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The Physical and Mental Health Benefits of Yoga

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By Sofia Health Staff on November, 02 2021
Benefits of Yoga

It seems there's a yoga class in every U.S. town and city, from yoga for beginners to the most advanced poses. It was the most commonly used complementary therapy in the United States in 2017, with 14.3% of adults participating.


In texts dating thousands of years ago, yoga practice was purely spiritual and philosophical, with not a downward dog in sight. Since then, it has developed into a holistic and varied activity. Yoga can be an energetic and challenging workout for the whole body, or it can be a quiet space in the day to meditate in stillness. However you choose to practice yoga, there are many physical and mental benefits you can tap into.



Table of Contents 


What Are the Physical Benefits of Yoga? 

What Are the Mental Benefits of Yoga?

What Are the Different Types of Yoga? 

 Find a Yoga Instructor Today





What Are the Physical Benefits of Yoga? 



Each person can see their own physical results from daily or weekly practice. Here are some of the most common physical benefits of yoga.  



Young Woman Doing Yoga At Studio

Yoga improves balance and flexibility.


When you practice yoga postures that lengthen the limbs, you strengthen your tendons, ligaments, and joints supporting your muscles and bones. When these are better supported, you can improve your balance and flexibility.




Group of men and women  doing yoga at a studio

Yoga increases strength.


Yoga often involves deep breathing and slow movements, both of which increase blood flow and warm up the muscles. Different yoga poses work different muscles, and holding a yoga pose will help to build muscle tone.




Young Woman Doing Yoga At Studio, Cobra  Pose

Yoga improves the functioning of the organs.


Regular yoga practice can reduce levels of stress and inflammation, which helps your body to function without being in a sustained ‘fight-or-flight’ response. Yoga increases blood flow and circulation, strengthening the heart. Poses like cobra, along with deep breathing, increase respiratory flow.




Young men doing yoga lotus pose indoors

Yoga reduces fatigue.


Yoga boosts energy and vitality in the body by unblocking stuck energy and awakening the nervous system. Mindfulness and breathing awareness during yoga both help induce a longer and deeper sleep. All of these benefits help to reduce fatigue.




black woman with closed eyes crossed her hands in a meditation pose indoors

Yoga can help relieve pain.


Regular yoga practice re-educates the body's stress response and encourages the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system. This helps our brains to have a different response to pain when it arises. Yoga can even help reduce chronic pain in sufferers.



What Are the Mental Benefits of Yoga?



The wide range of mental benefits of yoga is receiving more scientific backing every year. Here are just a few of them.




Woman Doing Yoga In Lotus Pose At Home

Yoga can help relieve stress and anxiety.


Yoga re-educates the body to function better in stressful and anxiety-inducing situations. That’s because yoga helps decrease the body’s secretion of the stress hormone cortisol. Yoga has even been shown to have positive effects on the symptoms of PTSD.





woman holding a  yoga pose at home

Yoga improves self-esteem.


It’s satisfying when you finally get into that difficult yoga posture you’ve been trying for weeks. When you’re feeling empowered by the new things your body can achieve, other body image issues can seem less relevant. For this reason, yoga can significantly boost self-esteem.




Woman Doing Yoga In Lotus Pose At Home


Yoga increases the brain’s gray matter.


Concentrating on breathing, postures, and meditation in regular yoga practice helps to increase the brain’s gray matter and activate certain parts of the brain. Over time, you can expect to develop better concentration, emotional control, self-awareness, and decision-making skills.




Young woman meditating in Lotus Pose at the park

Yoga can help decrease depression symptoms.


Yoga can help decrease the symptoms of depression. The mindfulness, introspection, and distraction of yoga can also have a self-soothing effect and help us develop healthier coping mechanisms. Going to a yoga class connects you with a supportive, like-minded community of fellow yoga practitioners. 



What Are the Different Types of Yoga? 



As yoga becomes a truly global holistic health approach, new styles of yoga and yoga hybrids (acroyoga, anyone?) are developing. Here's an overview of some of the most popular types of yoga. 




yoga nidra-1



Yoga Nidra is a targeted, guided meditation practice. You lay on your back in savasana (corpse pose) while your instructor takes you through five 'layers of being'. These steps focus on areas of ourselves as varied as life energy, motor activity, conscience, and spiritual bliss. An intention is often set at the beginning of the session, with the aim of increasing self-awareness and eliminating negative thought patterns. 


iRest® yoga Nidra is a contemporary form of yoga adapted from yoga Nidra. Rather than exploring five layers of being, you're invited to learn a ten-step framework that's simple to practice whenever you want.


Yoga Nidra offers the opportunity to be still without demanding anything from the body. You can't practice it incorrectly, and it'll fit into any spare time you have, even if that's only five minutes. Yoga Nidra is especially suited to those with disabilities, or reduced mobility or strength, who can't easily hold physical postures. 



vinyasa yoga



Sometimes called 'flow' yoga, vinyasa yoga seamlessly links one posture to another by using the breath. Each conscious pose connects to the next via graceful 'transitions', which are a practiced skill in their own right. 'Ujjayi' is the breathing technique used in vinyasa yoga, so breath is inhaled and exhaled rhythmically through the nose. 


Vinyasa yoga is ideal for the yogi who wants an all-around practice but doesn't want to do the same class twice. The wide range of postures helps balance body development, which in turn reduces the chance of repetitive motion injuries. Vinyasa also generates heat and encourages the heart rate to increase. 



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The Sanskrit word 'Hatha simply groups together all of the postures of yoga. Whether it's ashtanga, Iyengar, or Bikram style, the focus of hatha yoga is on the physical aspect of practice.  If you attend a class that's just labeled 'yoga', it's probably Hatha too. Classes usually last between 45 and 90 minutes and often include mostly static poses. 


Once you find the right class for your ability level, hatha yoga should provide you with an exciting workout every time. This style is also a great start for someone who wants a varied taste of yoga. Classes start with a gentle warm-up, move on to more difficult physical poses, and end with a guided meditation. 



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Yin yoga focuses on fixed, seated poses that are held for longer periods of time than in other types of yoga. While most physical yoga practice incorporates movements to build strength, yin yoga focuses on lengthening connective tissues, like those found in your ligaments and joints. Many postures are chosen to access deeper tissues and often work on areas like the hips or spine. 


As poses can be held for anywhere from three to 20 minutes at a time, yin yoga encourages stillness, mindfulness, and calm. It also encourages you to persevere through any discomfort. The benefits of yin yoga can help if you suffer from stiff joints or reduced flexibility and no other activities seem to do the trick. 



 Find a Yoga Instructor Today


Sofia Health features on-demand yoga classes on our platform, including Yoga Nidra, iRest Yoga Nidra, and gentle yoga. You're bound to find the perfect yoga class for your future holistic health and wellness. 




yoga pose



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