Yoga is a popular choice for anyone wanting to improve both their physical and mental health. While there are many different types of yoga, this age-old exercise brings together physical poses, meditation, and breathing to benefit overall well-being.
Research studies have examined how the practice of yoga may help a wide range of health conditions, including some specific to women. While it's always a good idea to talk with your doctor before changing your exercise routine, here are some of the potential benefits of yoga for your health.
Flexibility and balance
In the long term, practicing traditional yoga poses can help increase both flexibility and balance. For everyone from young athletes to seniors, these benefits can help you stay active. Specifically, the American Osteopathic Association says yoga provides support for injury prevention.
With increased flexibility and range of motion in your joints, you decrease the risk of sports or activity-related injuries. Improved balance particularly benefits senior adults who are more at risk for falls.
The mind-body connection promoted through yoga helps relieve stress and improve mood. As a result, several research studies have shown a link between yoga and mental health. According to the American Psychological Association, yoga can decrease the body's stress response, lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and increase neurotransmitters in the brain that combat anxiety.
Yoga may help temporarily relieve feelings of stress, depression, or anxiety. However, if you have a diagnosed mental health condition, you should talk to your doctor about how yoga fits into your complete treatment plan along with other therapies.
Yoga may also help you sleep better. This is likely the result of reduced stress and a renewed focus on inner peace and tranquility. The International Journal of Yoga says studies have shown yoga may help you fall asleep faster, sleep longer, and feel more rested when you wake up in the morning. Overall, this increase in sleep quality can help you have an improved quality of life.
In most cases, traditional yoga is considered safe during pregnancy. But talk to your OB GYN to make sure it's right for you. Especially as your belly grows, you may need to modify yoga poses to keep balance and prevent injury. You'll also want to avoid poses that have you lie on your back for a long amount of time.
For expecting moms who choose yoga, it can reduce the stresses and anxieties often associated with pregnancy, as well as reduce back pain. The National Institutes of Health says there is some evidence practicing yoga may help moms be more prepared to cope with pain during labor too.
Many women experience premenstrual symptoms each month, including both physical and emotional changes. In general, staying active and exercising can help you combat these symptoms.
Both aerobic exercises, such as walking or jogging, and yoga may help reduce symptoms and pain associated with PMS. Even more, a study in the Journal of Education and Health Promotion showed women who did yoga reported a greater reduction in their PMS symptoms compared to those who did aerobic exercises.
Research is still underway to fully understand how yoga supports well-being as a woman goes through the transition of menopause. But some studies suggest yoga can provide symptoms reduction and improve the overall quality of life for women with menopause-related symptoms.
A study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology compared weekly yoga classes with other forms of menopause symptom control. The women who participated in yoga reported improvements in their vasomotor symptoms, like night sweats and hot flashes, and in their sexuality.
Finally, there may be a link between your bone health and yoga. If you're concerned about your risk for osteoporosis, talk with your OB GYN about how yoga and other exercises can support bone strength. A study published in Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation showed those who did 12 minutes of yoga daily had an increase in bone mineral density over time.
Staying active for better women's health
While yoga has several potential benefits for your health, you have many other ways to stay active too. So, whether it's yoga or another activity, find an exercise that you enjoy and stick with it. Your primary care provider or OB GYN can help you choose an exercise routine that fits your specific health and needs.