Ask almost anyone who has been practicing yoga enough time to see results — usually about three times a week for six months — and they will tell you they feel the benefits: more energy, weight loss, better mood, libido and a lot fewer aches and pains.
What follows are some common sense explanations about why yoga makes you feel great. This is not a medical or therapeutic prognosis! Just real, physical and mental benefits.
Short answer: Yoga makes you feel good because yoga requires serious focus and concentration, while doing isometrics, non-impact exercise, intense stretching, often done in a warm/hot room.
The stretching, bending, twisting and turning of yoga positions increases the strength and flexibility of many more muscles in your body than traditional exercise. Working the full range of your body’s muscles adds aggregate strength. You will find your body in positions way out of the range of your usual daily activities. And in these far out stretches and twists, you use different muscles in different ways. Yoga positions are not easy to hold and you will immediately feel it: one example is the simple top position of a push-up or “high plank.” Hold that for 30 seconds in good posture, and you will feel working muscle. Pushing against a static resistance, like a floor, is isometrics. Practice yoga three times a week for three months and you will notice new strength.
The intense stretching of various yoga positions yields better flexibility. In general, people experience an increased range of motion. Many yoga positions stretch the muscles around your hips and spine. You do not have to be flexible to achieve the benefits. A yoga practitioner has to move into a position or “try” a position the right way. You don’t have to look like the teacher/expert/video in a given position to get the full benefit of yoga. I started yoga when I hurt my Achilles heel and could not run. After nine months I was marginally more flexible, but still nothing close to getting into many of the full yoga positions. Yet when I went for my first run after nine months, I was amazed: yoga had kept me in great cardio shape while I waited for my Achilles to heal.
A lot of aches and pains are also in the hips and spine. The discs in your spine do not have their own blood vessels and are supported by nearby muscles. Yoga incorporates more spine and hip strengthening and stretching than other exercises. One reason for less pain is the strengthening of the micro-muscles surrounding your hips and spine.
Micro muscles are stretched and contracted and lactic acid is flushed out. After a couple months of practicing yoga you may feel as if your yoga practice rinsed out your hips and spine. I have often felt the sensation of my body thanking me the day after practicing yoga, feeling very strong and relaxed resulting from a workout with intense stretching.
“Take a deep breath.” We have all heard that expression about trying to relax. In yoga, breathing is part of the exercise. As you move from one position to the next, there are often inhale and exhale points. For example: “Inhale and extend your arms up and exhale bend and touch your toes.” The programmed and regulated breathing is often one of the trickier parts to learn in yoga. Breathing as you move into a position requiring balance and strength means intense concentration and focus. The positive demands of yoga mean that you can’t think about your problems while you are practicing. Yoga helps reset your focus and your train of thought. Or simply stated; practicing yoga gets your mind off things, much like a round of golf with friends.
Some positions in yoga are uncomfortable. Real concentration and effort are required to try some yoga positions. And with each yoga practice, you are getting comfortable being uncomfortable. Getting comfortable being uncomfortable is the essence of stress relief.
Why can yoga improve your libido? You get a lift from all the work on your mid-section. As described, a large part of yoga exercise works the hips, lower back and abdomen. An active yoga practice will invigorate and strengthen the muscles and micro-muscles in your hip joints and lower back. Most long term yoga practitioners will agree that the concentration, stretching, new strength and rhythmic breathing of yoga makes a person feel more physical sensations. It has been scientifically demonstrated that expert yoga practitioners can literally direct blood flow to certain parts of their bodies. There is also clinical study evidence that yoga increases testosterone, a hormone that increases sex drive in men and women. There are also many recent credible clinical studies that support the positive mood effects of yoga. And after all, being in a good mood puts you in the mood.
There is real evidence supporting the benefits of yoga from highly regarded scientific and clinical trials. Interested? Read more here…