Have you ever wondered how Yoga can make your feel better? Yoga seems like the perfect solution to your stress and it looks really cool on social media. People talk about a lot of yoga benefits—that they feel energized and can concentrate better.
Yoga has been shown to have positive correlations in reducing symptoms of ADHD, chronic pain, stroke recovery, and more! It is not sure if that is because yoga is a great form of treatment, or because it is a form of regular physical activity or a simple placebo effect.
Read below how yoga could help you, what it actually is, how much you should do it and what would happen if you do yoga daily.
What is yoga?
Yoga is not just doing some nice stretching. It is very broad and has multiple disciplines and practices. It can be physical, mental and/or spiritual practice. In the West, we usually experience yoga as a combination between
- breathing and
As you see, yoga can be a form of exercise. Researchers aren’t sure about the origins of yoga. Ancient India is high on the radar. More traditional yoga seemed to be more focused on meditation and the spiritual ways of thinking. While modern yoga focuses on classes. Here you hold low intensity body positions (or asanas), breathing exercises (pranayama ) and a focus on meditation.
Usually, it is a practice derived from Hatha yoga.
What are potential yoga benefits?
Yoga helps to reduce stress and build stress resilience.
Practicing yoga could help your emotional well-being and your stress resilience. At least, that is what this article says. They compared 48 employees from a British University. Yoga has been shown to improve how people handle stress.
The group who performed yoga for six weeks felt like they could handle stressful situations with more self-confidence. Other studies have found very similar results. They confirmed reduced stress levels, stress behavior and less exhaustion.
Yoga helps your composure and calmness.
Studies have found that more composure and calmness might be some of the huge yoga benefits. People seem to feel more composure and calmness after practicing yoga for six weeks.
Another study confirms the effects of yoga or meditation-based practices to grow calmness in adults after 10 weeks. Results showed that stroke patients felt an improved calmness. They felt more connected to their body and seemed to accept it more.
A participant to this study noted that yoga taught her to slow down, to take time for herself. This seemed to provide her a sense of calmness and control needed in her life.
Yoga helps clear-mindedness.
Practicing yoga could potentially improve your clear-mindedness. Yoga usually combines physical activities with mindfulness based exercises. Such positive effects are something to look into in the workplace.
If yoga could help people be less stressed and more clear-minded than investing in courses could be great for the health of the team.
It can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
People who practice yoga report positive effects on their mental health. Yoga could help to keep symptoms of anxiety and depression at bay, research shows a direct reduction in these symptoms but also an increase in mood.
Firstly, research shows that people feel an improvement in their emotional well-being. They feel more life purpose, energy and satisfaction. These are often lacking for people with symptoms of anxiety and depression.
It can help you feel under control of your body and emotion.
Other yoga benefits could be improved control over your emotions and body. Stroke patients felt a significant improvement on how they felt this control, in combination with more calmness.
Yoga could help people feel more in control of their physical sensations, emotions and thoughts. Yoga is a great way to work on being present.
It could help your blood pressure possibly.
There are studies about yoga as a way to help your hypertension or heart disease. Hypertension or high blood pressure is a big problem in the US. If yoga could solve that, that would be great. The studies about high blood pressure seem optimistic regarding yoga, however very biased.
Further there seems to be a high interaction between medication. People don’t seem to adhere to their medications regimen with all the costs included. That is where yoga could fit in.
Still, a meta-analysis makes clear that yoga is not so much a replacement for therapy. It is more a preventative intervention to reduce high blood pressure.
It could help you to regulate your nervous system response.
Yoga and other physiological exercises are shown to be good for our health. Yoga specifically could increase low-frequency brain wave activity.
Yoga could reduce activation of the sympathetic nervous system. Also, it increase activation of the parasympathetic nervous system. Such activation is associated with feelings of harmony of the mind and body.
It can help with better emotional self-regulation. A reduced activation of the sympathetic system is associated with a fight or flight response.
It can boost sustained attention and concentration.
Performing yoga on a regular basis is positively correlated with attention and concentration. A small study found that yoga could potentially help ADHD symptoms. Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder could benefit from extra behavioral treatment.
This seems like a great extra intervention, as the usual prescribed stimulants can increase heart rate and blood pressure. This medication is a risk for heart disease, high blood pressure and anxiety.
Practicing yoga twice per week during eight weeks had a positive effect on the accuracy and reaction time on attention tests. Another study finds similar results. Preschool children improved on their attention. Parents also noticed an improvement in their concentration.
It can improve your self-esteem and confidence.
Yoga may help to give your self-esteem a boost. Sometimes we get stressed and overwhelmed by the world, you are not alone. Some research claims that yoga can help you feel more self-confident during stressful situations.
It can help cultivate mindfulness.
A pilot study found that hatha yoga may help increase mindfulness in a healthy population. With these findings yoga could support your mental health. It can be a preventative tool against anxiety or depression related symptoms.
It can alleviate sleep issues.
If your racing thoughts keep you up at night, or you just don’t sleep well, yoga may help you. Yoga could possibly give you the tools to breath better or be less stressed, which participants in a study said to help in improving their sleep. Getting a good night sleep also improved their energy levels during the day.
Yoga improves impulsivity.
Patients with substance use disorder seem to profit from yoga in combination with traditional treatment. The yoga group also saw significant improvement on their range of motion and their impulsivity. Preschoolers with ADHD however did not seem to experience the same effects.
Yoga for (chronic low back) pain or your back.
Yoga might have similar effects as some forms of exercises. It can for example have a similar effect on pain or disability as other exercise or physical therapy. Another study couldn’t confirm or deny this. Looking at 12 trials, researchers concluded that we need more research!
There might be small to moderate positive effects of yoga on back-related function and chronic pain for example. Yet results were not clinically significant.
They couldn’t confirm whether yoga has a different effect than other exercises for back functionality or pain. The elderly might also find a positive effect in functionality when practicing yoga. Their range of motion seems to improve in their daily lives.
It might help your balance.
Yoga might have a positive effect on balance after stroke. Not all studies agree on the positive effects of yoga on balance. Young adults might also see an improvement in their balance by practicing hatha yoga.
It might help your flexibility.
Also elderly women mention more flexibility in their levels of movements after a yoga practice. For these ladies it seems a very nice side-effect of yoga, as more flexibility can translate for some to more functional autonomy.
How many days a week should I do to get these yoga benefits?
With all these yoga benefits, it is understandable that you want to try it. So how many days should you do it?
It is not easy to say how much yoga you should practice to see the above effects. Everyone is different, you might not feel any impact depending on the kind of yoga you practice.
If you have doubts about your practice, you can ask your doctor what they recommend. That would surely be the best idea if you are paying attention to your health as well.
The above studies usually have a variability in practices, however most report such effects after at least 8 weeks of 2 or 3 sessions a week. Still, a session is quite broad. It can entail those positions combined with breathing and meditation exercises.
When thinking about how much yoga you should do in a week, it might be helpful to think about your goal. Is this a way for you to get fit? Is this a way to only calm your mind? Do you want to get flexible or do you just want to do some child poses and be done with it?
Adapt to that, don’t push yourself too hard as you can strain yourself, and lastly get advice and guidance from a professional.
What happens if you do yoga every day?
Doing yoga daily could have some of these benefits, but we are not sure. Below we will discuss some findings of researchers.
A first study focused on relational aspects. It found that daily yoga practice could have a positive impact on how you relate to yourself and others. How is that even possible?
Some studies claim that yoga could support interpersonal relationships. This by fostering compassion and a sense of connectedness. They say that yoga includes exercises of mindfulness and self-compassion in their practice. Training those skills daily might have a positive impact on those who practice yoga.
Another study shows that long-term (almost) daily Ashtanga yoga could have a positive effect on how we feel about our health. It could increase our intrinsic motivation and our internalized health locus of control.
For example, if you wanted to focus on weight loss, you could have more skills and feelings of autonomy to take your health into your own hands.
Before we mentioned that some yoga benefits could be:
- reduction in pain,
- more connection with others,
- stress reduction
- positive effects on anxiety
- and cognition.
Further, some studies above reported a boost in self-confidence.
A study with fibromyalgia sufferers confirms these effects after daily yoga practice. Further, it also had a positive impact on their sleep and sleep quality.
Lastly, a small study showed a positive effect on the bone density for daily yoga practice after about two years. People with osteoporosis or osteopenia might benefit from using yoga against their bone loss. The added benefits like better balance can be seen as an extra when you have the tendency to fall.
Yoga intrigues researchers and others. People report yoga benefits that are good for the physical, spiritual and mental health.
The positive yoga benefits on mind and body seem real. Results of many small studies report optimistic reports on many aspects of daily life. It is not a given however that you will find all these effects.
The problem with these studies is that the yoga protocol is different for most, so we are not sure how much and what to do to obtain all these results. Also, these studies usually report small sample sizes, or have other limitations.
At this point we can’t say that these are the direct and causal effects of practicing yoga. To be sure that these benefits are really because of yoga, we would need more research to get a conclusive answer on that.
Don’t let that stop you from doing this fun and beneficial activity. It looks like a positive experience that is easy to adapt to the needs and abilities of many.