A central premise in yoga is "everything is connected." This concept is clear when looking at the health and fitness benefits of yoga that have long been reported by practitioners and are now being confirmed by scientific research. Dedicated yoga practitioners believe that a sound mind leads to a sound body.
Yoga reduces the physical effects of stress on the body. By encouraging relaxation, yoga helps to lower the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Related benefits include lowering blood pressure and heart rate, improving digestion, and boosting the immune system. Yoga also eases the symptoms of conditions like anxiety, depression, fatigue, asthma, and insomnia.
Yoga alleviates physical pain. Studies have demonstrated that practicing yoga asanas (postures), meditation, or a combination of the two, reduced pain for people with conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune diseases, and hypertension, as well as arthritis, back and neck pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia, eczema, irritable bowel syndrome, and other chronic conditions. Emotional pain can be mitigated through the mindful practice of yoga.
Yoga teaches people to take slower, deeper breaths. This helps improve lung function, trigger the body's relaxation response, and increase the amount of oxygen available to the body.
Yoga helps improve flexibility and mobility, increasing range of movement and reducing aches and pains. Many people cannot touch their toes during their first yoga class. Practitioners learn to use the correct muscles to achieve the movement, increasing elasticity by gradually lengthening ligaments, tendons, and muscles over time.
Yoga asanas (postures) use every muscle in the body, increasing strength from head to toe. While the postures practiced in yoga strengthen the body, they also provide the additional benefit of relieving muscular tension and improving balance.
Yoga (even less vigorous styles) can aid weight control efforts by reducing cortisol levels, burning excess calories, increasing body awareness, and reducing stress. Yoga also encourages healthy eating habits and provides a heightened sense of well-being and self esteem.
Yoga improves circulation and more efficiently moves oxygenated blood to the body's cells. As a result, yoga increases energy levels.
Even a gentle yoga practice can provide cardiovascular benefits by lowering resting heart rate, increasing endurance, and improving oxygen uptake during exercise.
Yoga improves body alignment, resulting in better posture and relieving back, neck, joint and muscle problems.
Yoga helps us focus on the present, to become more aware of the mind-body connection and create an overall positive outlook. Better concentration opens the way to improved coordination, reaction time, and memory.