The benefits of yoga are often talked about, and are well documented in their ability to lower stress.
During the COVID pandemic, many more people have been turning to yoga as a means of dealing with the daily stresses of living within the world we currently do.
Pair that with a large percentage of the population being confined to their homes, and the result is, is that there are many more people taking up yoga, and more yoga instructors moving to online classes to reach more people.
But, how does yoga help with stress, and what other benefits does it have?
When most people think of the benefits of yoga, the first thing they will come to is its ability to help reduce stress, and living during a global pandemic, we are all certainly more stressed than we ever have been, so this is where yoga can really come into its own, in helping people.
There are many things at play within our bodies when we are feeling stressed, but one of the most prevalent hormones that has a negative impact is cortisol.
Cortisol is a hormone that is produced by the adrenal glands, and is the primary hormone associated with stress. Cortisol is a very important hormone, and plays a part in many functions in our body, and it is part of the ‘fight or flight’ response that all humans and animals have, so it helps to keep us safe in dangerous situations.
However, when we are in a state of stress, our bodies can produce too much cortisol which can have a negative impact, and lead to us feeling permanently on edge.
Yoga has been shown to reduce cortisol levels through meditation, breathing control and exercise, and lead to an overall better feeling of wellbeing, and regular yoga sessions have people reporting feeling much less stressed.
Anxiety is a normal feeling, and all of us feel it at some time or another, however it becomes a problem when it is something you feel all the time, and it is taking over your daily thoughts.
The pandemic has led to many people reporting increased feelings of anxiety, and many more diagnoses of generalised anxiety disorder.
Many people who practise yoga regularly report decreases in their levels of anxiety. It’s not exactly clear how practicing yoga helps this, but there is something to be said for the breathing exercises and the meditation practises which enable people to be in the present, and not worrying about the future, or things that have already happened.
There are many online sites who can help you in your yoga journey, such as 889yoga.com, who can help you find the right gear to comfortably practice yoga.
Clinical depression is more widespread now than it ever has been, even before the COVID pandemic, more and more people were reporting symptoms of clinical depression.
Clinical depression and generalised anxiety disorder can either be diagnosed alone, but more commonly a patient will have elements of both.
These disorders will usually need some form of medication, and therapy, but yoga can be useful alongside these treatments to help reduce the symptoms.
Like anxiety, it’s not known exactly how yoga works to reduce the symptoms of depression, but as we know it reduces cortisol levels, which will help to reduce signs of stress.
Yoga can also increase the levels of serotonin, which is the feel good hormone, and often very low in people suffering with mental illnesses.
The mindfulness and meditation will help to bring focus to the present, and not what may happen or what has already happened and this is certainly helpful in aiding towards a positive mental state.
Increase Sleep Quality
The modern world often lends itself to poorer sleep quality, for many reasons. Blue screens are thought to be a large part of that, when most of us are looking at phones or tablets just before bed, the blue light emitted from these devices interrupts our circadian rhythms.
Stress and worry have a huge part in poor sleep, and the worry of the pandemic has most people worrying more than ever before, and therefore being able to sleep less.
Medical issues can also play a part in poor sleep, such as clinical depression, anxiety disorders, obesity and high blood pressure. Yoga can help to some degree with all of these, and general stress levels.
Many people who practise yoga regularly report much better quality of sleep than those who do not partake.
Yoga has been shown to increase the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that is vital in good sleep quality.
Improves Flexibility and Strength
The global pandemic has meant that many people are confined to their homes, unable to get outside much, or even at all.
This has meant a fall in exercise that people usually do. Gyms have been closed for long periods of time, and with the continuation of social distancing, it is hard to get back into these types of exercise routines.
Many group exercise classes have yet to reopen, and people are generally moving less.
Those that would previously have walked to catch a train or a bus to work, are now only moving from their bed to the home office, so even these daily, almost inconsequential, forms of movement are now not happening, and this is having a detrimental effect on people’s health, flexibility and overall strength.
Yoga is an easy exercise to do at home, there are endless online videos, and you don’t need much space at all.
Yoga has well documented scientific studies that show it increases flexibility, strength and balance, and therefore improves overall health.
Aids Healthy Eating
Many people across the world have reported what is colloquially known as ‘lockdown belly’. The lack of exercise and the increase in comfort eating has led to an increase in weight for many people.
Yoga focuses a lot on mindfulness, and it is thought that this also helps people be more mindful in what they choose to eat – going for the healthy option, rather than the more unhealthy comfort foods.
As you can see, there are many benefits to practising yoga on a regular basis, and perhaps there has never been a more opportune and relevant time to take up the exercise than during the global pandemic.