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A group of women doing yoga

Physical and Mental Benefits of Practicing Yoga

The Benefits of Yoga are Both Mental and Physical

Many people are aware of the positive impact that yoga can have on increased flexibility. However, there are many benefits of yoga that help both the mind and body remain stay healthy.

More than 20 million Americans practice yoga, an Eastern exercise that utilizes breath control, meditation and various body poses for the purposes of relaxation and better health. The number of people who practice this exercise is expected to increase as more people become aware of all of the benefits that yoga has to offer.

Increases Strength

The majority of yoga poses increase muscle strength throughout the body. Plank, downward dog and upward dog pose all increase strength in the arms, shoulders and chest. Standing poses help to build muscles in the hamstrings, abdominals and legs. Nearly every yoga pose is responsible for muscle building in the core of the body.

Reduces Stress

Many types of yoga focus on meditation, a practice used to calm the mind from worries and anxieties brought on by everyday life. Clearing the mind of problems, while focusing on deep breathing, has been found effective in bringing stress relief to those who practice yoga.

Increases Flexibility

Bikram yoga, a practice where yoga is performed in a heated room, has been shown to be particularly effective in increasing flexibility. However, all types of yoga can bring great improvements in keeping muscles and joints more flexible. A 2009 study found that 35 percent of participants who practiced any type of yoga were more flexible after just eight weeks.

Keeps the Heart Healthy

Though some types of yoga are slow, many types are fast enough that the heart is brought into a healthy range for cardiovascular exercise. Cardiovascular exercises strengthen the heart muscle, helping it to pump blood more efficiently and reduce blood pressure.

Strengthens the Immune System

As the body is moved through different poses, the lymphatic system is able to move the lymph and drain it properly. This can help to improve the immune system, keeping the body free from colds and other upper respiratory infections.

Improves Concentration

An important part of yoga is focusing on the present, rather than the past or future. Some studies have found that yoga improves concentration, helps individuals solve problems faster and recall information in less time than those who don’t do yoga.

The first few times taking a yoga class may seem difficult as muscles are stretched in ways there weren’t before. Sticking with yoga can improve the entire body and mind, keeping those who practice healthier and more at peace.