Holding certain poses may not be the most intense workout but yoga can still offer a variety of benefits. Find out which ones.
While yoga can be useful and personal preference does play a role, it is also worth noting that there will be more effective exercise alternatives for many of these benefits.
1. Yoga can improve muscle endurance
Doing yoga involves putting yourself in a variety of stances that tend to be challenging for a variety of muscles. Challenging your muscles in this way can offer a few benefits.
First of all, you need to know that bodyweight isometric (static) exercises like yoga are typically not great for actually building muscle.
That being said, doing yoga can still improve muscle endurance, slow down degradation, and make your muscles healthier.
In theory, you can even wear a compact weighted vest while doing yoga to get these benefits to a larger extent.
Exactly what muscles you work with yoga depends on what poses you hold.
That being said, your deltoids (shoulder), upper trapezius (upper shoulder/neck), triceps (back upper arms), and core muscles like your abs, obliques, and erector spinae tend to get a lot of attention in yoga.
2. Yoga can help you lose a tiny amount of weight
Losing weight is a popular goal of working out and for a good reason. Excess body fat can increase your risk of a variety of conditions.
Yoga is not the most helpful in this area but it can help you lose weight to a tiny extent.
This is because the poses involved likely require more energy from your body than many of the other activities you usually do.
Exactly how many calories yoga burns is hard to predict correctly but one estimation is that the average person burns around 74-127+ calories while doing 30 minutes of Hatha yoga.
By increasing your energy usage, you make it more likely that yoga helps you burn belly fat and energy stores from other areas.
At the same time, your habits in other areas like your diet still need to be good enough. Especially because yoga is also not that great for losing weight either.
3. Yoga could help you think more quickly
This next benefit of yoga is somewhat unexpected for many people but this type of workout could improve your cognitive function.
First of all, exercise has the potential to reduce the risk of conditions responsible for cognitive decline (1). Yoga is not the most intense so it is worth noting the effect will likely be small.
That being said, the research about yoga in this area is not perfect yet. If you want to improve cognitive performance, you likely also want to do other workouts.
4. Yoga could reduce certain pains
Many people have to deal with pains and aches in their daily lives which can be very uncomfortable. Luckily, there are often ways to reduce to what extent these are present.
One of these ways is doing an activity like yoga. Improving muscle endurance and strengthening your joints tend to be beneficial for reducing pain.
Keep in mind that resistance training exercises with light weights can sometimes be more effective than yoga in this area.
5. You could sleep better thanks to yoga
You likely know that sleep is important for your health, mood, and mental performance. However, not everyone knows how to improve this area of their health.
That being said, one study with 69 individuals observed that people who did yoga had a self-assessed decrease in time taken to fall asleep, an increase in sleep duration, and an increase in feeling rested in the morning (13).
Additionally, a review of studies looked at the impact of doing yoga on individuals with insomnia. Their findings suggest that doing yoga has a positive effect on sleep quality for these people (14).
So even if other activities are potentially more effective, you can say that improving sleep quality and duration is one of the potential benefits of doing more yoga.
6. Yoga could improve your coordination and balance
Moving your arms and legs where you intend and not falling down are trainable skills.
By challenging your body in terms of coordination and balance with yoga, you could see improvements in these areas.
One study measured an increase in balance in 27 individuals who did yoga twice weekly for 12 weeks compared to the control group who did no exercise (15).
Better coordination and balance are not just helpful for your yoga workouts. These skills can also help you avoid accidents in your daily life.
7. Yoga can improve your flexibility and mobility
The combination of the flexibility of your muscles and the mobility of your joints influences how far you can move body parts in a comfortable way.
Similar to many other fitness components, you can improve in these areas by challenging your body to safe extents.
Flexibility and mobility are definitely two fitness components that are present in yoga workouts.
One small study looked at the impact of doing yoga two times a week for ten weeks on 14 athletes vs 10 athletes who didn’t do any yoga.
They measured a significant increase in flexibility and balance in the yoga group vs the no-yoga group (16).
Another study observed that yoga done 3 times a week for a year was beneficial for the flexibility of 22 elderly individuals.
This was compared to 20 individuals who did calisthenics at the same frequency and a control group (17).
Better flexibility and mobility can help you avoid injuries, help you avoid falling down, and can improve your performance in certain exercises and sports.