a 2011 Diabetes Care study. Reuters reported that just three months of yoga in addition to diabetes care resulted in a decrease in body mass index as well as no increases in blood sugar levels.


Stronger Bones

A 2009 pilot study by Dr. Loren Fishman showed that practicing yoga could improve bone density among older adults.

“We did a bone mineral density (DEXA) scan, then we taught half of them the yoga, waited two years, and did another scan,” Fishman told The Huffington Post. “And not only did these people not lose bone, they gained bone. The ones who didn’t do the yoga lost a little bone, as you would expect.”

Healthy Weight

Researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle found an association between a regular yoga practice and decreased weight — or at least a maintained weight — among more than 15,000 healthy, middle-aged adults.

“Those practicing yoga who were overweight to start with lost about five pounds during the same time period those not practicing yoga gained 14 pounds,” study researcher Alan Kristal, DPH, MPH, told WebMD.

Lower Risk Of Heart Disease

As part of a healthy lifestyle, yoga may lower cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar, according to Harvard Health Publications (that is of course if the yoga practice is followed by a healthy diet).