5 Surprising Ways Yoga Affects Your Health

Yoga does so much more than lower stress levels.

July 30, 2009

Greater flexibility is just one of yoga's many benefits.

Regular stretching and use of breathing techniques can go a long way. Yoga is famous for improving flexibility and encouraging relaxation, but more and more research shows that the practice offers benefits that go beyond calming you down. For example, a study in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicinefound that 75-minute yoga sessions, performed three times a week for 10 weeks, eased symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in a group of women between 45 and 75. The yoga classes also improved their disability related to RA, improved their balance, and decreased symptoms of depression in the women. Read on for other ways you can use yoga to improve your health.


#1: It helps you fight food cravings.

Keeping off unwanted weight can be a little easier with a regular yoga routine. In a study of 15,500 average-weight adults, people gained three fewer pounds annually over the course of four years if they followed a routine of 30 minutes of yoga per week. The weight loss may be a result of creating a closer relationship between mind and body during yoga, allowing participants to fight overeating. Move into a simple yoga pose when food cravings threaten to overwhelm your better judgment; for the best, most relaxing positions that curb cravings, check out the videos and photos at iYogaLife. Cravings generally strike when our bodies are tense. Loosening muscles with yoga movements makes it easier to reflect on whether or not you really need that candy bar.

#2: It helps you have a healthy pregnancy.

Honing in on your happy and calm place with yoga meditation may insure your little one arrives just as relaxed.  A study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that doing yoga while pregnant increased the odds of a healthy delivery. The 335 women studied added a yoga routine during their second trimester; the result was higher birth weights and lower pregnancy-induced hypertension compared to non-yoga-practicing participants.

#3: It boosts your performance in the bedroom.

Spice up your love life with yoga moves that focus on body alignment increase blood flow and sexual desire. Many yoga poses send blood flow directly to the pelvic region, heightening sensitivity and desire. Poses that focus on balance and abdominal contraction will strengthen your core as well as your orgasm because of the focus on pelvic muscles. Overall body awareness, vital to yoga workouts, also boosts confidence—making you more assertive.

Can't fit in an hour of yoga every day? Try these easy 2-minute stretches to keep up your form on busy days.

#4: It lowers risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Increasing your yoga routine can have be mentally relaxing and benefit your heart as well. Another study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, which looked at 98 adults with varying health concerns, such as hypertension, coronary artery disease, and diabetes, found significant improvements in blood sugar and total cholesterol levels with the incorporation of yoga into their routine. The group took part in an eight-day lifestyle-modification program that included common yoga practices like posture awareness, deep breathing, meditation, nutritional changes, and group support.

#5:  It helps cancer patients sleep better.

The calming meditation practices often used in yoga are great to take your mind off a stressful day, and to help you sleep better. In a study done at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, lymphoma patients improved their sleeping habits by practicing Tibetan yoga. After a taking a 20-minute yoga class once a week for seven weeks, patients fell asleep faster, slept longer, and reduced the amount of sleep medication they needed.

Want to get started?

To find a yoga class or instructor in your area, start by asking friends for referrals, and checking with local gyms. Or try the location search and reviews at iyogalife.com. Once you start looking, you'll find a number of different varieties of yoga. So here's a breakdown of what to expect with some of the most popular forms.

Power Yoga

Think yoga on steroids. A combination of strength training and cardio, you'll get your heart pumping and work up a sweat, all while getting a killer stretch.

Best for: Anyone who's up for a challenge

Bikram Yoga

It’s a 90-minute yoga class featuring two sets of 26 poses in 105-degree heat. The heat improves your muscle elasticity, making it easier for you to bend into difficult poses.

Best for: People looking to lose weight; you can burn 350 to 600 calories in one class

Hatha Yoga

This is what most people think of when they hear "yoga." You'll go through various poses focusing on breathing and relaxation.

Best for: Newbies and anyone looking for a way to relax while still reaping all the physical benefits of yoga.

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