Yoga: Modern research shows a variety of benefits to both body and mind

The popularity of yoga has grown tremendously in the past decade. More than 10 percent of US adults have practiced yoga at some point in their lives.

Researchers have begun to study the effects of yoga and are finding that it has great benefit for mental and physical health. Yoga involves physical movement, so it is no surprise that most types of yoga can help to improve a person’s strength and flexibility. In one study with healthy untrained volunteers, researchers found that eight weeks of yoga improved muscular strength at the elbow and knee by 10 percent-30 percent. Flexibility at the ankle, shoulder and hip joints also increased by 13 percent-188 percent.

There are a number of less obvious but meaningful benefits from yoga as well. Research has shown that yoga practice can reduce risk factors for heart disease such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and abdominal obesity. Studies on older adults have shown significant improvements in balance, mobility, cognitive function and overall quality of life.

Yoga also provides many benefits for mental health. Researchers have found that a regular practice over eight to 12 weeks can lead to moderate reductions in anxiety and depressive symptoms as well as help with stress management.

It is important to consider that although yoga is generally safe, just as with any other form of exercise, there is some risk of getting injured. Individuals with medical conditions who are new to yoga should practice it initially under the supervision of a trained instructor.

If you do decide to give yoga a try, talk to the yoga instructor first to assess whether the style they offer meets your preference and fitness levels. Remember, you may need to practice a couple of weeks to feel the benefits, physically and mentally. The Conversation


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