25 benefits of yoga that might surprise you

 

Develop your inner yogi and swap antibiotics for asanas – and you could reap some incredible body benefits

 

  1. Give your love life a lift

Regular yoga can increase blood flow to your nethers and improve flexibility– equaling increased arousal and desire, according to the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

Perfect pose: Bridge (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana) – but not with your partner!

 

  1. Slashes pregnancy pain…

“Improved circulation helps prevent swelling in the wrists and ankles,” says Tara Lee, yoga teacher behind top-selling DVD Pregnancy Yoga. “It also improves posture and strength to better cope with the extra demands on the body.”

Perfect pose: Hip Circles or Cat Stretch (Marjariasana)

 

  1. …and aids a better birth

“Yoga also helps you cope better during labour as you can use the breathing techniques and positions to assist the birth. Strong pelvic floor muscles have been linked to shorter second stages of labour,” add Tara.

Perfect pose: Child’s Pose (Balasana)

 

  1. Aids concentration

Balancing poses (the ones where you have to concentrate on not falling over!) are thought to help focus the mind in daily life.

Perfect pose: Eagle Pose (Garudasana)

 

  1. Lessens migraines

A three-month study by the University of Rajasthan showed certain yoga postures substantially reduced migraine attacks.

Perfect pose: Child’s Pose

 

  1. Cuts coughs and colds

recent Norwegian study found yoga practice could boost immunity. “Breathing practices cleanse the internal system and increase oxygenation, and asanas create a flow of energy that removes toxicity,” says Jo Manuel, founder of Special Yoga, which provides classes for people with special needs. “When the body is given the opportunity to rest deeply…deep healing can take place.”

Perfect pose: Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

 

  1. Helps heart health

Emerging research suggests the combined effects of yoga muscle work, breathing, and relaxation can calm the nervous system and reduce blood pressure, allowing for less pressure on the heart. Samantha Wilson, a Hatha yoga teacher at Equilibrium Yoga and Well-Being Centres in Peterborough and Huntingdon, says yoga made a big difference to a heart murmur she developed after pregnancy. “The palpitations quickly started to become more intermittent, and after six months stopped completely.”

Perfect pose: Big Toe Lock (Padangusthasana)

 

  1. Reduces constipation

If you want to get things moving down there, then massage your digestive system with some yoga poses. Relaxation also helps things move more freely!

Perfect pose: Chair Pose (Utkatasana)

 

  1. Boosts brainpower

Okay, so yoga doesn’t grow brain cells but studies have shown that the stress releasing and focusing properties of hatha yoga can help cognitive performance, with mental flexibility much improved in the over-50s.

Perfect pose: Tree (Vrikshasana)

 

  1. Aids weight loss

While yoga only constitutes a ‘light workout’ (and needs to be used in combination with other higher impact exercises to burn fat), it can tone flabby bits and reduce binge eating, according to a study by Deakin University, Australia. “Your tolerance to alcohol, sugary foods and junk food becomes lower too,” says Nichi Green at Yoga Space, Leeds. “And the more ‘in’ our body we are the more we are able to listen to the signals it gives us.”

Perfect pose: Warrior Three (Virabhadrasana III)

 

  1. Gives a good night’s sleep

Relaxation and deep breathing = nodding off nicely, thank you.

Perfect pose: Legs up the Wall (Viparita Karani)

 

  1. Offers a natural face-lift

Want a nip and tuck without surgery? Yoga asanas that increase blood flow to the head are thought to help the skin glow. Or try Face Yoga (yes, it really does exist), which gives an anti-aging boost without the Botox (see faceyogaexpert.com)

Perfect pose: Headstand (Shirshasana)

 

  1. Ups flexibility

“Deep and long held stretches in yoga, especially Yin Yoga, bring a healthy stretch not just to the muscles but the connective tissues of the body and fascia that covers the body, creating greater range of motion in each joint,” says Natasha Kerry, an established teacher at Triyoga, London.

Perfect pose: Caterpillar Pose

 

  1. Boosts memory

Studies have shown regular meditation causes the brain’s cerebral cortex to thicken. “It naturally enhances concentration, attention span and sharpens focus, improving the amount of information we can retain,” says Ivor Murray, an expert in modern mediation approaches such as meditation machines.

Perfect pose: Corpse Pose (Savasana)

 

  1. Helps reduce stress

“The ‘feel good’ factor from practicing yoga is hard to quantify but by learning to breath more effectively we can influence the body’s ability to reduce stress chemicals,” says Helen Manning from Equilibrium Yoga and Well-Being Centres. “While it won’t stop the mind’s chatter, we can give it direction.”

Perfect pose: Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)

 

  1. Eases lower back pain

A recent Arthritis Research UK study showed yoga provides more effective treatment for chronic lower back pain than the usual care provided by GPs, and offered both short and long-term benefits without any serious side-effects.

Perfect pose: Cow Pose (Bitilasana)

 

  1. Raises pain tolerance

A York University study found yoga reduces the physical and psychological symptoms of chronic pain in women with fibromyalgia, while the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology showed it boosted pain tolerance. Forrest Yoga teacher Cammy Carfax, who recently suffered a shoulder injury, says it helped her slow down so she could pay attention to her body instead of fearing it. “As I acknowledged the pain, little by little my tolerance increased…and the need to take painkillers diminished.”

Perfect pose: Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

 

  1. Boosts the ‘beautiful game’!

An increasing number of professional footballers are turning to yoga to boost their ball skills because it improves the strength and stamina needed for prolonged exercise.

Perfect pose: Reverse Triangle (Parivrtta Trikonasana)

 

  1. Steps-up self-esteem

Top yoga teacher Tara Lee suggests abdominal strengthening poses and breathing techniques such as kalpalabhati can help with self-esteem issues. “It strengthens and balances the energy in the chakra located around the navel centre which relates to self esteem, motivation and confidence,” she says.

Perfect pose: Boat Pose (Paripurna Navasana)

 

  1. Puts a stop to PMS

Gently stretching the hips and lower abdomen is thought to help with the cramps associated with premenstrual syndrome and period pain.

Perfect pose: King Pigeon (Eka Pada Rajakapotanasana)

 

  1. Reduces blood pressure

The British Heart Foundations suggest breathing exercises, relaxation and meditation can, in some cases, lower blood pressure.

Perfect pose: Easy Pose (Sukhasana) with breathing exercises (pranayama)

 

  1. Eases asthma

While there has been no clinical studies into yoga’s impact on asthma, it’s thought back bends and chest-opening exercises can help loosen clogged mucus and expand lung capacity, making breathing easier.

Perfect pose: Fish Pose (Matsyasana)

 

  1. Fights depression

Scientists from Boston University School of Medicine in the US found that levels of amino acid GABA (a chemical that helps promote calm in the nervous system) were much higher in yoga devotees than those who did equivalent strenuous exercises such as walking. Mindfulness meditation has also been shown to cut the recurrence of depression by 50 per cent.

Perfect pose: Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)

 

  1. Happier, healthier kids

Next time you go to a yoga class, keep the kids in tow rather than sending them off to the babysitter! Yoga has recognized benefits for children, helping with their muscle development, motor skills, concentration, confidence and emotional intelligence.

Perfect pose: Tree (Vrksasana) or just give fun names to the easier poses!

 

  1. Happier hubbies

A study by the International Society of Sexual Medicine shows yoga poses that strengthen pelvic floor muscles can help with premature ejaculation and male incontinence.

Perfect pose: Cobra (Bhujangasana)

 

Originally published in Natural Health 2015

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