Though those certainly are two fantastic benefits of the practice (with the flexibility also comes stronger and leaner muscles), that's truly only scratching the surface of all the good it can do for your body. From better bowel movements to steamier sex, you might be surprised what a little time on the mat can do.
Sure, you can stock your kitchen with probiotic yogurt and fiber-rich foods, but practicing yoga can also help get things moving. "There are many postures, especially twists, designed to massage the internal organs and keep food moving along," says Yoga Means Business co-founder and yoga director Jen Kluczkowski. "Easier digestion equals more energy for the body. In yoga, we always twist right first, then left, to follow the path of the digestive system.” Continue to improve your overall gut health when you add these 5 surprising probiotic foods to your daily meal plan.
Fights Food Cravings
While some workout routines can dial up your hunger, yoga can actually do the opposite. What's so special about this exercise? Mindfulness. A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that a steady yoga practice is tied to mindful eating, particularly through breath awareness, which strengthens the mind-body connection. “The quality of the breath is a direct reflection of what is going on in the body. [Through yoga you learn to read it and work with it]," says Genevieve Gilbreath, founder of Herbal Zap L.L.C. That means you'll be better equipped to gauge your hunger and enjoy just enough to satisfy it without going overboard. If you need to reach for a snack, follow these healthy snack alternatives for every craving.
Boosts Brain Function
Sure, exercise in general can improve brain function, but yoga specifically has some very real mental benefits. “Yoga uses the body and breath as tools to create equanimity and clarity in the mind," says Kluczkowski. "By synching movement with steady, conscious breath, we feel less stress and can better focus. A study in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health found that 20 minutes of Hatha yoga stimulates brain function more than walking or jogging on the treadmill for the same amount of time."
Yoga boosts immunity at the cellular level through changes in gene expression, according to a study published in the journal PLoSOne. It gets better: You don't have to practice for months to reap the rewards. These benefits can be experienced rather quickly—while you’re still on the mat—according to the research. Stick with it, though. The improved overall health from constant practice will also strengthen your internal defense system.
Results In Hotter Sex
Yes, you read that correctly. And we're talking about more than just increased flexibility. Although, it's worth repeating, that's definitely one of the benefits here. Yoga helps reduce anxiety and increases body awareness and confidence in addition to speeding the release of hormones that boost arousal and increase blood flow to the genital area. But men aren't the only ones that see better bedroom performance—and pleasure—from yoga practice; yoga seriously enhances a woman’s experience in the bedroom via greater lubrication, and more powerful orgasms as a result of strengthening the pelvic floor muscles, a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found. Maximize your sex drive when you add these 5 foods that supercharge your mood.
Makes You Better At Your Job
“It's becoming better known that insights, creativity and ideas only come by giving yourself space and stillness," says Kluczkowski. "And yoga and meditation are becoming increasingly essential to success in today's business world. Yoga moves the body, creating physical space and stirring up energy. Then, when we sit in meditation, we observe that energy settle so we feel deep stillness. This extra 'head space' leads to better decisions, better work relationships and increased productivity.” Make this move count after reading the 9 ways your job is making you fat.
Promotes Deep Relaxation
“One of the biggest benefits of yoga is that it can activate the parasympathetic nervous system," notes Gilbreath. This offsets the fight-or-flight responses associated with the sympathetic nervous system. "Yoga also helps to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Most people have too much stress in their lives and thus too much cortisol in their bodies. Excess cortisol can suppress thyroid function, decrease muscle tissue, increase blood pressure, lower immunity, and increase inflammatory responses." So by practicing yoga, you help counteract those effects. In addition, follow these 20 surprising ways to drop the pounds in your sleep.
Courtesy of Men's Fitness