The following benefits of yoga are excerpted from an article in Yoga Journal, Jan/Feb 2005, written by Timothy McCall, M.D.
Peace of Mind
* Yoga quells the fluctuations of the mind, according to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. In other words, it slows down the mental loops of frustration, regret, anger, fear, and desire that can cause stress. Since stress is implicated in so many health problems – from migraines and insomnia to lupus, MS, eczema, high blood pressure, and heart attacks – if you learn to quiet your mind, you will live longer and healthier lives.
Calm the Nervous Systerm
* Yoga encourages you to relax, slow your breath, and focus on the present, shifting the balance from the sympathetic nervous system (or the flight-or-fight response) to the parasympathetic nervous system. The latter is calming and restorative: it lowers blood pressure, and increases blood flow to the intestines and reproductive organs.
* One study found that a consistent yoga practice improved depression and led to a significant increase in serotonin levels and a decrease in the levels of monoamine oxidase (an enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters) and cortisol.
* Regular Yoga practice gets you moving and burns calories, and the spiritual and emotional dimensions of your practice may encourage you to address any eating and weight problems on a deeper lever. Yoga may also inspire you to become a more conscious eater.
* Do you ever notice yourself holding the telephone or the steering wheel with a death grip or scrunching your face when staring at a computer screen? These unconscious habits can lead to chronic tension, muscle fatigue, and soreness in the wrists, arms, shoulders, neck, and face, which can increase stress and worsen your mood. As you practice yoga, you begin to notice where you hold tension… If you simply tune in you can release some tension.
* It’s well documented that weight-bearing exercise strengthens bones and helps ward off osteoporosis…In an unpublished study conducted at California State University, LA, the practice of yoga increased bone density in the vertebrae. Yoga’s ability to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol may help keep calcium in the bone.
* Strong muscles do more than look good. They also protect us from conditions like arthritis and back pain, and help prevent falls in elderly people. When you build strength through yoga you balance it with flexibility.
Maintain Healthy Joints
* Each time you practice yoga you take your joints through their full range of motion. This can help prevent degenerative arthritis or mitigate disability by “squeezing and soaking” areas of cartilage ... Joint cartilage is like a sponge; it receives fresh nutrients only when its fluid is squeezed out and new supply can be soaked up.
* Regularly practicing yoga increases proprioception (the ability to feel what your body is doing and where it is in space) and improves balance. People with bad posture or dysfunctional movement patterns usually have poor proprioception, which has been linked to knee problems and back pain.
* Yogis tend to take fewer breaths of greater volume, which is both calming and more efficient. A 1998 study published in The Lancet taught a yogic technique known as “complete breathing” to people with lung problems due to congestive heart failure. After one month, their average respiratory rate decreased from 13.4 breaths per minute to 7.6. Meanwhile, their exercise capacity increased significantly, as did the oxygen saturation of their blood. In addition, yoga has been shown to improve various measures of lung function including the maximum volume of the breath and the efficiency of the exhalation.