The Benefits of Yoga
There are many benefits to yoga - not all of which are supported by science, but which have been promoted by experts, encouraging the general populous to discover the subtle awareness of body movement and position that yoga can provide. In this article, we will be taking a look at a select few of these benefits.
Yoga can reduce the impact of Chronic Pain
Yoga has been found to be more impactful than other forms of low-impact exercise in improving flexibility and strength. Unlike running and jumping, it focuses on slow, gentler movement, which can be a welcome change to the everyday - running late for the bus, chasing down a taxi, taking the stairs two at a time, and so on.
Physiological changes and increased stress, be it mentally or physically, can cause an increased susceptibility to pain in your body, including; breaks, strains, and stress fractures.
Physiological changes occur from a wide range of possible causes. This may lead to what is known as chronic pain. Pain is considered chronic when it is persistent and lasts longer than a duration of 12 weeks. Many people suffer from a form of chronic pain, such as osteoarthritis and low back pain, for example.
It is recommended for those suffering from chronic pain to partake in mild physical activity to reduce inflammation or flare-ups. Yoga is considered a mild physical activity, it is also used as a complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).
Yoga has also been shown to reduce resting inflammatory markers when practiced over a number of years. Slow and steady - so the saying goes! These inflammatory markers, TNF-a and IL-6, are linked with chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. It would make sense, then, that we would want to reduce these - and can be achieved with regular practice of Yoga. 
Yoga Improves Heart Health
Yoga is a good way to increase the amount of blood flow around the body. Increasing blood flow around the body helps to carry more oxygen in the red blood cells, which helps them perform better. Carrying more oxygenated blood around the organs helps the body perform better as a whole. This is achieved through the technique of relaxation and alternating joint rotations or movement that is performed in Yoga.
Hypertension, commonly known as high blood pressure, greatly increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. The CSO statistics summary of 2017, found that diseases of the heart were the cause of mortality in approximately 28% of cases .
In a study conducted with 100 participants above the age of 40, the participants were divided into two groups: those who participated in little to no physical activity and those who had been practicing yoga for 5 years. The aim of the study was to examine the effects of yoga on cardiovascular function.
The study results indicated that Yoga had significant effects on both the values of systolic and diastolic blood pressure indicators. This suggests that yoga has a positive effect on the rate of deterioration in cardiovascular function. 
Yoga Improves Breathing
Yoga draws awareness to your breathing and encourages you to take control of it. It is done through the use of different practices and techniques.
One of Yoga’s best practices is that of controlling the breath, this is known as Pranayama or yogic breathing. This practice of controlling the breath is linked to many benefits, such as an increase in lung capacity. Climbing the stairs at work before Yoga - out of breath. Climbing the stairs at work after Yoga - breath is under control. After a few years of Yoga, this can become a habit. The benefits you can receive from the practice of deeper breathing can be linked to a decrease in cortisol levels, lowering of blood pressure, and relaxation.
Slowing down or deepening breathing in this way can allow your body to switch from a state of heightened alertness, fight or flight, to a calmer state of rest and digest. Modern life can force us into a constant state of the former, meaning that Yoga can be a safe space to translate slow breathing to positive changes in the brain - increasing comfort and pleasantness while reducing anxiety and anger. 
Yoga Helps Manage Stress
Yoga is a rewarding and effective activity for helping to manage and reduce levels of stress. Chronic stress can be linked with many diseases such as heart disease, Asthma, Alzheimer’s, Diabetes, Depression, and Anxiety.
Cortisol, ‘the stress hormone’, causes an increase in feelings of stress and anxiety as the name suggests. Studies through the years have repeatedly shown that yoga is linked to reducing the level of cortisol in the body. By reducing the level of cortisol secreted, it is much easier to manage our levels of perceived stress. Thus reducing the risk of developing related diseases.
Yoga promotes mindfulness, this can help us manage our perceived stress levels. By practicing mindfulness, it helps us be present in the moment. By being in the present moment we can clear our thoughts of the past or the future, and focus on the now.
In one study, 38 participants with symptoms of Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were assigned to a Yoga group of 12 sessions based on Kripalu Yoga teachings, or to a control group.
The results of this study showed that participants had a positive response to the use of Yoga as a treatment of PTSD, reducing symptoms of fear and revisiting of events. This study suggests that Yoga has a positive effect when used as a form of treatment for PTSD. 
Yoga Helps Lower Anxiety
Yoga can provide a sense of being present in the moment. This helps with feelings of depression and anxiety – experienced by 1 in 5 people at any given time. Yoga can help you feel grounded - this will allow you to process your thoughts, remove the clutter, and calm your mind.
There is a lot of research that points out the many benefits of yoga and its ability to lessen the impact of anxiety. This may be the reason that many people use Yoga as a medium to cope with anxious feelings.
A study was conducted by M Javnbakht et al to research the effects of yoga in reducing anxiety and depression. This study included 2 groups, a control group of 31, and an experimental group of 34. The experimental group participated in two 90 minute yoga classes a week for two months. The control group did not receive any Yoga sessions.
This experimental group showed a decrease in anxiety symptoms more significant than that of the control group. It suggests that Yoga may serve to increase a personal sense of control, increasing self-confidence, and improving self-efficacy. The results of this study suggest that Yoga can be used as an adjunct for the management of both anxiety and depression. 
Yoga Promotes Physical Activity
Yoga is considered to be a great form of physical activity. By promoting a structured form of activity in which there is the possibility to progress through increasing range, depth and difficulty, we are reducing our risk of developing diseases linked to inactivity. We are facing a long battle against cardiovascular diseases (CVD) - made more prominent by living a sedentary lifestyle - choosing drive through restaurants over walk-ins, taking the lift over the stair, sitting for 8 hour work days and so on.
Yoga promotes a healthier lifestyle as it makes you more conscious of your health decisions. We are given a space to focus on ourselves, our bodies and our minds, taking self-care from a concept to a lived experience. This is important as we want to stay healthy and live a quality life. Building a healthier lifestyle starts in day-to-day choices – Yoga is just one of those choices that creates a positive relationship between your mind and body, and a community for movement.
Returning to facts and figures, it may surprise you that most people don't move enough for their health. The HSE recommended guidelines for adults of at least 30 minutes of daily physical activity across 5 days per week (approximately 150 minutes of moderate activity) is a minimum standard we all need to strive for to limit the impact of chronic diseases, illnesses, and – in simpler terms – allow us to move more easily, faster, and with less effort. Yoga can form part of these minutes, combining flexibility and strength to develop our ability to deal with a changing world.
For teenagers and Young Adults, Yoga can also play a big role. A study conducted by Watts et al as part of the EAT Project (Eating and Activity in Teens and Young Adults) used Yoga as a medium for the promotion of healthier eating and physical activity behaviors. The study included a survey of 1820 participants, 46 participants were then interviewed as a follow-up to the survey.
The survey concluded that those who regularly performed Yoga sessions were more likely to make health-conscious decisions than those who didn't. This included making healthier eating decisions and choosing to be more physically active.  An apple instead of a bag of crisps? The stairs instead of the escalator? A walk with a friend instead of an hour of video games? It's the small things that make the difference, and Yoga is a fantastic tool that influences beyond it’s circle.
 Chang, D. G., Holt, J. A., Sklar, M., & Groessl, E. J. (2016). Yoga as a treatment for chronic low back pain: A systematic review of the literature. Journal of orthopedics & rheumatology, 3(1), 1–8.
 Kolasinski, S. L., Garfinkel, M., Tsai, A. G., Matz, W., Van Dyke, A., & Schumacher, H. R. (2005). Iyengar yoga for treating symptoms of osteoarthritis of the knees: a pilot study. Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.), 11(4), 689–693. https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2005.11.689
 Vijayaraghava, A., Doreswamy, V., Narasipur, O. S., Kunnavil, R., & Srinivasamurthy, N. (2015). Effect of Yoga Practice on Levels of Inflammatory Markers After Moderate and Strenuous Exercise. Journal of clinical and diagnostic research : JCDR, 9(6), CC08–CC12. https://doi.org/10.7860/JCDR/2015/12851.6021
 Deaths 2017 - CSO - Central Statistics Office. (2018). Retrieved 14 March 2021, from https://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/ep/p-vsar/vitalstatisticsannualreport2017/deaths2017/
 Bharshankar, J. R., Bharshankar, R. N., Deshpande, V. N., Kaore, S. B., & Gosavi, G. B. (2003). Effect of yoga on cardiovascular system in subjects above 40 years. Indian journal of physiology and pharmacology, 47(2), 202–206.
 Zaccaro, A., Piarulli, A., Laurino, M., Garbella, E., Menicucci, D., Neri, B., & Gemignani, A. (2018). How Breath-Control Can Change Your Life: A Systematic Review on Psycho-Physiological Correlates of Slow Breathing. Frontiers In Human Neuroscience, 12. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2018.00353
 Mitchell, K. S., Dick, A. M., DiMartino, D. M., Smith, B. N., Niles, B., Koenen, K. C., & Street, A. (2014). A pilot study of a randomized controlled trial of yoga as an intervention for PTSD symptoms in women. Journal of traumatic stress, 27(2), 121–128. https://doi.org/10.1002/jts.21903
 Javnbakht, M., Hejazi Kenari, R., & Ghasemi, M. (2009). Effects of yoga on depression and anxiety of women. Complementary therapies in clinical practice, 15(2), 102–104. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctcp.2009.01.003