What Does Yoga Do?

| Women's Health

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Although it was developed in India thousands of years ago, yoga still remains a prevalent form of exercise and stress relief in our society. How, exactly, has this art form retained its popularity throughout centuries and across a multitude of cultures? The answer lies in its benefits. Sure, like most types of fitness, yoga has its fair share of physical pros. Many of its benefits lie in the spiritual and emotional realm as well, though. Yoga can be a life-changing practice, so if you are looking for a way to balance your hectic days, de-stress, and add a new physical element to your schedule, it may be time to break out a yoga mat and get started! Take a look below to learn some of the benefits of yoga!

>> Read more: 70 Yoga Poses to Tone, Strengthen and Detox Your Body

Yoga boosts immunity. One of the most popular benefits of yoga is that it can actually boost your body's immune system at a cellular level. According to a study done in Norway, it doesn't take long at all to boost your immunity while practicing yoga. Researchers noticed that changes took place while participants were still on their mats! The logic behind this revelation is fairly straightforward: practicing yoga increases your physical and emotional health, so that you can breathe better, move better, and let your organs function better than ever before!

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Yoga reduces symptoms of depression. Low levels of the neurotransmitter GABA are often found in the brains of people suffering from depression. Studies at the Boston University School of Medicine have shown that practicing yoga can actually boost low GABA levels by 27% after just an hour of yoga! Yoga can go a long way in improving your mood and alleviating your symptoms of depression, especially when practiced regularly!

Yoga can lessen chronic pain. Nearly 75 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, which is caused by biological inconsistencies in the mind. While popping pills might not work to alleviate the pain, many experts believe that yoga could be the answer to your problems. One 12-week study demonstrated that participants who practiced yoga once a week showed greater improvement than those who did not. If you're sick of hearing "Your pain is all in your mind," then it may be time to hit your local studio!

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Yoga relieves stress. Sure, stress might feel mental, but one of the best ways to alleviate your anxieties is through exercise, particularly yoga. According to Garrett Sarley, CEO of the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, stress can manifest itself physically in the body. He states that "The muscles tense, the heart beats faster, breathing patterns change, and if the cause of stress isn't discontinued, the body secretes more hormones that increase blood sugar levels, raising blood pressure." Practicing yoga can reduce stress almost instantly.

Yoga can increase sexual performance. Looking to spice up your sex life? Yoga may be the answer! Studies have shown that 12 weeks of yoga can actually enhance sexual desire, arousal, performance, orgasm, and satisfaction for both men and women. The poses actually increase blood flow to the genital area, which promotes arousal and strengthens the pelvic floor muscles. Who knows, with a promise like that, maybe you can get your hubby to tag along to your next class!

>>Read more: Yoga Moves for Better Sex

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Yoga can help you sleep better. Instead of popping those sleeping pills to escape your insomnia, you may want to make room in your schedule for a session of yoga! Studies have found that the breathing and mental exercises combined with the physicality of yoga can go a long way in eliminating insomnia. You will find that you are much more capable of relaxing and letting your mind be at peace.

Yoga can help you fight food cravings. Ah, the ongoing battle of dodging those candy bars, potato chips, and sodas! Luckily for you, yoga can actually help to decrease your cravings and keep you on track. Regular practice is associated with an awareness of physical and emotional sensations associated with eating. The breath awareness that is an essential part of yoga actually strengthens the mind-body connection so that you are better able to tune into your emotions and make better decisions.

Yoga can decrease the risk of heart disease. Many studies have found that practicing yoga can actually reduce blood pressure, resting heart rates, and cholesterol! Regular sessions can also help slow all the risk factors of heart disease. Experts believe that yoga in particular is especially helpful for people who are at risk of heart disease because of the meditative component commonly incorporated into classes.

>> Read more: 5 Heart-Pumping Ways to Get More Active

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(Photo: YogaScapes)

Practicing yoga may be a great form of exercise, and a fun way to get together with the girls for a relaxing afternoon, but its benefits are truly overwhelming. For more information about the benefits of yoga, check out our sources: Huffington Post, Yoga Health Foundation, American Osteopathic Association, Yoga International.