We all know that frequent exercise is the ticket to a long and healthy life. But yoga as a form of exercise and as a lifestyle can provide additional, highly potent benefits that are far more encompassing than simply helping you shed a few pounds. Below is a guide to five amazing benefits of practicing yoga.
1. Chill Out: It's Time to Relax!
Melatonin is a neurochemical secreted by our brains at night. It’s what makes us feel ready to sleep or drowsy, and is often triggered by exposure to darkness.
People who perform yoga and meditation regularly show higher levels of melatonin. This can lead to greater immune function, lower stress levels, and an overall reduction in the processes linked to aging.
2. Stretch and Flex: Get Your Mobility On
Depending on the style of yoga you choose, you will likely be adopting a variety of asanas or postures.
Some of these postures are more challenging than others, but all of them will need you to develop your flexibility, mobility, balance, and overall coördination. An increase in flexibility benefits your bone health and keeps your joints supple.
3. Heart Health: DHEA is good for you
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a chemical in the body closely linked to cardiovascular health, immune function, and overall feelings of happiness and well-being. People with lower levels of body fat typically have higher concentrations of DHEA.
Just about any form of exercise will contribute to DHEA production. However, with yoga, you’ll be able to boost your DHEA levels without having to take on more intense (and possibly body-harming) forms of exercise.
4. Burn Calories: Increase Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
Some theories on aging claim that longevity is closely linked to our metabolic rate; the amount of calories or energy your body burns within a given time period.
The research on this subject is somewhat conflicted, with some studies reporting that low BMR equates to a longer life and other studies saying this is not the case.
Either way, a yogi lifestyle involves considering everything you put into your body and its impacts on your health. By choosing healthier options you’ll be increasing your BMR and helping your body shed calories – helping you to stay fit, healthy and at an ideal weight.
5. Reduce Your Blood Cholesterol Levels
Recently, one interesting study demonstrated how women performing asanas or yogic postures, in addition to pranayama or breathing exercises, saw a reduction in their serum cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL, and VLDL cholesterol levels.
Furthermore, men and women who performed these same activities saw an increase in free fatty acid levels. This potentially suggests they were mobilizing or burning more body fat simply by performing yoga.
Whichever way you look at it, the benefits of yoga and meditation are undeniable!
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- Effects of Hatha yoga and Omkar meditation on cardiorespiratory performance, psychologic profile, and melatonin secretion.
The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. April 2004, 10(2): 261-268
- How does calorie restriction work?
Genes Dev. 2003 17: 313-321
- Impact of Pranayama and Yoga on Lipid Profile in Normal Healthy Volunteers.
Journal of Exercise Physiology. February 2006, 9 (1)