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The Science Of Yoga And Its Benefits


Thursday 21st June is celebrated annually as International Day of Yoga. A day proclaimed by the United Nations as recognition of the universal appeal of the ancient practice.

Originating in India, yoga is today practised around the world in many forms for health and relaxation benefits and continues to grow in popularity.

The International Day of Yoga aims to raise awareness worldwide of the many benefits of practising yoga. But what are these so-called benefits and what does science have to say about them?

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF YOGA?

According to a recent Harvard Medical School paper on Yoga for anxiety and depression, research suggests that the practice of yoga actually modulates our stress response.1

With an estimated 45% of Australian's experiencing a mental health condition in their lifetime, our minds and bodies need all the help they can get.

It is only in more recent years that Yoga has hit the mainstream and been able to shake the negative stigma surrounding it and its Hindu roots. It's even converted die-hard 'regular' exercise fans, losing the title of 'glorified stretching' to become the must-have workout for mind and body, thanks to new variations of the practice including heart rate rising hybrid classes and hot yoga to name a few.

But we're keen to focus on how yoga can benefit anxiety and depression and be the key to a calmer you.

"Available reviews of a wide range of yoga practices suggest they can reduce the impact of exaggerated stress responses and may be helpful for both anxiety and depression. In this respect, yoga functions like other self-soothing techniques, such as meditation, relaxation, exercise, or even socializing with friends."2

SO HOW DOES YOGA HELP?

It's all about the natural anti-anxiety neurochemicals. Unlike regular cardio exercise which helps increase endorphins, yoga is said to increase GABA, a calming chemical that prescriptions drugs are known to boost.3

A 12-week long study4 suggested that with the combination of stretching, breathing and meditative techniques can increase GABA significantly, helping to increase mood and decreased anxiety.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF YOGA?

With a calmer mind, the body is able to work on decreasing heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and easing respiration.

Joint and muscular strength and flexibility are also improved resulting in a greater range of motion, which in turn, decreases the chance of an overuse injury.

SHOULD I GIVE YOGA A TRY?

Nothing is for everyone, but modern yoga classes are well equipt to cater to all experience levels, ages and can accommodate and aid some injuries.

If you're dealing with depression, anxiety, or stress, yoga is often overlooked as a tool to manage symptoms. But as studies are showing practicing yoga is a high-yield approach to improving overall health.

1. http://www.un.org/en/events/yogaday/

2. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/yoga-for-anxiety-and-depression

3. https://www.harpersbazaar.com/beauty/health/a2054/mental-benefits-of-yoga/

4. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine

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