As of May 2016, there were a whopping 37 million Americans who practiced yoga. You probably know people who love yoga. Perhaps you have even tried the body-bending hobby yourself once or twice. Still, you don’t partake in yoga regularly — as it turns out, doing yoga daily can improve both your body and mind. The practice has been around for 10,000 years, and, if you pick up the habit, it’s easy to understand why.
Here are some of the many benefits of doing yoga daily.
1. Diffuse Stress
You can do yoga to help fight the effects of stress. It’s no secret that Americans are stressed-out people. In 2019, 55 percent of U.S. adults said they felt the tension of stress daily. There are many proven ways to fight stress — meditation, journaling, social time with friends. But yoga is a useful tool in warding off the stressors in your life and remaining grounded in the present.
In many studies, experts have found that yoga reduced the production of cortisol, also known as the body’s stress hormone. A three-month survey of “emotionally distressed” women found them to have less depression, anxiety and stress after practicing yoga for 90 days. The regular use of yoga in conjunction with your other favorite forms of stress relief can help you to feel more centered. Meanwhile, you can write in your journal in the evenings and take lavender-infused baths to further wind down.
2. Get Inspired To Eat Better
You do a lot to take care of your health. You can go the traditional route and compare your advantage plan options. But you can also bolster your health with a regular yoga practice. Let’s look at how yoga can help you improve your diet. Most people who practice yoga become more mindful. That means they’re in tune with themselves and their bodies in the current moment.
Someone mindful of how they feel can nourish their body more effectively. So, rather than vegging out in front of the TV, a conscious yogi would stop snacking when their body felt full. People who do yoga pay more attention to their food, too. They look at the colors and savor the flavors, which helps them to eat slowly. And, of course, thoughtful, slow eating helps them to eat the right amount just before overeating.
3. Reduce Inflammation
Your immune system sends out an inflammatory response when your body is in distress and needs healing. It’s a normal reaction, ridding the body of unhealthy cells and tissue. However, your body might start to misfire its inflammatory response. It can begin to attack perfectly healthy tissues, organs and cells. And, when this happens, it can cause a slew of worrying conditions, including asthma, heart disease and cancer.
But you can ward off inflammation — or reduce it if you already experience it — by practicing yoga and moving the machine that is your body. More research has to be done to understand the links between yoga practice and reduced inflammation. However, multiple promising studies have shown that yogis have fewer inflammation markers than their non-stretching counterparts.
4. Improve Heart Health
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. You can do your part to protect your heart by taking up a yoga practice. Many studies have shown promising connections between yoga and cardiovascular health.
Some believe that yoga helps your body reconfigure its baroreceptor sensitivity. This system helps regulate your blood pressure and keep it balanced. Other studies have shown that yoga can help lower high blood sugar levels, even in those with diabetes. Many could reduce the amount of medication they needed after taking up a yoga practice.
It has also been shown to reduce blood pressure and other symptoms of hypertension. It is worth noting that many cardiovascular rehab centers have made yoga part of their regimen, too. The stress- and pressure-releasing benefits have made it a staple in improving heart health.
5. Possibly Serve as an Anti-Depressant
We already know that yoga can help fight stress. But its mental health benefits don’t start and end there. When you do yoga, you can use it as a tool to help fight depression, as well. That’s because it reduces the amount of cortisol in the system. Cortisol causes stress, but it also interacts with serotonin, which is the hormone linked to depression.
In one study, participants with alcohol dependence practiced yoga and rhythmic breathing for two weeks. They reported fewer symptoms of depression, and physical tests corroborated those sentiments. Many had lower levels of a hormone that triggers the release of cortisol.
6. Improve Your Fitness
Gently bending and holding poses may not feel like intense exercise. But don’t worry — your daily yoga practice is improving your flexibility and fitness throughout it all. It makes sense that yoga would make you more flexible. You bend, contort and sometimes invert your body to get into your poses. One study revealed that people became 35 percent more flexible after just eight weeks of yoga practice. But yoga can make your frame more toned and more muscular, too. Some styles of yoga are very physical, requiring you to balance on your elbows or stand on your hands. It makes sense that mastery of such moves would mean you have strong muscles.
However, even gentler forms of yoga can boost your strength and endurance. Take the downward-facing dog pose, for example. With your weight on your hands and shoulders, you build strength in those areas. And just about every yoga pose increases core strength. So, even if you feel like you’re just relaxing and stretching, know that your daily yoga practice is improving your fitness throughout it all.
7. Sleep Better
Regularly hitting the mat for a deep stretch can help you obtain a deeper, more restful sleep. This benefit is intertwined with a few others on the list, too. Those with depression, high blood pressure, stress, anxiety and obesity often experience poor sleep at the same time. Because yoga can assuage these symptoms, it will eventually help you fall into a deeper, more restful sleep.
Even in those without such symptoms, though, yoga can be an effective, all-natural sleep aid. Studies have shown that people who practice yoga stay asleep longer and fall asleep faster than their non-stretching counterparts. Experts haven’t fully confirmed the links between yoga and better sleep. However, they believe that yoga can help your body release melatonin at the right time. The hormone helps your body fall asleep and, later, wake up at the right time.
For Optimal Health
As you develop your daily practice, you’ll begin to experience the above benefits of regular practice. You have nothing to lose, and you have a more optimal health to gain. Need more self-care tips? Check out the health section of our site for more.