Yoga is an ancient Hindu spiritual practice that has become popular in the West as a form of low-impact exercise. It comes in a variety of types, the most popular being known as hatha yoga, but all types focus on building strength, awareness, and harmony between the body and the mind.

This is usually done through breathing exercises called "pranayamas," meditation, and assuming postures called "asanas," which can be connected by flowing sequences called "vinyasas." Each class will then conclude with a "savasana" or resting period.

Though yoga may not torch as many calories as a HIIT sesssion, studies have consistently associated practicing yoga with losing weight and having a lower BMI. This is partly because yoga is a surprisingly effective workout!

Yoga has been shown to increase practitioner’s body strength and endurance, and studies done in a group of college athletes and in the elderly both suggested that yoga can increase flexibility and balance. In fact, after only eight weeks of yoga, some practitioners had increased their flexibility more than 35 percent!

Yoga may also boost your endurance by increasing your lung capacity; yoga-inspired breathing exercises have even been shown to improve symptoms and lung function in a group of patients with asthma. Improvement in body awareness and greater core strength can also both help improve posture, which could in turn boost body image.

Yoga can also help you lose weight indirectly by increasing your overall mindfulness, which can translate into more mindful eating. Research has shown that both years of yoga practice and the amount of time spent practicing per week were associated with better scores on an mindful eating assessment.

One study done on patients with binge eating disorder found a decrease in binging episodes and a small decrease in weight after a twelve week yoga intervention. Yoga has also been found to guard against the weight gain that typically occurs in middle age.

The intense concentration necessary for yoga can also improve your brain's information-processing abilities, otherwise known as executive function. This could be particularly useful for patients with attention deficit disorder, who tend to struggle with such skills more than neurotypicals.

Many studies have also found that yoga can increase quality of life and fight depression, and that the more you do, the greater the mood boost! Yoga has also been shown to improve symptoms of anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, and even disorders as severe as schizophrenia.

Yoga also may benefit patients with heart disease, so much so that it is now a part of many formal cardiac rehabilitation programs. In one study that compared two groups of people over forty, those who had been going to yoga for five years had lower blood pressure and a lower pulse rate.

Researchers hypothesize that yoga may help the body better sense imbalances in blood pressure and correct them. However, that's not the only way yoga can help your body stay aligned!

Yoga has been found to cause changes in gene expression that could boost your immune system, and to reduce the levels of inflammatory markers that typically rise after exercise.

Yoga can also help regulate your sleep schedule! A group of senior yoga-doers reported better sleep quality than both a group taking a herbal remedy and a control group. This may work because yoga can increase secretion of the "sleep hormone" melatonin.

Yoga has also been shown to reduce wrist pain in those with carpal tunnel syndrome more effectively than splinting, and to decrease pain and increase joint function in a group of patients with osteoarthritis. Other studies have found that yoga can also help relieve the suffering of those with back pain and headache pain.

Yoga may also help ease multiple sclerosis symptoms, and cancer patients who did yoga experienced fewer side effects of chemotherapy. Other studies have found that yoga can help reduce the pain and fatigue cancer can cause and that cancer patients who practiced yoga had a higher chance of survival and a higher quality of life.

Yoga is relatively easy to modify if you have injuries or health problems. There are even special gentle yoga or restorative yoga classes that might be a good idea for someone who's not up to going all out.

If you’re looking for a more aerobic workout or something that can offer you greater strength gains, you may want to look into more intense forms of yoga like power yoga or ashtanga yoga.

Other yoga variations include those catering to specific groups: for example, pre-natal yoga, senior yoga, kid yoga, and even fat yoga for yogis on the curvier side. Then there are the more out there forms, like dog yoga, nude yoga, beer yoga, and laughter yoga.

Your new yoga habit may even make you more desirable! One analysis found that mentioning yoga in their dating profile actually made users of both sexes seem more attractive.

Another perk of yoga is that you don't need any equipment, besides a mat or soft floor. Even if you can't take the time out of your schedule for a full class, you could always fit a few short pose breaks into your day, or go looking for some yoga inspiration online. It might be the perfect respite from your seasonal stress!
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