Top 5 Unexpected Health Benefits of Practicing Yoga

Each and every time you pack up your yoga mat, towel, and supplies, you’ve already begun amassing health-promoting benefits before you even reach the studio. Yup — as any yogi will attest, half the battle is mustering up the determination to throw on your yoga pants, wiping off yesterday’s grime with some yoga mat cleansing wipesand scoring a front row spot in class.

In addition to the evidence-based physical health benefits that science confirms yoga brings  — ranging, according to the American Osteopathic Association, from increased flexibility, muscle tone, metabolism support, and weight loss, to improvement of conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and insomnia — there are also countless emotional and mental-health benefits that practicing yoga provides. Stress-reduction, re-balanced brain chemistry, mood-boosting endorphins and ample detoxification are just a few more of the most-coveted health boosters practitioners of both traditional and hot yoga modalities reap.

Wanna learn about more yoga benefits? Check out our Top 5 Ways Hot Yoga Can De-Stress (and Warm You Up) This Holiday Season

You’ll be obsessed with the stand-out benefits of this self-care thechnique in its many forms — ranging from Kundalini to Vinyasa, Bikram, Yin, Iyengar and more — and the way it transforms your life for the better. Keep reading to learn about the Top 5 unexpected ways that yoga will benefit your life.

P.S. It’s such a potent form of self-care that you can even derive health benefits from doing yoga with baby goats!

 

5.) It’s Ace at Reducing Inflammation

The National Center for Biotechnology Information published this literature review of clinical findings that prove MBT’s, or mind-body techniques, including yoga, reduce inflammation in the body at the genomic level. This explains near-immediate relief from myriad health difficulties that stem from inflammation.

What are they? Well, Well + Good points out that chronic inflammation is a truly pervasive threat to your health. Barbara Mendez, R.Ph., M.S., explains: “Everything is related to inflammation! It can cause skin conditions, allergies, headaches, very painful menstrual periods, chronic diseases,…everything.” Chronic inflammation can be the starting point for a number of debilitating illnesses and conditions, ranging from depression, fatigue and chronic pain, to Alzheimer’s and cancer.

In other words, reducing inflammation is definitely a good thing. And yoga is a scientifically backed practice that aids immensely in reducing the inflammatory response in your body.

 

4.) It Clears Your Skin (Yes, Seriously!)

OMFG. Well + Good literally changed our lives by revealing that certain yoga postures have beautifying results. Other than boosting the circulation to your face — which means things like improved skin tone, fewer wrinkles and stimulated detoxification that leads to skin clarity — there are more specific practices for certain types of cures. From anti-aging postures to Bikram yoga’s hormone-balancing cure for cystic acne, there are postures that target most skin flaws.

They suggest trying calming postures, like fish pose and hidden lotus, to tackle those fiery emotions that lead to red breakouts, typical of the Pitta dosha-type. For those with Vata imbalances, who experience whiteheads, blackheads and milia, Ayurveda prescribes detoxifying postures to boost circulation and clear up acne — namely, digestion-jumpstarters like headstands, backward bends and plough pose. For your typical, run-of-the-mill circulation-promoting postures, be sure to incorporate cobra and locust into your regular routine.

And so, as you can see, yoga helps to resolve some of the causes of acne (and BTW, inflammation is one of them), not to mention it sends you from class with a luminous, dewey-faced “yoga glow.” Yes, please!

 

3.) You’ll Gain Body-Awareness

Yoga is also emerging as a practice that boosts body-awareness — or your ability to attune to what’s going on inside. Your heightened sense of self each day means that you can tailor your yoga practice, lifestyle and activities to suit your body’s particular needs.

Vox points out, “When you compare long-term yoga practitioners to people doing other forms of exercise, you have better body awareness in yogis.”

If you’re wondering what body awareness means for your health, researchers link it to individuals’ ability to care for themselves. The 60 to 90 minutes you devote to your yoga practice each day essentially attunes you to your inner wellness, allowing you to become more proactive and knowledgeable in how you can support and enhance your body’s needs.

Yoga doesn’t just help your health directly, it also empowers you to take charge of your health and wellness proactively.

 

2. You’ll Cultivate a “Beginner’s Mind”

Die-hard yogis know that practice is not about perfect. In fact, it’s normal for each day of your yoga practice to feel different. Over time you’ll learn to accept that your body’s strength and flexibility varies daily, relieving you of judgments that arise when you prioritize outer goals over your well-being.

The beginner’s mindset comes from the knowledge that no two days are the same, ever. And it’s not worth your time to try to make them so! The very best part is, even the most nit-picky Virgos can experience the total absence of pressure that comes from self-imposed expectations. Your perpetual beginner’s mindset is fortified each and every time you step into class, setting aside your own agenda as you listen for your instructor’s guidance.

In the absence of expectations, you’ll also begin to genuinely enjoy the experience of completing yoga’s postures with a curious, open mind. Gaiam shares that this promotes feelings of curiosity, playfulness, awareness and openness to taking chances. All of these qualities are also part of what make yoga an evolutionary growing experience for yogis.

 

1.) Experiencing Greater Self-Acceptance and Promoting Body-Inclusivity

Once you stop judging your practice, then you can truly enjoy it. The more compassionate — less competitive — attitude towards yourself also cultivates greater self-acceptance. A sense of contentment, inner peace and utter relaxation all become yours when you carve out a segment of your day to devote to you-time. 

We should also probably mention that along with improved body-awareness, Vox also reported on yet another fabulous side-effect of your regular practice: greater body acceptance. Huffington Post cites stress-relief, changing belief systems, the body-positive community of the yoga studio, a competition-free environment and letting go of perfectionism as five yogic benefits that can heal issues with body-image. Wowza!

As we can all attest, less pressure to conform to impossible standards of perfection takes a major weight off our shoulders. (No pun intended.)

 

Want more ways to ensure a stress-free holiday season? Check out our Guide to Relieving Stress During the Holidays.

Were these unexpected yoga benefits enough to convince you to grab a mat and get started? Tell us in the comments below!

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