I have been doing yoga for years, before I knew the health benefits of yoga. I first started doing yoga after buying the famous P90X workout series with Tony Horton. I did it, not because I knew anything about it, but simply because the yoga exercise was part of the fitness program. If you don’t know this, the P90X yoga video is 90 minutes long. It is very intense, which I don’t mind, but who has 90 minutes to dedicate to yoga once a week? Not me.
As a result of the yoga video being so long, I stopped doing it. About six months later, I started to realize I was starting to have more minor injuries from my workouts, with a whole lot more aches and pains. I would spend much of the day working at my desk and then jump into a heavy lifting routine, which would leave me tight, stiff and very uncomfortable. Then came many postural distortions and even more aches and pains. With a quick review of what I was doing differently, I knew skipping my yoga workout once a week was to blame. I started a different yoga routine up and with just one workout, I realized what I had been missing.
When I consider the many benefits of yoga, they come from the standpoint of a doctor, athlete, businessman and professional. For me, yoga isn’t a spiritual exercise, but an incredible way to rejuvenate the body and optimize overall health.
10 Amazing Health Benefits of Yoga:
1) Perfects Your Posture
It is estimated for every inch forward your head goes, it puts an extra 10lbs of unnecessary pressure on your spinal cord. Not only do you look better and more confident when you are not hunched over, but you are also protecting yourself from arthritis in the spine, disc disease and constant muscle aches and pains. Yoga supports your spine through many of the isometric postures practiced in the typical yoga session, which un-do the hours of leaning forward from computer work and texting. These yoga poses revitalize the curves in your back, protect the vertebra, hydrate the discs, and support good posture.
2) Prevents Cartilage and Joint Breakdown
So many people tell me that they will have to get knee replacements because their parents did, as if bad knees are a genetic problem. I’m not saying it can never be a genetic problem, but it’s very rare. During a typical yoga session, you put your joints through a full range of motion. This can prevent degenerative arthritis by squeezing and soaking the areas of cartilage not often used in the joint. In order to get new nutrients into a joint, you must squeeze the fluid out and bring in new fluid. This is why athletes (in many cases) will have better joints than those who have never worked out in their entire life.
3) Drops Your Blood Pressure
Two different studies have been published in The Lancet, a British Medical Journal, proving that yoga helps with blood pressure. In one study, yoga was associated with a 26 point drop in blood pressure. High blood pressure is a major deal amongst working professionals. Utilizing natural lifestyle changes such as yoga to lower blood pressure should be taken seriously.
4) Relaxes Your Body
Yoga triggers a relaxation response by slowing down the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response) and activating the parasympathetic nervous system. This allows for balance, but more importantly, a well functioning nervous system. The slow, deep breaths with a calming focus allows for your body to be in a state it may never know without yoga. A calm mind and relaxed body allows the fight-or-flight response to turn off, blood and energy to return to our healing and maintenance systems, and the hormones required for a good mood to flow freely.
5) Helps You Focus
When you are performing yoga, if you do not focus on the present, you are toast. I’ve tried to perform yoga while distracted and I found myself falling over and frustrated for 45 minutes. Don’t do it. I think we all struggle with focusing on the present. Our minds are constantly worried about the never-ending to-do list. But studies have shown that regular yoga will improve memory and IQ scores. This will help you be more present while at work, and at home with your family and friends, truly helping you enjoy life.
6) Helps You Sleep
As you know, with a busy work and family, sleep has been at the forefront of the topics I have recently discussed. Yoga helps balance your nervous system, which acts on the adrenal glands to lower and balance cortisol, which will allow you to have better sleep patterns. This positive feedback cycle can have you feeling much better in days.
7) Eases Your Pain
Yoga studies have proven to lower pain. It is the musculoskeletal system from which most pain derives in the first place. By taking care of the nervous system and musculoskeletal system, people who suffer from arthritis, back pain, fibromyalgia, and other chronic conditions have reported that yoga has helped immensely in helping them feel better on a daily basis through pain relief.
8) Peace of Mind
Yoga is thought to shut down the mental loop of frustration, regret, anger, fear and anxiety. Believe it or not, this is a BIG problem for a lot of people. A negative mental state is detrimental to our health and is linked to many chronic conditions (Dr. Arthur discusses this further in our stress and mindset podcast). I suggest practicing yoga to give you the peace of mind that we all need in our fast-paced world. You may also want to read my article about meditation, as this may help too.
9) Builds Strength
Many men shy away from yoga because they think it is for woman. I have to say this is a very outdated belief. As someone who competes at many levels athletically, everything from hockey to triathlons to obstacle races, I have noticed my strength increase as a result of yoga. The strength and muscle not only look pretty sexy, but they protect the joints, bones and connective tissue from degeneration. I know some of the toughest athletes in the world, and they are practicing yoga on the regular.
10) Improves Flexibility
If you are not taking the time to do yoga or taking an hour out of your busy week to do a killer stretching routine, there is a good chance that you are stiff as a board. It is not my goal to become Gumby, but I can tell you I feel a whole lot better waking up in the morning not stiff from running/lifting/desk work. This benefit alone is enough to make me do yoga. With the muscles, ligaments and connective tissue relaxed and flexible, joints will properly align, the biomechanics of the body will function well, and the aches and pains will disappear.
I suggest doing at least one yoga session a week. You can either jump in at a local yoga studio, buy a video program (I’m doing One On One with Tony Horton: Fountain of Youth), or YouTube a yoga routine. Whatever you decide to do, just do it now so you can start earning the health benefits of yoga and experience a well-functioning body.