6 Health Benefits of Yoga and Meditation

You’ve probably heard about the health benefits of yoga and meditation, but you may not know how to put them into practice in your own life. Whether you’re trying to improve your posture, reduce stress, or improve focus, here are six health benefits of yoga and meditation that you can start using today.

Reduce Stress

Stress is often cited as a leading cause of illness. And it makes sense: There are few physiological responses better designed to protect us from danger than stress. Short-term, adrenaline-induced stress is exactly what we need when there’s a tiger in our path. Still, long-term exposure to cortisol can lead to chronic illnesses like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, depression, anxiety, and more. To reduce your stress level while improving your health—yoga offers a wide range of health benefits—consider investing in regular yoga practice.

Lowers Blood Pressure

A daily dose of yoga or meditation can help improve your health. For example, a recent study published in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity found that women who practiced mindful meditation had reduced markers for inflammation. Inflammation is an integral part of how our bodies react to injury or disease; however, chronic inflammation is also linked to severe conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. By practicing mindfulness meditation regularly, you can increase your health while improving sleep quality—another major contributor to overall health!

Builds Focus

Our ability to focus is an integral part of health and productivity, but many people don’t know that yoga and meditation can help. Recent studies have shown that these activities build attention spans by training your brain to be more present-focused. While it might be hard to sit still for long periods, focusing on a specific task—like yoga or meditation—can make you less distracted during other parts of your day. Try it out today! After a few weeks, you’ll feel calmer, more focused, and happier overall.

Decreases Inflammation

Both yoga and meditation have been found to significantly reduce inflammation, which is believed to play a significant role in heart disease, stroke, depression, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer’s. A study published in February 2010 found that individuals with high levels of Interleukin-6 (IL-6), an indicator of inflammation in the body, had a 36 percent lower risk for heart disease when practicing yoga for six years or more. While IL-6 was reduced by 27 percent among those, who meditated regularly over six years, meditation alone led to no decrease in IL-6.

Helps with Insomnia

Stress can interfere with your sleep patterns and make it more difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, or achieve more profound levels of restorative sleep. Of course, not all stress is a bad thing—sometimes a little tension helps us rise to an occasion! A regular yoga or meditation practice may help you sleep better by reducing stress. A 2013 study published in Sleep Medicine found that yoga significantly reduced both subjective and objective measures of insomnia in breast cancer survivors—and other research suggests that mindfulness techniques like meditation can help people regulate their emotions and avoid over-arousal, which affects their ability to get restorative sleep.

Mental Health

Like other forms of exercise, yoga and meditation can increase your levels of dopamine—the neurotransmitter associated with pleasure—which means they may be able to help you relax, reduce stress, manage pain and improve your mood. As pressure is often at the root of several health problems, including heart disease and depression, even a slight reduction in its prevalence could significantly impact public health. A study published in Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine found that people who meditated regularly were 50 percent less likely to experience symptoms related to anxiety or depression compared to those who didn’t meditate. Even if you can’t make it to class every day, adding daily stretches into your routine can have similar benefits on mental health.

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