The benefits of yoga, or any physical exercise for that matter, are widely known. Working out helps you look and feel your best, both mentally and physically. However, there are a few more specific benefits of both yoga and traditional fitness that I like to share with yoga instructors and students. One of the most interesting benefits of exercise like yoga is what it does for your brain.
Research suggests that exercise like yoga has a protective effect on the brain, and may even help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have shown that the more a person exercises, the more the brain is protected, particularly in women. In one study, inactive individuals were found to be two times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s than those who exercised three times a week or more. Even light or moderate exercisers cut study participants’ risk significantly for Alzheimer’s.
When you come to your mat and begin your yoga routine, several hormonal and physiological things happen almost instantly:
- As you breathe deeper, more oxygen-rich blood courses through your circulatory system, which helps lower stress hormones that can compromise the immune system. This oxygen-rich blood also conditions and strengthens the lungs and respiratory tract.
- The lymphatic system is strengthened and toxins are swept away during physical practice. You may notice that you get far fewer illnesses when you have a regular yoga practice.
- Yoga boosts mental and emotional strength even as it tones the body. Joints become stiff with age, which is also due to stagnant lifestyle –- and so does the mind! Yoga exercises provide flexibility every part of your body.
When you feel better in your body, you feel better about yourself and are nicer to others – that’s the goal! In the midst of a horrible or stressful day, yoga provides a reprieve from ringing phones, screaming managers, testy kids and all of the intrusions upon your day or your workout. Yoga restores calmness, balances the emotions and nourishes your mind.