5 Surprising Health Benefits of Yoga
I am definitely one of those people who has a minor case of what I like to call fitness ADD. Since I started my first major sport, ice skating, at age 4 I have run the gamut from rock climbing to tango and depending on my head space I am attracted to all different types of new activities. When I first started my pregnancy I was lucky enough to spend 6 weeks in Park City and was loving the long hikes outdoors with my dog, Ranger, and would also frequent the gym. In the last month or so though, I have become a little less mobile, and the last thing I want to do is visit a smelly gym where I have to spend 30 minutes bouncing up and down on an elliptical. No thanks! So a few weeks ago I did what I do every couple of years, I joined a yoga studio.
Over the past 10 years I have been in and out of yoga, and now I am once again reminded of why I am always drawn back to it. I really feel like it is one of the only workouts that exercises your mind and soul as much as your body. And even though I may be in a studio with 20 other people, I feel like I really am working within my own personal space. The studio I just joined is primarily for mom-to-be’s or new moms that want to experience the practice with their infants and it has been a savior for my back and also just managing my stress over the new baby coming soon. Prenatal yoga helps me focus on balance, strength and peaceful breathing exercises that will help with labor but are also just wonderful things to know when managing any type of daily stresses.
I wanted to share some other lesser known benefits of yoga that I have found through personal experience and research for expecting moms, people looking to manage stress and anxiety, or people just looking for a new activity.
Yoga for Mental Health
Depression and Anxiety: Yoga has been found to reduce stress by 40% in adults within 6 months of practice. Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, a professor of psychiatry and medicine at Duke University Medical Center, states the practice positively influences chemical messengers in the brain, inflammation in the body, and other biological factors in much the same way as antidepressants and psychotherapy.
Overeating: Yoga teaches us to reconnect with our bodies, and that balance in life is accomplished by moderation. By becoming more aware of our bodies we can naturally achieve mindful eating which regulates our intake. Studies show that binge eating can drop by 50% among a group of overweight women after 12 weeks of yoga practice.
Yoga for Pregnancy
Healthy Delivery and Baby: 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.
Yoga for Everyday Life
Patience and Compassion: For me, being more connected to my body and soul and having a few breathing exercises in my pocket for stressful situations has made me a more patient and compassionate person. Even my road rage has improved from only a few weeks of being back at the studio.
Strength and Posture: The poses in yoga, or asanas, often make you hold a strengthening position for a few moments before moving into the next asana and repeating. These, over time, build strength and result in better posture.
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