Don’t just take my word for it, these 5 benefits of yoga are backed by scientific studies and samples. From improved respiratory function and protection from injury to reducing some effects of anxiety, there are so many bountiful benefits to yoga that picking 5 was quite tricky.  I’ve chosen to share 5 benefits of yoga that I’ve experienced first hand, that yogi’s and their Guru’s have spoken about for centuries. Modern science and studies are now backing that up! Below are a variety of mental, physical and um…. lifetsyle benefits that a regular practice will bring. 

Coping Mechanisms for Stress

Reducing the effects of stress is often touted as a benefit of yoga. I have many friends and some students who come to the mat for exactly that. Yoga has heped me cope with stress better! My family and close friends can tell if I haven’t been able to focus on my yoga practice for a while.

Yoga stresses the body while you’re practicing but gives you the tools of breath, a focussed intention and meditation to cope with it. Taking these tools off of the mat is what reduces the effects of stress. Multiple studies have shown that yoga can decrease cortisol levels, cortisol is the main stress hormone sent out by the brain. When you’re feeling stressed and feel like you don’t have a moment, that’s the time to take a moment for yourself.

Breath. Meditate. Come back to your purpose. Be present in what your are doing, even if it is intense. Focus on a single task at a time. Repeat.

Improved Digestion

Sounds too good to be true? A research paper published by the Indian Journal of Research had the following to say; “Yoga Asanas effect improved blood circulation and the massaging affect of surrounding muscles speeds up sluggish digestion. As a person gets older, the digestive system functions with gradually reducing efficiency. The regular practice of asanas thus result in an improved blood and nerve supply to the digestive and eliminative systems keeping them functioning well. The stomach lifts while asanas are practiced massages the digestive organs, as well as contracting and stretching them.

Personally, if I don’t move my disgestion is sluggish. Think about when you’re traveling- long drives or flight with little room. By the time you arrive at your destination, you’re feeling cramped, maybe bloated and things might not be moving. Twists are ideal for ideal for this, so add some into your post flight stretches as soon as you can. Not all digestive disorders are genetic, some are effected by diet and lifestyle choices. Mayo Clinic, New York says that relaxation and breathe are key to reducing digestive discomfort and improving digestive health.

Reduces Anxiety

Many forms of yoga do contain a mediation element, even if it’s at the end of classes. Reduced anxiety comes from meditation, visualisation and breathing techniques that can help relax the mind. This benefit is wonderful for people who have thoughts constantly running through their minds.

Published in the international Journal of Preventative Medicine, a small study done in Iran found that over the course of 4 weeks women had a decrease in anxiety, depression and stress. A review of research evidence suggests that compared to other popular forms of physical only yoga showed a significant reduced in anxious states.

If at any point in the day you feel anxious, I highly recommend this breathwork technique. Find a quite space where you won’t be disturbed, inhale for a slow count of four and pause at the top of the breath then exhale for a count of four. Inhale for a count of five, pause at the top, exhale for a count of five. Continue to increase the count of the inhale and exhale until your reach at least ten. If you can try going up to twelve or fourteen. Follow this by a full body scan, from head to toes, noticing any sensations or tensions in the body.

Sheena Bagshawe 5 Benefits of Yoga

Improves balances, flexibility and strength

Considerable research backs this one up. A study in 2016 took 10 male college athletes and had them practice yoga twice weekly. Compared to the control group who did no yoga, there was an increase of flexibility and balance in athletics related mobility exercises and yoga poses. Another study looked at the flexibility increases in two groups of elderly participants- one group did Hatha Yoga and the other calisthenics. After a year, the flexibility in the Hatha Yoga group had increased substainally more than the calisthenics group.

A 2015 study looked at the effects of 12 weeks of yoga on cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular strength, endurance and flexibility. Compared to the control control group, yogi experiences significant improvement will no reported adverse effects. Personally, I’m not naturally flexible but I’ve noticed small gradual improvements in strength, endurance and flexibility since starting a dedicated practice. When I don’t practice even for a day or two- I notice that flexibility going!

Could make you better in bed….

Wouldn’t this benefit make everyone happier? The theory is that the reduced cortisol levels found in yogis and the connection to mind and body can help us be more present. One study took a group of 40 females between the ages of 22 and 55 years, after practicing yoga for 12 weeks. Using a test called Female Sexual Function Index, researchers saw that sexual functions like desire, arousal, lubrication, satisfaction and orgasm were all improved while pain was decreased. This was seen more in the older women than in younger women which I for one, think is brilliant. It is only one study with a small control group but it’s still happy news. Whether it’s down to being in the moment, loving yourself or a stronger pelvic floor this is a great benefit. Here’s to a long sustainable practice and a long, satisifying sex life no matter your age!