10 yoga surprises!

2013May27_YogaGeneral_AYoga’s been around in one form or another for a long time, so do you think you know what the benefits and facts about yoga are? While yoga practices may stem from ancient techniques, with some of the really modern classes still keeping in touch with yoga roots, there are some interesting aspects of yoga that you might find surprising, or at least interesting. Don’t just focus on what you do know but be open to learning something new too!

Whatever style or level of yoga you practice or are interested in trying, you will no doubt know that the pluses of yoga reach far beyond the sum of its parts. The effects on your mind, body and whole being are not just anecdotal as over the years there have been many studies across the world on what some of the surprises about yoga are. Here are just a few:

  1. 20 million US yogis – In the US alone the number of people practicing yoga has increased by around five million in the last four years and this trend is also seen in other countries, such as the UK and Australia.

  2. Newbies – Just starting out practicing yoga? Well don’t be put off by the idea of seasoned yogis who seem to be able to stretch and bend in every direction. In the US around 38% of people have been doing yoga for one year or less, so you won’t be a newbie alone!

  3. Aspirational yogis – While more people are understanding the benefits of yoga there are many more who are seriously thinking about it, about 44% of Americans according to a ‘Yoga in America’ study last year. The next step is to try it!

  4. Oh my back! – While medical advice is always necessary before embarking on exercise if you have a back injury or pain, there is strong evidence that yoga really helps with problems in the lower back. A UK study of 313 people with chronic low back pain who tried either a three month yoga program and the usual care treatments or just the usual care treatments. Three, six and 12 months later the yoga group reported less disability.

  5. Baby bonding – A recent study at the University of Michigan suggested that mindfulness yoga can not only help with prenatal depression but also has a positive impact on maternal bonding too whilst babies are still in the womb. Yoga is known to relax and de-stress but there is less evidence on the benefits of yoga on pregnancy.

  6. An anti-ageing tonic – While the number one reason people take up yoga is for flexibility (78%), many people don’t realize that it is the perfect detox too. While yoga is more about acceptance than trying to turn back time, the combination or poses that help the spine and keep you standing tall and the internal organs younger, as well as the boost to circulation and the lymphatic system, all help rid the body of toxins and give you a post-yoga glow. Mitochondria, which are crucial components to cells are thought to be activated by yoga and the energy boost helps the healing process, including cell rejuvenation which lessens the effects of ageing.

  7. Creative juices flowing – Got a problem at work that you can’t seem to think around? Do you feel that you sometimes lack clarity of thought and are not able to tap into your creative senses? A Leiden University study in the Netherlands suggested that meditative yoga that focuses on the internal, such as the breath, and the external might help people come up with new ideas.

  8. Sexual energy – Many studies have shown time and again the effect yoga can have on not just creating a fitter, healthier you but a more sexually confident you too. By strengthening pelvic muscles you might improve your performance, with increased blood flow to this region heightening desire too. A Journal of Sexual Medicine study suggests that 12 weeks of daily one hour yoga sessions can help men with premature ejaculation problems last three times longer too.

  9. Diabetes control – An Indian study at the Institute of Medical Science and Research in Mangalore found that yoga did help in controlling blood sugar levels compared to the non-yoga practicing control group. This is known to help with diabetes management. Yoga lowers blood pressure too which is also a positive factor in fighting many chronic diseases.

  10. Free-radicals – Pollutants and energy in the body can create cell damage and the right way to fight free-radicals is a diet rich in antioxidants. The same study in India also found that what is called the oxidative stress of cells declined in those practicing yoga. Taking yoga classes a few times a week over eight weeks saw a drop in oxidative levels by 20%.

The holistic benefits of yoga make it an ideal fitness program for all. Join the millions of people around the world who know that there is more to yoga than chanting ‘Om’ and trying to twist your body into a myriad of convoluted poses.

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