Did you know that yoga was practiced by our ancestors over 5,000 years ago?

Well, according to ancient texts it was, and while many modern-day thinkers see yoga as another form of exercise, our ancestors have long referenced yoga as a powerful tool for nurturing the mind, body and soul.

Admittedly, the idea of bending, stretching, twisting and manipulating your body to improve well-being may seem counter-intuitive, but modern science confirms that the health benefits of yoga are far reaching.

Still not convinced that yoga is good for you?

Let's dig a little deeper into the health benefits of yoga.

#1 Yoga Improves Strength and Flexibility

Yoga helps you build a stronger, more flexible body with its unique approach to manipulating the body's various muscle groups. Power yoga is one form of yoga that can really strengthen and increase the bodies flexibility as it combines sun saltations (poses) with cadio and strength training exercises.

One study carried out by the WebMD group concluded that individuals can improve their flexibility by up to 35% after practicing yoga a few minutes a day for 8 just weeks.

#2 Yoga Improves Posture

Yoga strengthens core muscles which help support proper posture. Whilst this may not seem a major issue, having poor posture can lead to unrelated health conditions such as cramps, headaches and even gastrointestinal discomfort! Yoga can help prevent this and you will walk tall and proud.

A study was undertaken by researchers at the School of Podiatric Medicine in Philadelphia. This study involved 24 middle aged females who enrolled in a 9 week program of Iygengar yoga. The study concluded that the subjects improved their posture, flexibilty and balance through Iygengar yoga.

#3 Yoga Alleviates Stress

Yoga consists of mindfulness exercises through meditation and breathing exercises. This means you are more present and less concerned over past or future events which fuel stress and worry.

Psychiatrist John Denninger of Harvard Medical School headed a five year study which concluded that yoga stimulates key genes linked to stress. The study used neuro- imaging and genomics technology to measure the psychological impact of mind-body techniques with detailed accuracy. It's reported that the findings may see approvals for doctors to use alternate means for tackling stress related conditions.

#4 Yoga Improves Sleep

Yoga expels physical energy and balances the mind which means you sleep better at night. There have been numerous studies on the benefits of yoga for sleep but none more profound than a recent study undertaken by researchers at the Harvard Medical School.

This study involved subjects with varying degrees of insomnia. The subjects practiced basic yoga everyday for 8 weeks, subjects also kept sleep diaries prior to and during the 8 week study. The study concluded that yoga improved the subjects sleep efficiency, duration of sleep, and reduced the amount of time it took to fall asleep.

#5 Yoga Aides Weight Loss

Yoga isn't the best tool for burning fat but it can certainly help you lose a little weight. Yoga burns calories (key to weight loss), relieves pain (lengthier workouts), and reduces stress (addressing emotional eating).

A 2005 study was carried out by Alan Kristal, DPH, MPH to determine the benefits of yoga for weight loss. This study involved 15,500 subjects and way too many variables to mention in this article. Their findings? "Those practicing yoga who were overweight to start with lost roughly 5 pounds during the same time period those not practicing yoga gained 14 pounds," says Kristal.

#6 Yoga Tones Your Muscles

Yoga really does work various muscle groups and can help you build lean muscle and tone various muscle groups. The great thing is that this can be achieved without over-enduring workout regimens and you wont end up bulking out and gaining excessive muscle mass.

Yoga Improves Mindfulness

Yoga very much focuses your attention on the present moment, the here and now, as you go about your mindful breathing, stretches, and postures. As you become more skilled in mindful breathing and relaxation, you can then carry this skill-set with you into everyday life for improved well-being 24/7.

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