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Yoga Benefits Your Body and Brain - Here's How

Yoga might seem like a modern fitness craze, but that’s far from the truth. The popular form of exercise is actually an ancient mind and body practice that was developed in India over 5,000 years ago. It combines different postures, breathing techniques and meditative practices to improve physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. Yoga’s benefits to the body and brain are backed by plenty of research. But if you have any doubt, you could also ask the 36 million Americans who actively practice yoga on a regular basis.

Yoga’s effects on the body

The physical health benefits of yoga make it a useful workout for people of all ages. For athletes, like runners and swimmers, it can help improve athletic performance and prevent injuries. Physical benefits of yoga include increased flexibility, better balance, improved strength, higher stamina and better body alignment.

Yoga’s potential for healing has also been the subject of numerous studies. Research shows that yoga may help relieve several medical conditions, such as chronic lower back pain, hypertension, asthma and carpal tunnel syndrome. Yoga’s physical benefits stem from regular stretching and increased flexibility, which can help reduce pain and inflammation in the body.

Yoga’s effects on the brain

Studies show that yoga’s calming effect can also positively impact anxiety, depression, insomnia and ADHD. A review of clinical studies on yoga concluded that yoga movements stimulate skin pressure receptors that boost activity in the brain and vagus nerve — both of which influence the production and release of various hormones and neurotransmitters, including serotonin, which plays a role in mood regulation, appetite control and sleep.

Researchers believe that one explanation for yoga’s wide-ranging effects it that it’s able to alter genetic expression through its beneficial effects on the mind. The relaxation response triggered by yoga practice has positive effects on heart rate, blood pressure, stress hormones and more.

If you’re still unsure about yoga, read about the different types you can try. You’re virtually guaranteed to find a form that works for you. Considering the many physical and psychological benefits that yoga has to offer, it’s certainly worth a try.

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