The ever-increasing popularity of yoga around the world has transformed the practice into something once thought to be reserved for yogis of the Far East or hippies of the counterculture into a widely-accepted workout routine.
According to a recent survey by Yoga Alliance and Yoga Journal, the number of Americans practicing yoga increased by 50% from 2012 to 2016, to a whopping 36 million people.
While most people become hooked on yoga because of its ability to stabilize and enrich one’s mental, physical and emotional lives, there are various side effects of a regular yoga practice that are lesser known.
Yoga increases workplace productivity.
Research demonstrates that yoga practices in the workplace can increase the well being of employees and as a result, boost productivity.
A National Survey found that more than 55% of people who practiced yoga reported improved sleep. Better sleep often translates to more clarity and focus. Meanwhile, 85% of yoga practitioners reported reduced stress levels, helping them better manage their time and work.
Yoga also rids the body of productivity-harming aches and pains and gives individuals the ability to focus for longer periods of time without getting distracted. More positivity and kindness exchanged with co-workers doesn’t hurt either.
Yoga makes you smarter.
A study published by the Journal of Physical Activity and Health found that yoga exercise boosted cognitive performance by leading to superior reaction times, and increased accuracy for practitioners when compared to others who had done another aerobic exercise or no exercise.
“While most exercise gives you a choice to either zone in or zone out, yoga encourages you to return to the present and pay attention,” explains Dr. Zimmerman, M.D., a physician and Sonima meditation instructor, as cited by Shape. “This mindful awareness has been correlated with structural changes in the brain, including growth in the prefrontal cortex, a brain region associated with executive function, working memory, and attention.”
Research from Harvard Medical School on the benefits of mindfulness, a meditative state aimed for in a yoga practice, backs this point. Scientists compared brain scans of long-term meditators with those of a control group and found that the former “had more grey matter in the frontal cortex, which is associated with working memory and executive decision making.”
Yoga boosts your immunity.
According to WebMD, up to 90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints. Negative emotions and chronic stress are known to manifest in physical ailments and disease in the body. Yoga reduces stress while increasing positive emotions countering the negative health effects of anxiety and tension.
One study out of Norway found that by influencing gene expression, yoga can strengthen the immune system at the cellular level.
In particular, cancer patients who practice yoga are said to gain strength, raise red blood cells, experience less nausea when going through chemotherapy, and have a better overall wellbeing, as noted by MindBodyGreen.