Yoga is a great mix of the ancient and modern. Despite being a traditional, spiritual exercise from India, you’ll now see cosmopolitan professionals increasingly grabbing a yoga mat instead of a drink after work to relax. That is a very healthy trend according to research. The benefits of yoga on both mind and body are being discovered more and more. Anecdotally, yoga practitioners will be quick to tell you all it’s done for them, but studies are now bearing that out, as well. Here are some of what we’re learning.

Benefits for the mind

Sleep – A study by Harvard University looked at the effect of yoga on people suffering from various kinds of insomnia. They trained the participants in yoga and then had them perform yoga for eight weeks. After the study, researchers found there had been statistically significant improvements in sleep efficiency, total sleep time, total wake time, amount of time to fall asleep and waking in the night.

Anxiety and Stress – Doctors are increasingly prescribing yoga to patients when they are stressed and anxious. It can help with many things, but quick relief has been seen clearly in these areas. Dr. Robert Rountree of Boulder, CO says, “I frequently recommend yoga to my patients for a wide range of problems.I find it especially helpful for people with chronic anxiety and insomnia.”

Depression and PTSD – Another Harvard University study found similar benefits for other mood disorders. Those with depression, clinical anxiety and PTSD all saw large benefits from regular yoga practice.

Benefits for the body

Chronic Pain – For those dealing with chronic neck and back pain, life can be a struggle. Thankfully, yoga has been shown to help in both cases. Some of the benefits are physical and some is by mitigating the stress-response to the pain, but in either case, it has been shown to bring welcome relief.

Blood Pressure – High blood pressure is a very common malady. It’s often caused by diet but lack of exercise and a high stress lifestyle also contribute greatly. Yoga decreases blood pressure and improves overall health.

Strength and Flexibility – As any beginner who visits a yoga class can tell you, it’s not as easy as it looks. Most newbies will not be strong enough to hold many of the poses and may not be flexible enough to even put their body into the positions at all. As they gain experience, they will notice significant improvements in both their strength and flexibility.

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Yoga is the ultimate mind-body connection. You have to calm your mind, breathe deeply and engage your physical body. Often you are simply holding a position for an extended period of time but it is likely a position you would not find yourself in during your normal day to day. Using your full range of motion in the way your body is made is important for maintaining health. There are many more benefits than those above but these alone could explain yoga’s booming popularity.

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