There are many different habits and workouts you can do to improve your life. What about doing yoga, what benefits can you expect?
Yoga is a popular form of exercise where you take different poses, often with a movement sequence between these poses. There is also often a meditation aspect.
Some people question how useful this exercise can be but adding yoga to your routine can offer you some of the following amazing benefits.
1. Stronger muscles
While doing yoga is mainly a cardio exercise, which means that it mostly focuses on your cardiovascular system, this workout also helps you build some muscle in other areas.
Extra muscle is not only beneficial for your health in many ways but it is also considered to be visually appealing.
What muscles you will work in yoga depends a lot on the specific exercises you do. Generally speaking, you will work out muscles over your entire body with yoga.
If you like the idea of building muscle while doing yoga you can wear a weighted vest to increase the amount of muscle mass you gain. The difference in muscle-building capacity between different yoga exercises can be big. By choosing the right ones you can build more muscle.
If you are serious about building muscle you do generally want to choose weight lifting exercises over yoga.
2. Stronger immune system
Your immune system is a collection of biological processes that protects you from diseases.
You do have to keep in mind that at some point working out can turn into overtraining which can weaken immune function. However, most people don’t come close to this point, especially with a generally less intense exercise like yoga.
3. Can help with losing weight
Losing weight is about using up body fat, which is basically energy stored. To do this you want to make sure that you require more energy throughout the day than there is coming in from food.
One way to try to make this happen is by doing a workout. By increasing the intensity of your movements for a period of time you use up more energy than usual. Doing yoga can help with weight loss since doing a workout like it generally requires more energy than most of your usual daily activities.
30 minutes doing Hatha yoga can help you burn around 74-127+ calories depending on weight, intensity, and much more. If you want to learn how to burn more calories while doing yoga make sure you read the article on how many calories yoga burns.
Although the extra calorie burning from doing yoga is often welcome when trying to lose weight, compared to for example running and many other exercises, that number is not that big. If you’re serious about burning a lot of extra calories other workouts than yoga can be a better choice.
Keep in mind that other lifestyle habits like what you eat are important when trying to lose weight no matter what exercise you do. You can work out and gain weight at the same time if your other lifestyle habits are not good.
4. Improved mood
Most people are not always completely aware of it but the physical health of the human body has a big influence on the mood and thoughts of the individual.
Doing yoga doesn’t just help with this by improving general health. There are inevitably many different reasons involved but one reason why exercises like yoga benefit mental health is that they promote the release of endorphins, “feel-good” hormones (6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11).
One big review of studies on the effect of yoga on mental health found that yoga was beneficial for psychological well-being compared to no exercise control. They did not find a significant increase on mental health comparing yoga to other forms of exercise.
Besides the actual physiological changes doing yoga will cause, you will likely also have positive feelings about having done something challenging that’s good for you.
5. Improved cardiovascular health
Your cardiovascular system is the circulatory system inside of your body and includes heart and blood vessels. These transport many types of important nutrients, oxygen, and waste throughout your body.
When you move more intensely your body needs to transport these things, which means using your heart, at a higher rate.
Your heart is a muscle that can be trained by using it more intensely. By doing workouts like a yoga session you can strengthen your cardiovascular system which in turn leads to a wide variety of other benefits (12, 13, 14, 15, 16).
Do keep in mind that muscles can get injured. If you have not done any physical activity in a long time you may want to start out with low-intensity movements and build up from there.
6. Can improve posture
By doing yoga you train muscles that are important for a good posture.
Improving your posture will help you avoid related injuries. One small study even suggests that open non-verbal displays, which a good posture helps with, are attractive (17).
7. You can do yoga anywhere
A downside of many exercises is that they need you to be in a specific location, or use specific equipment that you generally don’t have at home.
This makes it so you often have to drive, cycle, or walk somewhere for a while. Let’s say you exercise twice a week and going to your workout takes 10 minutes to get there and 10 minutes to go back. That’s 40 minutes less free time per week.
This extra transportation also makes it easier to say no to your workout. Being able to be consistent is key for a good workout plan.
However, with yoga you don’t have to worry about these things. In theory you don’t even necessarily need a yoga mat which means you can do this exercise as good as anywhere. All you need is a few blocks of free time throughout the day and you can get in a yoga workout.
8. Low-impact workout
If you exercise a lot, or you plan to, potential injuries are a very relevant concern.
Consistency is a big part of working out. The effectiveness of your workout plan will go down drastically if you can’t exercise for 2 weeks every month because of injuries.
Some exercises like running can be rough on body parts like knees and back. Especially if it is the case that you’re carrying around a few extra pounds.
Luckily doing yoga is generally a low-impact workout, the shocks your body will experience are relatively soft. This is a huge benefit of yoga, particularly if you are generally injury-sensitive.
9. Budget-friendly workout
Another potential hurdle for many workouts is the budget required.
Some exercises require inexpensive equipment starting at a jumping rope to at-home workout machines of hundreds or thousands of dollars. Even the investment required for gym subscriptions adds up after a while.
Money put into improving your health is generally a great investment but sometimes you can get the same effects with less.
In the case of yoga you don’t necessarily need to invest any budget at all, potentially a small amount if in a yoga mat. This can be a great benefit depending on your personal situation.
10. Improved cognitive function
Another benefit of exercises like doing yoga is that they can help you improve your cognitive function in a few ways. First of all, they can help with the prevention of diseases like Alzheimer’s disease (18).
Another way working out benefits cognitive function is by improving brain plasticity (19, 20, 21). Better brain plasticity basically means that you are able to learn things faster, see the connection between things faster, and remember things better.
That means that adding a yoga workout to your routine can benefit you by improving areas like your academic performance, job performance, and much more.
11. May reduce pain
Many fans of yoga like to claim that this exercise is one of the best for reducing things like pain in areas like knees, back, and just in general.
That being said it isn’t entirely clear how yoga compares to other exercises for reducing pain. It is possible that other workouts could be as effective for this goal.
12. Improved bone density
This is helpful for avoiding broken bones. Depending on your age you may not be that worried about something like this right now. However, exercising right now can help you avoid broken bones in 40 years. The things you do today have an impact on the future.
The way many parts of your body work is that by challenging them you set in motion processes that strengthen these body parts. The same goes for your bones, by putting pressure on them you make them stronger in the long-term.
Workouts like running can improve bone density even more than yoga. Yoga in turn is likely better than swimming for bone density since you put more pressure on your bones with yoga.
13. Lowers LDL
LDL, also known as low-density lipoproteins, is considered to be “bad” cholesterol since there are negative side effects associated with having high levels of LDL in your blood.
14. Healthier lungs
To move around your body needs oxygen, the more intensely the more oxygen. Your body absorbs oxygen from the air through your lungs.
By using your lungs more, thanks to workouts like doing yoga, you can improve how well they work (37, 38, 39, 40, 41). Generally the more intense your yoga workout the more it benefits your lung capacity.
One study looked at the impact of yoga and breathing exercises on vital capacity, the maximum amount of air a person can expel from the lungs after a maximum inhalation, in 287 college students. They measured significant improvements in vital capacity (42).
Improving how well your lungs function leads to benefits like improved exercise performance and getting tired slower.
15. Slows down aging
Most people think of age as the number of days, months, and years that have passed since the day they were born, this is usually referred to as their chronological age. There are also many other ways to measure “age” based on physiological factors (43).
Exercises like doing yoga obviously won’t have an influence on the number of days that have passed since you were born. However, physical activity can slow down the aging in terms of how fast other measurement methods progress (44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49).
In general these other age measurements are more accurate methods than chronological age for assessing risk on age-related diseases. Slowing these down can be a huge benefit for your health.
16. Can improve flexibility
Flexibility is the range of motion specific joints or joint groups can do.
By doing an exercise like yoga where you regularly push these boundaries you are able to increase this range. This in turn can help reduce the likelihood of accidents, especially falls, and improve exercise performance.
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 (50).
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 (51).
17. Helps against type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a disease that involves consequences like high blood sugar, insulin resistance, and lack of insulin. These things in turn can have really bad consequences so type 2 diabetes is definitely something you want to avoid.
18. Improves sleep
Good quality and duration sleep are extremely important for your physical health and cognitive function. Unfortunately, many people can do a lot better with both quality and duration.
A lot of the things you do throughout the day influence the quality and duration in some way. One of the things that can benefit sleep a relatively high amount is doing a workout like yoga (57, 58, 59).
One study with 69 individuals observed in individuals that did yoga had a self-assessed decrease in time taken to fall asleep, increase in sleep duration, and increase in feeling rested in the morning (60).
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 people with insomnia (61).
You do want to keep in mind that exercising too close to bed time can have the reverse effect and mess with your sleep. Make sure you give your body time enough time to calm down after a workout. For most people this comes down to avoiding exercises at least an hour or two before going to sleep.
19. Regulates blood pressure
Your blood pressure is how much pressure the blood circulating in your blood vessels pushes against the walls of these vessels. This measurement is a popular way to determine how healthy your heart is.
Another benefit of working out, and thus doing yoga, is that it can help you regulate blood pressure (62, 63, 64). This happens because of the influence of a variety of consequences you get from doing yoga including a stronger heart, less stress, expected weight loss, and more.
20. Improves coordination and balance
When doing yoga you will definitely challenge your balance and coordination skills. By doing this frequently you get better at it like with most skills.
One study measured an increase in balance in 27 individuals who did yoga twice-weekly for 12 weeks compared to the control group (65).
The benefits of improved coordination and balance don’t just show up in other technical sports. Daily activities as simple as walking the stairs require coordination.
While inevitably some workouts are better for some of these benefits than yoga it is amazing that you can get so many important benefits from adding one activity to your routine.
Also keep in mind that consistency is a big factor for a workout plan. The more you love the exercise you do the easier it becomes to do it consistently. If doing yoga is a workout you love, great. If not there are plenty of other exercises to consider that can also offer a lot of benefits.