6 Physical Benefits of Yoga
1. Relaxes the body to promote better sleep
Yoga is a beneficial way to relax the mind and body to prepare for sleep. Sleep is a critical period of time in which the body, mind, and soul can replenish itself for the following day. According to the National Sleep Foundation, it is recommended that children ages 5-12 get at least 9-12 hours of sleep each night. As for teenagers, 8-10 hours of sleep each night is recommended. In addition, it is recommended that adults get anywhere between 7-9 hours of sleep.
Because of the increase in technology use and the nature of people’s busy lives, sleep is sometimes neglected. However, yoga is a restorative way to promote a restful night’s sleep. According to a study by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, over 55% of people who practice yoga reported better sleep. So, instead of reaching for your television remote or scrolling through your phone, dim the lights and practice a few restorative yoga poses on your mat!
2. Strengthens the immune system
There are 219 viruses that can infect the human body. Humans are prone to sore throats, stuffy noses, and stomach aches among many other illnesses. Although the research is still in its infancy, yoga is a way to combat viruses by strengthening the immune system.
Stress is a major antagonist for illnesses. According to a study, 60-80% of doctor visits may be stress-related. Chronic stress has been known to cause psychogenic fever, especially among women, meaning that the fever is caused by psychological factors rather than inflammation or a virus. Chronic stress can also increase one’s susceptibility to the common cold because of the release of proinflammatory substances.
Although it is inevitable that we will get sick, yoga can help to lower stress hormones, which may then reduce the risk and/or severity of getting sick. Yoga calms the nervous system, which in turn signals to the immune system that it does not have to attack foreign antibodies. When the immune system is settled, inflammation decreases.
Let’s also not forget that most of us find ourselves sitting in a chair all day, hunched over the steering wheel, or frivolously texting. The tension that we create when we do such things causes blockages in the body. Yoga promotes movement. This movement allows optimal blood circulation throughout vital organs.
3. Improves balance and coordination
Have you ever wondered how some yogis can balance in poses that seem impossible? Well, the truth is that it starts in the mind. Yoga teaches us to still our minds so that we can embrace the present moment. When we free ourselves of distractions, we are better able to focus. This same principle applies in the physical yoga practice. When we can focus on our breath and not get too carried away in our thoughts, we can ALL balance in poses that seem impossible!
Practice the following yoga poses to help build upon your balance and coordination. Try not to get too caught up in holding the poses for extended periods of time or making them more advanced. Use a wall, yoga blocks, or yoga straps to support your body in the poses.
4. Spatial Awareness (i.e., midline crossing)
Another great aspect of yoga is that it encourages spatial awareness. This is especially helpful for healthy child development. In yoga, whatever is done on one side of the body is done on the other. This teaches children to differentiate between their left and right. In addition, yoga incorporates midline crossing. This encourages children to get familiar with opposites such as, right elbow to left knee or left elbow to right knee.