Proven Yoga Benefits: Backed by Science
If you have overlooked the proven benefits of yoga, you are not alone. Not many outside of the yoga world realise Yogas full potential and power. The breath work, poses and meditation that Yoga incorporates has been proven by science to have many desirable benefits
When you think of Yoga you may think of someone who is incredibly flexible, bending their body into all kinds of unfathomable positions. The truth is there is so much more to Yoga than flexibility. Whatever your preconceptions, we ask you to set them aside. Here, Recoverlution provides evidence based facts on the many advantages of practicing regular Yoga.
Top 10 scientifically proven benefits of Yoga
Yoga offers so many proven benefits it is difficult to summarise it within one article. Yet, Yoga’s top ten benefits are attainable by anyone who engages on a regular basis with a qualified instructor.
The proven benefit of increased flexibility with Yoga
Starting with increased flexibility as this is the most obvious benefit of Yoga that most people would expect to gain.
The National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) published a study that was scientifically conducted examining the impact of 10 weeks of yoga practice on college athletes' flexibility and balance. The aim of the study was to measure if Yoga could increase athletes overall performance.
Half of the athletes engaged in twice weekly Yoga sessions, whilst the remainder of the athletes did not. The study was conducted over ten continuous weeks.
At the end of the ten weeks the athletes that took part in the Yoga sessions were found to have increased flexibility and balance. Whilst the athletes who did not engage were found to have made no improvement in these areas.
This study also strongly advocates that Yoga can further benefit a person in enhancing their performance in another form of physical activity. Physical activity such as football, gymnastics, racket sports or athletics. 1
Thankfully, it is not just athletes who can become more flexible from practising yoga. Anyone, regardless of size, ability or age can increase their flexibility with regular yoga practice.
The whole family can enjoy the proven benefits of Yoga
Research has proven that yoga can be very beneficial for children and the elderly.
Yoga benefits are proven to reduce stress and anxiety in children and teenagers
Various studies have been conducted on the effectiveness of Yoga as an intervention for anxiety in children. Overall, the studies revealed that the majority of children who participated in Yoga regularly found that their symptoms of anxiety were substantially reduced 2
Yoga is proven to help reduce stress in children and teenagers, and may help to alleviate depressive symptoms.
Including your children when you practice Yoga, not only nourishes the bond you have with them but will also provide them with a valuable coping strategy for reducing stress and anxiety.
Yoga benefits seniors physically, emotionally and mentally
If you are a person in your senior years or want to include an elderly family member in your Yoga sessions, Yoga has proven to offer multiple benefits to the elderly.
The proven benefits of yoga for the elderly include improved flexibility, improved balance, reduced injuries, and improved focus and concentration. Further proven benefits include lower blood pressure, alleviating aches and pains and increased bone strength. All valuable benefits as we face the inevitable ageing process 3
There are very few practices that the whole family can partake in and enjoy, yet Yoga benefits everyone, regardless of age, gender, health and size.
Yoga benefits are proven to relieve pain & inflammation
Many of us, as we age, develop problems with joints and discs. Whilst wear and tear of the body is a natural part of the ageing process, some of us suffer more than others.
Addiction is well known for speeding up the ageing process. Substance abuse and stress can contribute to premature ageing through malnourishment and prolonged exposure to the body's stress hormones. For some of us, this means developing issues with our physical bodies that we may have otherwise escaped.
Being in recovery from addiction it is wise to always look for healthy alternatives to pharmaceutical pain management.
A meta-analysis of 17 separate studies on over 1600 participants concluded that Yoga really can improve the daily function of those that suffer from chronic pain. Yoga can reduce pain and inflammation in those that suffer from Fibromyalgia, osteoporosis-related curvature of the spine and chronic lower back pain 4
Yoga increases your core strength, posture, flexibility and balance. In doing so, pain and inflammation is reduced. This is extremely helpful for pain related to the lumbar spine, mid-spine and cervical spine. The more a person practices Yoga, the greater the benefits. Yoga can be a natural alternative to opioid pain relief that actually works!.
Yoga keeps you young
In keeping with a holistic lifestyle, it is helpful to find something that can really make a difference to our lives. There are various different types of yoga that can really help to heal the brain and improve the way our brains function.
As we age, naturally our cognitive ability declines. Our memories are not as good as they used to be. Things can become confusing, and we find we have less brain power and stamina than we used to.
Regularly practising Yoga has proven benefits of helping the brain to develop new connections. Over time, these connections can change the structure and function of the brain. This is especially helpful to those that suffer from an addiction to substances or who have experienced prolonged exposure to stress. Stress and substance abuse cause untold damage to every area of the brain. This damage speeds up the brains ageing process
Yoga can even help to repair some of the damage caused by active addiction. The practice not only helps the brain to form new connections, but it also strengthens parts of the brain that are key to memory, concentration, thought, language and awareness.
Brain imaging technology has scientifically proven that Yoga increases cerebral cortex thickness. This is the area of the brain that is responsible for processing the information we receive externally from our senses.
The brain's hippocampus which is responsible for learning and memory, and the cerebral cortex both naturally shrink with age. This causes a decline in function. In older Yoga practitioners, MRI scans have shown less brain shrinkage than in those that do not practice Yoga 5
Yoga can work wonders in keeping you young and in repairing any damage sustained during active addiction!
Yoga can improve mental health
Anything that helps to improve our mental health naturally, has to be worth some consideration. Addiction is a mental health illness with physiological aspects. It is also an illness that is commonly accompanied by other mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression or PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
Medication and therapy are often needed in many cases of severe mental health illness. However, Yoga can complement traditional medicines beautifully. In other instances, frequent Yoga may even eradicate the need for traditional treatment.
How yoga works in combating anxiety and depression
Yoga works in contributing to a positive mood. It achieves this by increasing the levels of GABA, dopamine and serotonin available in the brain. This helps to improve mood stability, and motivation levels and decrease symptoms associated with anxiety and depression 6
The meditative part of Yoga also slows down the brain's limbic system activity. This enables you to have more control over your emotions by diminishing acute emotional reactivity to stressful situations. This is particularly helpful to those that have suffered trauma in their life.
Scientific studies have been conducted on the effectiveness of various relaxation therapies on depression and anxiety in adults. The studies have concluded that Yoga was amongst the top holistic interventions for improving mood and settling anxiety. Out of all the holistic interventions researched, Yoga provided the longest-lasting effects.
Yoga is also effective in treating PTSD
The effectiveness of Yoga on people that suffer with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has also been studied. Used as a complementary therapy in addition to traditional treatments, Yoga has proven to encourage a calmer and more predictable state of mind. The deep, slow breathing that Yoga incorporates helps to calm the body and mind as it activates the brain's parasympathetic nervous system 5,7
Yogas benefits can help you to lose weight
This may come as a surprise but Yoga can indeed help you lose weight. When we think of exercise for weight loss we often think of high-impact exercises such as aerobics, running or circuit training. So the fact that regular Yoga can assist with weight loss is good news for those of us carrying extra pounds and starting at a lower fitness level.
A report, released in 2013 by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, examined 17 yoga-based weight control programmes. The results found that most of the Yoga programmes led to gradual and moderate loss in weight.
In addition to moderate weight loss, Yoga also helps to tone, strengthen and lengthen your muscles, which alone can give a leaner appearance.
The Yoga programmes that showed the best results for weight loss contained at least some of the following elements:
- More frequent and longer sessions of Yoga
- A longer duration of the Yoga programme
- A healthy Yoga based diet
- A residential Yoga retreat (such as a full weekend dedicated to Yoga)
- More components of Yoga
- Practising Yoga at home
- Hot yoga (encourages sweating and increased heart rate)
In addition to encouraging weight loss through the practice of Yoga, Yoga has also been scientifically proven to help curb bad eating habits. Bad eating habits such as binge eating, overeating and eating high-fat, sugary and processed foods. Yoga achieves this by promoting healthy eating habits and helping to stabilize blood sugar levels.
Furthermore, Yoga can even assist those that suffer from an eating disorder
Yoga can help those who suffer from an eating disorder by enabling them to be:
- Less preoccupied with food
- More mindful about what they eat
- More mindful about when they eat
- Less plagued by cravings for high fat and high sugar binge foods
- Mindful about the speed at which they eat
- Feel more confident in their body image
- Be more aware of, and motivated, to engage in healthy eating habits
- Feel more balanced in their emotions
- Have a greater appreciation of their body and mind needs
- Able to sleep better
- Less stressed and anxious 9,10,11,12
In terms of achieving healthy eating goals, Yoga is so much more than just another form of exercise!
Proven benefits of Yoga include better sleep
Regularly practising Yoga can actually assist with your sleep. This is fantastic news for those of us in recovery who struggle with a sleep disorder.
Poor quality sleep is often associated with other conditions such as breathing problems, obesity, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression and chronic pain. All of which regular Yoga can help to improve 13, 14, 15
Studies have shown that Yoga, when practised regularly for 3 months, increases the natural secretion of melatonin, which in turn improves mood and assists with sleep 16
Yoga benefits are proven to reduce stress
It is no big secret that Yoga reduces stress. Even just watching yoga can be calming to the mind. But what of the science behind it? Yoga works at reducing symptoms of stress and anxiety by encouraging relaxation, regulating breathing and shifting a person's focus to the here and now. This in turn soothes the sympathetic nervous system, slows breathing and heart rate, lowers cortisol levels and lowers blood pressure. This promotes feelings of relaxation, wellbeing and calmness.
Yoga can improve your quality of life
With all of Yoga's benefits to consider, is it any wonder that those who practice Yoga regularly are generally happier in themselves and better adjusted to life.
Science has proven that Yoga offers life-enhancing benefits, including:
- improved sleep
- pain relief
- better mental health
- better attitude towards life
- increased self-confidence
- better emotional control
- increased awareness and connection of the mind, body & spirit
- increased brain power
- reduced stress and anxiety
- better performance at school, work and sports, and increased happiness.
You may note that all of these life-enhancing benefits do not even include the physical benefits of Yoga to the body, which is the main reason people start to express an interest in Yoga 18
For those with serious health complications, Yoga has even been proven to improve the quality of life of cancer patients. Yogas breathing exercises poses and meditation have all proven to be beneficial at increasing physical, mental, spiritual and emotional wellbeing. Yoga also lowers stress levels which can contribute to the rate at which cancer grows, and decrease cancer and stress-related physical symptoms. It has also been proven to reduce chemotherapy-related nausea 19,20,21
Yoga may prevent addiction relapse
We have saved one of the best proven benefits of practising Yoga till last. Yes, Yoga could prevent addiction relapse and help you to sustain a healthy and continued recovery from addiction.
Many studies have been conducted on the effectiveness of Yoga in treating drug and alcohol use disorders. Overall, whilst Yoga should not be used as a substitute for traditional addiction treatments such as pharmacotherapy, detox and counselling, Yoga has proven to be a very useful tool, especially for those who wish to further enhance their health
By reducing stress (a proven trigger for addiction relapse) and creating a healthier more balanced way of life through the regular practice of Yoga, a person who is in recovery has a better chance of staying abstinent than a person who does not practice Yoga.
Yoga also helps to ease obsessive thought patterns, reduce anxiety, assist with sleep disorders, treat depression, reduce emotional reactivity and helps to curb cravings. All of which can be contributing factors to an addictive person's relapse.
Also, as addiction causes lasting, damaging changes to the brain, Yoga may also help in repairing some of that damage. Yoga achieves this by creating new pathways & connections and works to heal parts of the brain that control memory, information processing, motivation, learning, cognition, awareness, decision making and attention.
A further benefit of Yoga to a person in recovery from addiction is that Yoga also enhances connection with oneself, and can provide a deeper meaning and connection to life and the universe. For many people in recovery this has proven to be a very valuable asset as it provides an endless avenue for self-discovery and continued growth.
How to learn Yoga
If these ten top benefits of Yoga have persuaded you to give Yoga a try, welcome aboard!
Here, at Recoverlution we offer a wealth of knowledge and experience delivered by our qualified Yoga instructor, who will be tailoring Yoga sessions to cover all aspects of your life. Especially, in learning how to apply Yoga to enhance your addiction recovery.
Before you proceed to join in the fun, there are a few things to consider.
Whilst Yoga can still benefit the following groups of people, caution should be exercised.
Please exercise caution when practising Yoga and tell your instructor if you:
- Are pregnant
- Suffer from sciatica
- Have high blood pressure
- Have glaucoma
If you still have personal concerns before learning Yoga through our Wellness hub, it is always wise to speak to your doctor, consultant, or Yoga teacher. We would always recommend this before engaging in any new form of exercise, especially if you have general physical health problems or injuries.
Types of yoga: A simple guide to the different types of yoga
- 1. Impact of 10-weeks of yoga practice on flexibility and balance of college athletes https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4728955/
- Yoga as an Intervention for the Reduction of Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression in Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32232017/
- American Senior Communities - Yoga for Seniors - https://www.asccare.com/yoga-for-seniors/
- Yoga for pain relief - Yoga helps relieve chronic pain https://www.health.harvard.edu/alternative-and-complementary-medicine/yoga-for-pain-relief
- Yoga for better mental health https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/yoga-for-better-mental-health
- Penetrating postures - The science of Yoga https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2011/06/16/penetrating-postures-the-science-of-yoga/?sh=655bc0c7d4b5
- Yoga for posttraumatic stress disorder—a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Psychiatry. Cramer H, Anheyer D, Saha FJ, et al. 2018;18(1):72.
- A systematic review and meta-analysis on the effects of yoga on weight-related outcomes. Preventive Medicine. Lauche R, Langhorst J, Lee MS, et al. 2016;87:213-232.
- Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial of Yoga in the Treatment of Eating Disorders https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2844876/
- Comparative Effectiveness of a Mindful Eating Intervention to a Diabetes Self-Management Intervention among Adults with Type 2 Diabetes: A Pilot Study https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3485681/
- Mindfulness-based interventions for binge eating: a systematic review and meta-analysis https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25417199/
- Yoga as a treatment for binge eating disorder: a preliminary study https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19632546/
- Associations between poor sleep quality and different measures of obesity https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26429750/
- Poor sleep quality associated with high risk of hypertension and elevated blood pressure in China: results from a large population-based study - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26429750/
- Sleep disorders as core symptoms of depression https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3181883/
- Effects of Hatha yoga and Omkar meditation on cardiorespiratory performance, psychological profile, and melatonin secretion - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15165407/
- Influence of Yoga and Ayurveda on self-rated sleep in a geriatric population https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15937373/
- Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3193654/
- Effects of integrated yoga programme on chemotherapy-induced nausea and emesis in breast cancer patients https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17944760/
- Chronic stress drug use and vulnerability in addiction https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2732004/
- The role of Yoga in the management of substance use disorders : A narrative review https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5812135/