7 Unexpected Benefits of Yoga | UnityPoint Health - Des Moines

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For centuries, people have practiced yoga to connect the mind, body and soul. Beyond relaxing the mind, increasing circulation and improving the flexibility of muscles and joints, other positive effects of yoga are subtler, yet just as powerful. These unexpected benefits will help you reach your goal of long-term health and wellness, and give you seven new reasons to join us each Saturday this summer for Yoga in the Park at Gray's Lake Park, presented by Des Moines Parks and Recreation and UnityPoint Health – Des Moines!

1. Fight Depression

It’s no secret that people use yoga to promote physical health. While yoga is known to sculpt and shape, it can also have amazing effects on your mind. A study from Duke University Medical Center found evidence that yoga can benefit those living with depression, schizophrenia and other psychiatric conditions. Practicing yoga regularly can result in higher serotonin levels, which is the happiness hormone that improves mood and fights depression.  

2. Sleep Better

Yoga is proven to be a great stress reliever, offering relaxation techniques to those who toss and turn throughout the night. In fact, researchers at Harvard Medical School found that daily yoga practice can improve sleep among people suffering from chronic insomnia. While there isn’t one yoga pose that will automatically send you to sleep, creating a nighttime routine that includes a few breathing exercises and gentle stretches can clear the clutter of the mind to promote a better night’s sleep.

3. Boost Heart Health

Yoga can help reduce risk factors for a number of chronic diseases – especially heart disease. While it should not count toward your physical activity requirements of 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity per week, the American Heart Association identifies yoga as a heart-healthy form of physical activity that works to improve heart health as a preventive measure or after facing a cardiac event.

4. Ease Migraines

Research from the National Center for Biotechnology Information shows that migraine sufferers have fewer and less painful migraines after three months of yoga practice. While the connection between yoga and migraine relief isn’t yet fully understood, it is believed that yoga prevents sensory overload and releases tension that is thought to trigger the onset of a headache and migraine symptoms.

5. Improve Asthma

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 90 percent of the almost 19 million Americans with asthma experience wheezing, gasping and shortness of breath, also called exercise-induced bronchoconstriction, during physical activity. Because it is considered a low-intensity form of physical activity, many people who have asthma use yoga for natural relief from symptoms and to enhance airflow during an attack. In fact, a 2012 study published by the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that yoga training over the course of 10 weeks improved quality of life scores for women with mild to moderate asthma.

6. Help with Arthritis

Regular physical activity is an essential part of the effective treatment of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. As a recommended practice for individuals with limited range of motion and/or poor flexibility, yoga is a widely used practice among those living with arthritis. The gentle movements of Iyengar yoga are especially known to increase flexibility, strength and balance for this population.

7. Treat Back Pain

Many studies point to yoga as an effective alternative to medicinal treatment for back pain. In a study published by the Annals of Internal Medicine, participants with chronic lower back pain reported improved back function after a few months of taking regular yoga classes. Even if you don’t suffer from chronic back pain, yoga is an effective way to improve spinal flexibility and prevent back injury down the road.

Yoga promotes total-body health and wellness for people of all ages and stages of life. Talk to your doctor about incorporating safe and effective yoga practices into your daily fitness routine, and strike a pose for better health today and tomorrow.

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