Should I take up yoga? Here’s what scientists say

Woman performing a yoga pose in a white room and black yoga mat in front of the window

If you’re wondering whether or not you should take up yoga, it’s important to take a look at the impact yoga has on the body. A review of research into the effects of yoga by Tiffany Field from the University of Miami has revealed some of the ways that yoga can influence your mind and muscles.

Here’s what you need to know.

1. Yoga can help to reduce stress

Yoga can have a significant effect on mental wellbeing. It has a direct effect on the brain, helping to regulate mood and emotions. Research has also shown that yoga can reduce stress and anxiety. Panic disorders have been improved by yoga and it can even treat symptoms of depression.

As well as the immediate effects of lowering stress levels, yoga can also have long term effects on the body, helping you to establish more healthy habits. Studies have shown that yoga can reduce the severity of emotional eating, for instance, helping to increase your tolerance for distress.

2. It also increases strength, flexibility and mobility

Yoga improves spinal mobility and hamstring flexibility, as well as muscle endurance. Just 10 weeks of yoga has been shown to increase flexibility and balance compared to other sports.

One of the secrets of yoga practice is the way that different poses target separate muscle groups, helping to provide a balanced, full body workout. For instance, downward dog pose can strengthen the abdominal muscles while warrior one pose targets the gluteus muscles. 

3. Yoga can help your brain too

As well as working on your body, yoga also has a positive impact on your brain. There is evidence that Hatha yoga leads to greater connectivity between different regions of the brain, helping to improve well-being. Studies also demonstrated that yoga improved attention span and processing speed, as well as memory and brain function. There is even evidence that practicing yoga can reduce the frequency of headaches.

4. It’s beneficial for all ages

According to research, yoga can help to improve mood and self-esteem for a range of different age groups, while also reducing anxiety and stress. Studies show that school children, university students and elderly individuals can all benefit from practicing yoga, both physically and mentally. 

Yoga improved symptoms of arthritis, for instance, helping to decrease pain, swelling and stiffness. In a study of older women, participants who took part in an 8 week yoga program also reported less pain and sleep disturbances.

But it’s not a cure-all

While there are many benefits to be gained from practicing yoga, experts are also careful to point out that it’s not a cure all. Starting yoga won’t necessarily change your life. Instead, yoga should be used as part of a wider program of healthy habits, including eating a balanced diet and making sure to spend time outdoors

The good news is, most types of yoga can be beneficial in some way. According to experts, every type of yoga has some effect on the body so it really comes down to personal preference which one you choose to do. 

**At Free Soul, your wellbeing is our priority, and although we pride ourselves on our expertise in women's health and wellbeing, it is important to acknowledge the individuality of each person. Features published by Free Soul are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease, or replace the advice of your GP. We always recommend consulting with a healthcare provider if you encounter any health concerns, and we’ll always be here to support you so you’re never alone on your journey.