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What are the Physical Benefits of Yoga?

When you see someone with a yoga mat, or walk by a yoga studio filled with people doing Downward Dog and Warrior 1, it’s easy to feel a little bewildered. More people than ever are taking up yoga, but why?  

There’s a great answer for that — yoga can be done by anyone! Young, old, rich or poor. Yoga is one of the most accessible forms of exercise there is. All you need is a place to do it in. Yoga can even be done by those recovering from injuries or illnesses as they work to regain strength and mobility.  

Of course the poses become more challenging as you reach higher levels of yoga, but no matter what level yogi you are, the physical benefits of this meditation-meets-exercise are outstanding.  

1. Yoga can make you stronger 

When you look at yoga in practice, it may not seem very challenging. But when you try it for yourself, you understand just how much work it takes to hold all those poses. Doing yoga can help build up your strength and endurance.  

After only a couple yoga sessions, you’ll start to notice a difference!  

2. Yoga relieves stress 

It’s easy for tension to build up over the course of a stressful day, especially in the shoulders and neck. Yoga is key to relieving muscle tension and bringing us back to our true selves. This is because yoga incorporates stretching, deep breathing, and strength training — all of which help relieve stress and tension in the body. 

3. Yoga helps you sleep better 

In a similar vein, since yoga is such a great relaxation tool, practicing it can actually help you get better sleep at night. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, long-term yoga practitioners experience better sleep than those who do not practice yoga, or who have not been practicing it for very long.  

The reason yoga is so good for sleep is because it helps your body produce more melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that our brain produces in response to darkness that initiates sleepiness. Having more melatonin in your body at night is one solution to getting better sleep.  

4. Yoga soothes back pain 

If you’re suffering from lower back pain, it’s possible that yoga may be your answer. The great thing about yoga is that you can practice the poses that will have the greatest benefit to you and ignore the rest. So, for relieving back pain, try yoga poses that stretch out your back muscles.  

Cat-Cow, Bridge Pose, Child’s Pose, and Cobra Pose are especially helpful for relieving back pain.  

5. Yoga improves your balance 

Having good balance is beyond important for all sorts of things including sports, dancing, riding a bike, and even walking. Balancing is a skill that can be strengthened with effort, and amazingly, almost every yoga pose was created to help with just that.  

6. Yoga helps treat arthritis 

A recent study at the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center revealed that arthritis patients greatly benefit from taking part in a regularly scheduled yoga program. Patients in the study noted improvements in stress management, physical function, and pain.  

However, for those who have vulnerable joints, yoga should not be practiced. 

Are you thinking of getting started with yoga? There’ll never be a better time to start than now! All you need is a bit of room and a mat. If you don’t have a mat, and don’t feel like investing in one, a blanket or carpeted area works great, too.  

Yoga is an easy and fun way to improve your health, or maintain a healthy lifestyle. Yoga classes taught by qualified experts can be found online or on DVD. You can even learn yoga from a book.  

To gain a better understanding of how yoga affects your body, Yoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Matthews is a good place to start.  

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