Millions of Americans regularly practice yoga, a mind-body therapy originally developed in ancient India that has been gaining popularity in the United States since the 1960s. Yoga interweaves three main components: physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation and relaxation. While yoga has not been proven as a cure for any particular disease, regularly practicing yoga offers women many potential health benefits.
Fitness and Weight Management
Practicing yoga can improve your fitness and help you achieve or maintain a healthy weight. Properly executing yoga poses strengthens your bones and muscles, enhances your balance, and promotes flexibility and greater range of motion, all of which can help protect your body against everyday injuries. Women who practice yoga tend to have lower body mass indexes and better control over their weight than those who do not practice yoga.
Stress Reduction and Disease Management
Stress reduction is a major health benefit of practicing yoga. Yoga’s emphasis on breathing and meditation can help calm your mind and mediate your body’s typical response to stress, lowering your blood pressure and decreasing production of stress hormones. Simply decreasing your overall stress can have a huge impact on your quality of life. Practicing yoga can also be helpful for disease management as certain diseases are aggravated by stress. For instance, yoga can be beneficial in managing or preventing heart disease, insomnia and irritable bowel syndrome, all of which are stress-related. Reducing stress also enables the immune system to perform more effectively. Yoga has also been shown to improve people’s moods, and to reduce anxiety and depression.
Yoga is also helpful in managing pain due to arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, back pain and other types of chronic pain. Each pose places emphasis on a particular set of muscles. Many yoga poses can target specific muscles that may need to be stretched in order to reduce pain. Regular practice can increase flexibility and which may reduce pain overall and prevent further injury.
Yoga can be especially beneficial during pregnancy because it’s an excellent way to achieve the type of regular, gentle exercise recommended for pregnant women. Improved fitness will help your body cope with pregnancy-induced body changes and prepare your body for undergoing labor. Yoga can also be helpful in coping with stress during pregnancy. If you decide to practice yoga during pregnancy, attend a prenatal class taught by an instructor experienced in working with pregnant women. Many regular yoga poses may be unsuitable for pregnant women.