Unroll your yoga mat to experience some amazing benefits. A regular yoga practice offers both sexes increased flexibility, muscle tone, mental clarity, back health and enhanced circulation.
Some aspects of yoga are especially supportive for women. In addition to improving how you feel day in and day out, it can also ease symptoms related to hormonal shifts and health crises, such as breast cancer. Yoga also bolsters your mental health and can ease the stress that often comes with the multiple hats women wear at home and at work.
It's no secret that hormones can wreak havoc on how you're feeling. Depending on where you are in your cycle, you may have high energy, low energy, mild cramps or be incapacitated with fatigue.
Yoga helps you navigate the most unpleasant feelings of your cycle and ease contractions of the uterus that cause cramps. Moves such as a Reclined Spinal Twist, Seated Twist or Pigeon provide a salve. A restorative practice supports you in times of low energy, while a vigorous flow gets you moving when energy is high.
During menopause, yoga can help you deal with the changes your body is going through. It'll teach you to breathe through hot flashes and ease discomfort with restorative poses such as Bound Angle or Reclined Hero. A regular yoga practice helps other unpleasant side effects experienced during this hormonal shift, including insomnia, anxiety, depression and mood swings. Your practice helps with mental focus, so you're less forgetful and may even calm you enough to help level out an erratic menstrual cycle.
Reach out to yoga during a health crises. In addition to easing anxiety and worry caused by poor health, it can actually improve symptoms and help with healing.
Take breast cancer, for example. Women suffer more than 99 percent of the breast cancer cases reported. A yoga intervention during all stages of cancer, from diagnosis to recovery, offers healing and solace. A 2009 study published in the International Journal of Yoga showed a significant correlation between a regular yoga practice and improvements in breast cancer and treatment symptoms, such as vomiting, stomach distress, pain and constipation.
A 2012 study in Cancer showed that breast cancer survivors suffering from persistent fatigue experienced greater energy and less malaise after a 12-week yoga intervention. Yoga can't stop the disease, but it sure can offer assistance if you're afflicted.
Read More: 13 Reasons to Start Practicing Yoga
Anxiety and Stress
Women are far more likely to suffer depression than men, showed research published in a 2015 issue of Psychiatry and Neuroscience. Anxiety and feelings of being overwhelmed also afflict women in great numbers, reports the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Yoga is instrumental in treating these mental conditions as it helps stimulate feel-good chemicals in the brain, changes thought patterns and helps mitigate the stress response.
Yoga's positive effects on depression and anxiety occur after just a few months. A study published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice in 2009 found that just two months of practicing yoga in a class environment twice per week for 90 minutes notably reduced perceived anxiety in women.
Earlier research published in 2007 in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine showed that yoga offers promise in treating depression, too. The rhythmic breathing and chest-opening poses may have a direct impact on uplifting women's moods.
Posture and Appearance
Yoga teaches body awareness and engagement of muscles you might otherwise forget about. As a result, yoga helps you naturally contract core stabilizing muscles and stand taller, so you look more confident and healthy. Good posture also makes you look thinner.
Yoga has a direct correlation to weight maintenance, too. It's not just that it burns calories, but a rigorous style helps. Instead, it seems to create a mindfulness that keeps you making good dietary choices and staying in touch with feelings of satiation, preventing weight gain overtime.
A study published in 2005 by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Institute found that among more than 15,000 people, those who practiced yoga at least once per week for a minimum of 4 years gained less weight in middle age than those who reported little or no yoga practice. Weight gain often hits women hard; yoga may help prevent it.