Danielle Crowell knows all too well the benefits of practicing yoga. Submitted photo

In order to maintain a healthy body, one important element that should be included daily is light to moderate exercise.

Being active can not only add years to your life, but can reduce the risks of chronic health problems, and help you to have a better quality of life.

One form of exercise that helps to support the body’s natural desire for balance and healing is yoga. There are many different styles of yoga that will suit people who are at all different levels of fitness. Whether you are choosing a more physically-challenging form of yoga, or a more gentle and relaxing form of yoga, you can expect health benefits from most styles.

Here are 10 ways yoga benefits your health:

  1. Increased mobility and flexibility

Increased flexibility is one of the first benefits that people who are new to yoga tend to experience. Often when people start a yoga practice, seemingly simple things such as touching the toes can be nearly impossible to do. But with each class, the muscles loosen. Typically within a few classes, most people find that touching the toes (or whatever else the goal is) becomes much easier to do, or progress is evident. As the body loosens, it allows for increased mobility. Mobility is ease and freedom of movement, and this ease and freedom is vital for your health and to maintain independence in life as you age.

  1. Improved strength and muscle tone

A regular yoga practice strengthens muscles by using body weight. As you hold a yoga pose, the muscles involved in providing stability and support for that pose will be strengthened. I will note that, although you can see improved muscle tone from the majority of yoga styles, Flow Yoga may offer greater toning benefits due to the physical style of the class.

  1. Improved posture

As noted above, yoga helps to strengthen muscles, including those that get weakened by lack of use and poor posture. Most people spend a large portion of their day sitting at a desk, behind a computer screen, or with their faces looking down at their phone. This creates muscle fatigue, and takes a toll on the spine. Yoga helps to strengthen core muscles that have been weakened due to bad posture, and helps you become more mindful of your posture throughout the day.

  1. Improved bone health

Weight bearing exercises, such as yoga, force your body to work against gravity. These types of exercise are actually known to strengthen your bones and improve overall bone health. Therefore, a regular yoga practice can help keep your bones healthy.

  1. Reduced stress

Practicing yoga helps to shut off the body’s stress response. The deep breathing during yoga can help to lower blood pressure, and can lower heart rate. Tensing and then releasing different muscles in the body while holding different poses also helps the muscles to relax. Because of this, many people who practice yoga find that minor aches and pains that are connected to holding tension in the body begin to disappear.

  1. Boosts moods

Many studies have found that consistent practice of yoga helps to reduce depression and anxiety. One study compared the change in mood and anxiety in those practicing yoga for three hours a week, compared to those who walked for the same length of time. Those who practiced yoga noted a significant boost in their mood and a marked decrease in anxiety and depression, compared to those who walked. (Just imagine if you did both!)

  1. Lowers blood sugar

Unlike more intense forms of exercise which can actually cause a spike in blood sugar levels, yoga lowers blood sugar levels. Yoga stops the stress response and lowers these hormones, lowering blood sugar as well. This makes yoga a beneficial form of exercise for those who are diabetic and pre-diabetic.

  1. Improves sleep

Sleeping well is vital to good health and those who practice yoga regularly typically experience an improvement in sleep.

  1. Boosts immune system

Yoga can actually help to ward off colds, flu and other viruses. First, stress is known to compromise the functioning of the immune system, and as stress is lessened through yoga, the immune system strengthens and it’s easier to fight off germs. The deep breathing and movement of yoga cause the lymphatic system to filter out toxins from the body. Releasing toxins from the body removes stress from the immune system, allowing function to improve.

  1. Helps digestion

Practicing yoga regularly can help to benefit digestion in a few ways. By improving posture, it can help to overcome digestive issues that are caused by compression of the stomach and other internal organs. The twisting and turning found in many of the different yoga poses can actually help to stimulate a sluggish liver which can detoxify the body and ultimately improve digestion. Deep rhythmic breathing can also act as a form of internal massage to the stomach and intestines which helps to move everything along and improve digestion.

Yoga has many health benefits for those who practice regularly. If you are new to yoga, be sure to research the different styles available so that you can find one that is right for you, and don’t be nervous to ask questions!

Once you begin a practice, you will be on your way to experience the great health benefits too!