June 21 is International Yoga Day, a day to celebrate the ancient practice of yoga and its many benefits for our health and well-being. Yoga is more than just a physical exercise. It’s a way of life that can help us cope with stress, improve our mood, sleep better, and feel more connected to ourselves and others. In this article, we will explore eight amazing benefits of yoga that go beyond the physical well-being.
Yoga originated in India thousands of years ago as a physical, mental, and spiritual discipline. The word yoga means “to unite” or “to yoke” in Sanskrit, implying a connection between the body, mind, and soul. Yoga involves various postures (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama), and meditation (dhyana) that aim to harmonize the individual with the universal.
In 2014, the United Nations General Assembly declared June 21 as International Yoga Day, following a proposal by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The date was chosen because it is the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere and has special significance in many cultures.
International Yoga Day aims to raise awareness worldwide of the many benefits of practicing yoga. Yoga can improve our physical health by increasing our strength, flexibility, balance, and cardiovascular health. But yoga also offers a range of benefits beyond the physical fitness, such as enhancing our mental health, emotional well-being, spiritual growth, and overall quality of life.
Let’s look at seven of these benefits in more detail.
- Yoga helps you relax and calm down
Life can be stressful sometimes. Work, family, money, health – there’s always something to worry about. But yoga can help you deal with stress and anxiety in a healthy way. Yoga teaches you to breathe deeply, focus on the present moment, and let go of negative thoughts. When you do yoga, you activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for relaxation and healing. Many people do yoga to relieve stress – it’s the second most popular reason according to a survey by Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance.
- Yoga boosts your mental health
If you struggle with depression, anxiety, or PTSD, you’re not alone. These are common and serious mental health issues that affect millions of people around the world. Yoga can be a great complement to your treatment by improving your mood, self-esteem, resilience, and cognitive function. A 2017 study found that yoga-based treatments significantly reduced depressive symptoms in people with major depressive disorder (MDD). Another study found that yoga improved PTSD symptoms in veterans by 50%.
- Yoga improves your sleep quality
Sleep is essential for your well-being, but many people have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep due to stress, pain, or other factors. Yoga can help you sleep better by promoting relaxation, reducing inflammation, and regulating your circadian rhythm. A 2019 review of 18 studies concluded that yoga improved various aspects of sleep quality in healthy and clinical populations.
- Yoga helps you recover from addiction
Addiction is a complex and chronic condition that affects your brain’s reward system and makes it hard to control your impulses and cravings. Yoga can help you recover from addiction by improving your physical health, mental clarity, emotional stability, and spiritual connection. Yoga can also give you a healthy alternative to cope with stress, boredom, loneliness, or negative emotions that may trigger relapse. A 2016 review of 12 studies found that yoga improved various outcomes in people with substance use disorders.
- Yoga boosts your creativity
Creativity is the ability to come up with new and useful ideas or products that can benefit yourself or others. It’s a valuable skill in many areas of life, such as work, education, art, or leisure. Yoga can boost your creativity by stimulating your brain activity, enhancing your focus and concentration, and fostering a state of flow – a state of optimal engagement and immersion in an activity. A 2015 study found that yoga increased creativity scores in college students compared to aerobic exercise or no intervention.
- Yoga fosters social connection
Social connection is the feeling of belonging and being cared for by others. It’s a basic human need that affects your happiness, health, and longevity. Yoga can foster social connection by creating a sense of community among people who share a common interest, value system, and experience. Yoga can also cultivate compassion and empathy for yourself and others by increasing your awareness of your interdependence and interconnectedness. A 2016 study found that yoga increased social connectedness in women who practiced together.
- Yoga increases happiness
Happiness is a subjective state of well-being that includes positive emotions, life satisfaction, and meaning or purpose in life. Yoga can increase happiness by improving your physical health, mental health, emotional well-being, and spiritual growth. Yoga can also increase your levels of serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins – chemicals that are involved in mood regulation and reward processing. A 2017 study found that yoga increased happiness and life satisfaction in healthy adults.
Yoga is a holistic practice that can make you happier and healthier in many ways. By doing yoga regularly, you can relax and calm down, boost your mental health, improve your sleep quality, support your heart health, help you recover from addiction, boost your creativity, foster social connection, and increase happiness. Yoga can also help you discover your true self and purpose in life, and connect you with something greater than yourself. Whether you’re looking for a way to improve your health, well-being, or spirituality, yoga has something to offer you.