Published on February 22nd 2024

Health Benefits of Yoga: Improve Mind, Body, and Soul

#Wellness

#Mindfulness

#Yoga

#Health

#Mental health

Written by

Health Benefits of Yoga: Improve Mind, Body, and Soul

Arpita

Writer

Health Benefits of Yoga: Improve Mind, Body, and Soul

Table of Contents

1

. Now, let’s explore a few of the physical benefits of yoga.

1.1

. 1) Does it relieve chronic back pain ?

1.2

. 2) Yoga for weight loss: Does it work ?

1.3

. 3) Does it help treat asthma ?

1.4

. 4) Other physical benefits of yoga

2

. What are the mental benefits of yoga ?

3.1

. Really ?

3.2

. 2) Yoga for mental health—does it cure depression ?

3.3

. 3) Can it be a solution for insomnia ?

3.4

. Is it true ?

3

. Conclusion

“Okay, but have you tried yoga yet?”

Do you often find yourself asking this question? These can perhaps be signs for you to explore the vast realm of yoga.

It’s 2024, and millions of people across the world have already integrated yoga into their daily life routines and unlocked the secret to living a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.

Since 2010, the number of people practicing yoga in the US has steadily increased, according to a report by the Statista Research Department published in June 2023.

From 21 million in 2010 (who have at least done yoga once a year) to 34.4 million in 2021—a 63.8% increase is enough to tell you that more and more people are turning towards yoga as a complementary approach to good health, both physically and mentally,

Plus, most of the yoga exercises have a very low risk factor attached to them. That's why you find a wide range in the age demographics. Seniors who are old and frail, young and middle-aged individuals who can’t indulge in much physical activity, and even children can take up yoga, according to their preferences and interests.

Studies reveal that the American public does yoga not only to maintain a positive and nurturing lifestyle but also to treat certain health conditions.

In this article, we will look into the benefits of yoga—how it affects the body, mind, and soul. How it helps someone struggling with weight gain issues, back pain or overstimulation due to stress, and more. So, let’s get started.

Now, let’s explore a few of the physical benefits of yoga.

1) Does it relieve chronic back pain ?

Practicing yoga regularly can:

  • Increase flexibility (as you stretch and lengthen the muscles during different exercises and postures).
  • Remove stiffness from joints (by allowing better motion in them)
  • Alleviate pain

A randomized controlled pilot study in 2023 put 29 adult patients with *non-specific chronic low back pain (non-specific CLBP) into two groups randomly. One received the usual pain-management care, known as the Control Group.

The other got the integrated approach of yoga therapy (IAYT) in addition to the usual care treatment; it was called the Yoga Group. After 3 months, it was found that the Yoga Group showed better improvements than the Control Group when it came to:

  • Intensity of pain suffered.
  • Psychological aspects of pain (such as fear of movement).
  • Release of *β-endorphins.
  • Quality of life

[*Non-specific chronic low back pain is the pain that doesn’t have a pathologically-known cause or reason behind it; imagine the “sudden shooting of pain in the lower back.” The treatment pivots on reducing pain and further consequences.

*β-endorphins are natural pain-relievers produced inside the body; they are also called feel-good chemicals that help with pain management and attaining a positive state of mind.]

2) Yoga for weight loss: Does it work ?

i) It is common to note improvements in *body mass index (BMI), body weight, body fat, and waist circumference when one practices yoga for a considerable amount of time. But there hasn’t been enough research that clearly explains the mechanisms behind them. Are they due to changes in eating behaviors, increased physical activity, or more *Lean body mass?

[*Body mass index is a measure of an individual’s body fat; it is calculated by dividing the body weight (in kilograms or pounds) by the square of the height (in meters or feet).

*Lean body mass is when you remove the body fat weight from the total body weight. It takes into account everything, including bones, muscles, blood, skin, etc., except for body fat.]

A 2016 study tried looking into the experience of losing weight through yoga. It found several factors that led to weight loss, such as:

  • Shift toward healthy or mindful eating. (Be mindful of what you are eating; it can help make healthier choices and support your weight loss journey.)
  • Physical changes (that include calorie burning, especially when Vinyasa or Power Yoga is practiced vigorously for longer durations, balance in hormone levels, and building more lean muscle mass)
  • Psychological effects (that include stress reduction, elimination of emotional eating habits, and better sleep quality)
  • Behavioral effects (for example, the yoga community provides fitness role models and social support, which benefits people struggling to lose weight.)

ii) Another randomized controlled trial conducted in 2022 “provides preliminary support” that yoga can serve as an effective tool for long-term weight loss.

3) Does it help treat asthma ?

i) A systematic review in 2014 analyzed 14 randomized controlled trials with a total of 824 patients and concluded that yoga can’t be taken as a standard treatment for asthmatic patients. However, it can be used as additional or complementary care to improve the symptoms of asthma.

ii) There’s another 2017 study that inquired how the asanas (postures) and pranayama (breathing exercises) of yoga helped to manage childhood asthma. It went through 10 clinical trials in which the participants (all children) had mild, moderate, or uncontrolled asthma but never acute or severe asthma. It found that yoga benefited them by reducing,

  • Hyperventilation (rapid or deep breathing due to anxiety or panicking)
  • Bronchospasm (in which the muscles that line the airways into the lungs tighten on exposure to environmental triggers such as chemicals or cold air.)

It also emphasized that more future clinical trials are required before incorporating yoga into the standard care of asthmatic children. They need to first evaluate its impact on their quality of life, medication use, and other patient-related outcomes.

4) Other physical benefits of yoga

i) A yoga-based lifestyle can strengthen your chances against coronary artery diseases or lessen the severity of their symptoms. This includes partaking in routine yoga exercises, maintaining proper diets, and managing stress.

ii) A 2014 study examined how a 5-month Hatha-yoga training program could enable young adults to improve their body balance. The results provided significant evidence that practicing Hatha yoga regularly can enhance postural control in healthy young adults.

iiii) It can be a potential way to reduce menopausal symptoms, says a 2017 systemic review. Its effects, however, are still comparable to those of other exercise-based remedies.

What are the mental benefits of yoga ?

1) It cuts down on stress. Really ?

i) Is gym yoga of any use for working individuals? A 2017 study went on to research it. 90 employees suffering from moderate to high stress were divided into two groups at random. One took the gym yoga classes for non-stop 16 weeks (from starting to ending), whil the other didn’t join classes for the initial 8 weeks and only began in the 9th week.

At the end of the study, the former group observed a noticeable reduction in their stress levels and symptoms of anxiety, depression, and insomnia. The latter group too showed positive results, such as a tapering of stress levels and other psychological symptoms. But it was mentioned that this happened only after they practiced yoga for 8 weeks.

ii) A meta-analysis in 2017 investigated 42 studies to scientifically assess the benefits of yoga asanas (i.e., exercises) with or without mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) therapy. They compared the findings to those of an active control group that didn’t practice any yoga and concluded:

  • Doing yoga can regulate and stabilize waking and evening cortisol levels. (Cortisol is known as the body’s main stress hormone.)
  • It also affects heart rate, glucose and cholesterol levels, and *systolic blood pressure.
  • It helps in improved regulation of the *sympathetic nervous system and the HPA axis.

[*Systolic blood pressure evaluates the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats.

*The sympathetic nervous system of your body gets activated when you are in a stressful or dangerous situation; it enables you to come up with the fight or flight response.]

iii) In 2019, a 6-week pilot program organized weekly 60-minute Vinyasa flow yoga classes for 17 college-bound students, with a guided meditation session following each yoga class. The results were:

  • Stress and anxiety levels diminished to a great extent in the participants.
  • It was suggested that college students might feel less pressure to perform well academically by participating in mindfulness exercises at least once a week.

2) Yoga for mental health—does it cure depression ?

Research so far states that yoga can be used as a supplementary treatment in combination with existing standard procedures to improve or reduce the symptoms of “individuals with depressive disorders or elevated levels of depression.”

3) Can it be a solution for insomnia ?

According to a randomized controlled trial recently held in 2022, yoga can uplift the quality of life by inducing a state of relaxation and peace, stress mitigation, repairing mental health, infusing clarity in the mind, and more.

You see, yoga can help to manage the symptoms of insomnia and other sleep-related disorders—only as an ancillary or additional treatment alongside standard medical and psychological therapies.

4) Yoga boosts emotional regulation. Is it true ?

A 2022 study discovers a correlation between practicing yoga and developing self-esteem and robust emotional regulation in school-going students (all adolescents, aged 10 to 19).

The primary data reveals that students who learn and practice yoga from a young age grow into confident adults, have a strong grip over their feelings, and can manage their emotions well.

It even suggests that policymakers should introduce a standardized yoga curriculum in schools to encourage students to do yoga regularly.

Conclusion

Yoga has its roots in age-old spiritual traditions and beliefs. Besides giving you physical and mental benefits, it also nourishes the soul and aids you in comprehending the deeper meanings of life and existence.

As you choose yoga, you set yourself on a path of self-exploration and tend to reflect within to realize your passion and purpose in life.

Practicing yoga cultivates compassion, kindness, and empathy towards oneself and the people around—inspiring you to gain a more positive outlook on life. More importantly, it helps you feel complete and whole, ushering in peace and contentment in your life.

So, how about you give it a try ?

Yempala Himavarsha Cropped.jpg

Reviewed by Yempala Himavarsha

Yoga Professional 

Share

Instagram

LinkedIn

Twitter

Pinterest

Facebook

Youtube