8 Ways Yoga Improves Your Physical Health

By Larry Payne, Georg Feuerstein, Sherri Baptiste, Doug Swenson, Stephan Bodian, LaReine Chabut, Therese Iknoian

Part of Yoga All-in-One Dummies Cheat Sheet

Yoga — and other types of mind-body fitness traditions — offer many benefits, both physical and mental. Some of these benefits have been documented by scientific research; some are purely anecdotal:

  • Reduces stress and anxiety: After several weeks, months, or even years of practicing one or more of these mind-body exercises, your stress may drop dramatically.

  • Improves posture and balance: Many mind-body fitness traditions, such as yoga, emphasize good posture, spinal alignment, and balance.

  • Develops strong, toned abs: You can get away with letting it all hang out in many regular fitness routines, but not in most mind-body methods. Tightening and strengthening your abdominals is what allows you to move correctly and to accomplish much of what certain methods prescribe.

  • Decreases low back pain: Discovering how to use your abdominal muscles, to stand straight, and to keep the right muscles flexible or strong can lead to less ouch in your lower back.

  • Increases flexibility: Many common aerobic exercises tighten you up, especially in muscles specifically required for that movement, because the workouts often involve repetition of some kind. You use the same muscles the same way every time. Yoga, on the other hand, emphasizes overall flexibility. Plus, yoga and other mind-body fitness traditions have more well-balanced and less repetitive programs than some traditional exercise programs.

  • Increases your strength: You may not be able to bench-press 350 pounds, but you’ll probably notice your muscle tone and strength increasing with regular yoga practice, especially with the more physical forms of yoga, such as Yoga with Weights and Power Yoga.

  • Strengthens your bones: Any weight-bearing activity — even the “softer” movements associated with many forms of yoga, where the weight you bear is your own — can help your bones stay strong. You don’t have to pound, pound, pound your body to keep brittle bones at bay.

  • Promotes healthier heart and lungs: Regular participation in mind-body exercise, even at a low-intensity, can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease by improving your blood pressure, by improving your level of “good” cholesterol (HDL) and lowering your level of “bad” cholesterol (LDL), and by helping you take time out from tense moments in life.