Physical Health Benefits of Yoga

Not only does Yoga provide a meditative practice for the mind and spirit, but it’s also great for the body. It’s a form of exercise and a wellness technique that benefits the physical body in many ways. While it’s pretty common knowledge that yoga improves flexibility and increases strength, here are three additional top benefits of yoga for the physical body. 

Weight loss and maintenance

You do not need to limit yourself to a more rigorous style of yoga, such as power or hot yoga, to gain the benefits of yoga for weight loss and maintenance. Even gentle forms of yoga, including Hatha and restorative yoga, can help you with weight.

How could a low-intensity exercise promote weight control? The key to this benefit isn’t about calories burned during a Hatha class. Lauren Cox explained for Live Science that the practice helps practitioners become more mindful of what they are eating, which encourages them to choose a healthier diet that promotes weight loss. Mindfulness can also help people eat more slowly and realize when they’re full. Plus, it can help combat stress-based and emotional eating. Since it is very relaxing and rejuvenating, restorative yoga could be particularly helpful in achieving this benefit.

Further, the length of time of a yoga class — which tends to last for an hour to an hour and a half — and the strengthening poses of Hatha and other forms of yoga can play a role. These classes can build muscle, which increases metabolism to burn more calories even when you're resting. Nonetheless, to reach weight loss goals, it might be necessary to mix power yoga and aerobic forms of exercise with gentle Hatha and restorative yoga sessions.

Keep in mind that the number on the scale does not mean everything. Yoga can further other goals that improve the look, shape and feel of your body. For instance, the practice's body weight resistance helps build muscle and tones to help you feel better about the way you look regardless of weight. 

Back pain relief

The top cause of global disability is lower back pain, explains the Global Burden of Disease 2010. Yet even though it’s such a problem, there are not always good solutions. In America, the American Physical Therapy Association found that about two-thirds of people have lower back pain, yet 37 percent of them do not get help for it. Part of the problem might be that medical solutions are not always effective. For instance, going to a doctor for back pain could lead to a prescription for pain medication, which treats the symptom of pain rather than the cause and could potentially lead to addiction.

People with back pain might find better relief from practicing yoga. Cutting down on back pain and other types of body pain is another way yoga benefits the physical body. Since a wealth of research has confirmed the benefits of yoga for back pain and because of an effort to counteract the problems associated with prescription pain pills, Western doctors have been prescribing yoga to their patients as a therapy. 

This practice gets to the heart of many causes of back pain. It stretches tight muscles, encourages motion in the joints, reduces tension and targets other issues that are connected to back pain and other muscle and joint pain. Considering back pain is such a common problem, this is a great reason to consistently follow a yoga practice. 

A beginners' yoga class can introduce you to poses that may ease pain. You might want to consider Hatha yoga or restorative yoga, which are ideal types of yoga for back pain. These are gentle practices that should not overly strain the back when practiced carefully and correctly. Also, these types of yoga are practiced with slow movements and they encourage you to hold each pose, which can help truly relax tight muscles and alleviate the tension and stress that contribute to pain. 

Better sleep

Yoga also improves sleep, which offers major benefits to the health of the body and mind. A Harvard Medical School study found that yoga boosted the quantity and quality of sleep in people with chronic insomnia. This practice reduces stress and helps people calm their minds to control racing thoughts. These results can make it easier to fall asleep at night.

Hatha and restorative yoga are very relaxing, which can calm the nervous system and teach you techniques for calming your body and mind. If you’re struggling to fall asleep, you can rely on yoga techniques such as taking deep breaths and gradually relaxing the muscles throughout your body.

Yoga for sleep could significantly improve your overall physical health, as sleep is essential to healing tissues and cells, promoting immune health, controlling hormones and carrying out many other body functions. Without enough sleep, various health problems may develop. A lack of sleep can contribute to obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other diseases and health conditions. 

As you can see, yoga can provide major benefits for the physical body while also improving the health of your mind and spirit. Weight loss, back pain relief and improved sleep are just a few of the many benefits this practice provides to physical health and overall self care. Try a consistent practice and see how much better it makes you feel. Check out our guide on best yoga mats and get started today!