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It seems like everybody is turning to yoga these days to centre themselves and refocus their energy. And this makes sense—given the break-neck pace of modern life, we could all use a bit more meditation in our lives. Yoga has been practiced for 5,000 years, so its effects on the mind and soul are time-honoured and tested. But what about its influence on the body? How does yoga stack up in comparison to other fitness routines?

We did some digging, and you may be surprised to know that yoga’s uniquely holistic approach benefits us in all kinds of physical ways. What follows is a list of ten reasons your body will thank you if you start doing yoga today.

  1. It eases tummy trouble
    Many yoga poses can be seen as a massage of internal organs. Combine this with deep breathing–another staple of yoga–and it’s a great way to relax your gut. If you’re dealing with digestive problems, certain yoga postures can stimulate your kidneys and liver to flush out toxins. They also can reduce bloating.
  2. It boosts the brain
    While yoga is definitely a chance to quiet your mind, it also has a positive effect on the development of your brain. A study conducted at Australia’s University of Adelaide showed a marked improvement in people with mild cognitive impairment when they practiced yoga on a regular basis (LiveScience). Data indicated that their memory improved due to the focus yoga requires.
  3. It’s heart-healthy
    As it turns out, cardiovascular workouts aren’t the only way to prevent heart disease. According to the Harvard Heart Letter, a publication associated with Harvard Medical School, a yoga study was conducted that included people of all ages and levels of fitness. After practicing yoga, they lost an average of 5 pounds, came down 5 points in their blood pressure measurements, and lowered their levels of harmful LDL cholesterol by 12 points.
  4. It helps to prevent muscle and joint injuries
    Because yoga lengthens the muscles and builds functional strength, it helps you develop muscles that are useable in the real world. This means less chance of pulled back muscles or arthritis, which are both ailments that often occur during other workouts like running..
  5. It improves immunity
    This one is important, because it affects all aspects of health. The same yoga poses that relax your tummy also assist in the drainage of the lymph nodes. This releases the viscous fluid rich in immune cells which boosts the lymphatic system’s ability to fight infection.
  6. It keeps blood sugar low
    Diabetics and others struggling with maintaining steady blood sugar pay attention: yoga lowers cortisol and adrenaline levels—hormonal changes that improve the body’s sensitivity to insulin. This means blood sugar measurements in the normal range.
  7. It gives you more lung power
    Yoga requires you to focus on your breathing, and anytime you do this, your lung capacity improves. It also encourages you to breathe through your nose, which filters out dirt, pollen and other things that can be harmful to the lungs.
  8. It relaxes your nervous system
    People usually report that they feel more relaxed after a yoga session, and there’s a physical reason for this. The reason you feel less anxious afterwards is because your nervous system has gone from sympathetic to parasympathetic—or to put it less scientifically, from “flight or flight” mode to “rest and digest” mode.
  9. It helps bone density
    Women in particular lose bone mass as they age, and yoga has proven to fight this by stimulating bones to retain calcium. By using weight-bearing poses, areas such as your spine, shoulders, arms and legs are positively affected.
  10. It’s good for weight loss
    While it’s true that a one-hour yoga session won’t burn calories the way an hour of running would, it has some long-ranging consequences for weight maintenance. First, it turns fat into a muscle, which in turn gets rid of more fat. And last but not least, it helps you feel more comfortable in your own skin, leading to better food and lifestyle choices.

As you can see, yoga is good for much more than “me time” and meditation. Not only does it tune your mind and soul, the physical health benefits it provides are substantial. So grab the mat and start stretching—your body will love you for it.

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