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The Eastern practice of yoga has become a modern-day symbol of peace, serenity and well-being in the West.
The mind-body practice is frequently touted for its ability to reduce stress and boost well-being, but it also offers wide-ranging physical health benefits that rival other forms of exercise. While the scientific research on yoga's health benefits is still young, here's what we know so far about its potential effects on the body.
It's all in the head.
Just 20 minutes of Hatha yoga - an ancient form of the practice that emphasizes physical postures rather than flow or sequences - can improve cognitive function, boosting focus and working memory.
Yoga emphasizes the importance of being present in the moment and finding a sense of peace,
Yoga's stress-busting powers may come from its ability to lessen the activity of proteins that are known to play a role in inflammation.
Do you have trouble tying your shoes?
Yoga is linked with increased shoulder, lower back and hamstring flexibility, as well as greater deadlift strength and decreased body fat, compared with a control group.
Ask you Medical Health Professional if Yoga may be helpful for your chronic pain.
Researchers at West Virginia University found Iyengar Yoga to be more effective in reducing pain and improving mood than standard medical treatment among those with chronic lower back problems.
A German study published in The Journal of Pain showed that four weeks of practicing Iyengar yoga (a type of Hatha yoga that stresses proper alignment and the use of props) is effective in reducing pain intensity in adults suffering from chronic neck pain.
It nevers hurts to decrease your cortisol levels . . .
A 2010 Boston University study showed that 12 weeks of yoga could help to reduce anxiety and increase gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) levels in the brain (low levels of GABA have been linked with depression and anxiety disorders).
Become a Healthier YOU!
Researchers found that people who practiced yoga had greater drops in blood pressure compared with those who participated in a walking/nutrition/weight counseling program.
Reuters reported that just three months of yoga in addition to diabetes care resulted in a decrease in body mass index, as well as no increases in blood sugar levels.
"I find myself standing in line at the checkout counter doing my tree pose."
Serenity Soul Escape Client, Mary M.
Practicing an Iyengar yoga program designed for older adults was found to improve balance and help prevent falls in women over 65, according to a 2008 Temple University study.
Yeah. And this . . .
A 2009 Harvard study published in the The Journal of Sexual Medicine showed that yoga could boost arousal, desire, orgasm and general sexual satisfaction for women. Yoga can also improve women's sex lives by helping them to become more familiar with their own bodies, according to a review of studies published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, as reported by CNN.
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Instill the practice of Yoga in your mini-me!
Having a better body image? Awesome! Losing weight? Bonus!
Researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle found an association between a regular yoga practice and decreased weight -- or at least a maintained weight -- among more than 15,000 healthy, middle-aged adults.
"Those practicing yoga who were overweight to start with lost about five pounds during the same time period those not practicing yoga gained 14 pounds," study researcher Alan Kristal, DPH, MPH, told WebMD.
And who doesn't want a healthier heart?
As part of a healthy lifestyle, yoga may lower cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar, according to Harvard Health Publications.
Imagine being able to effortlessly walk up stairs because you can breathe easily, have good balance, better flexibility, and stronger bones!
A 2009 pilot study by Dr. Loren Fishman showed that practicing yoga could improve bone density among older adults.
"We did a bone mineral density (DEXA) scan, then we taught half of them the yoga, waited two years, and did another scan," Fishman previously told The Huffington Post. "And not only did these people not lose bone, they gained bone. The ones who didn't do the yoga lost a little bone, as you would expect."