Derived from the Sanskrit word “yuji,” meaning yoke or union, yoga is an ancient practice that brings together mind and body. It incorporates breathing exercises, meditation and poses designed to encourage relaxation and reduce stress.  Practicing yoga is said to come with many benefits for both mental and physical health, though not all of these benefits have been backed by science.

Below are the health benefits of Yoga:

1) Improves Flexibility- Moving and stretching in new ways will help you become more flexible, bringing a greater range of motion to tight areas. Over time, you can expect to gain flexibility in your hamstrings, back, shoulders, and hips. As we age, our flexibility usually decreases, especially if you spend a lot of time sitting, which leads to pain and immobility. Yoga can help reverse this process.

2) Perfects your posture- Your head is like a bowling ball—big, round, and heavy. When it's balanced directly over an erect spine, it takes much less work for your neck and back muscles to support it. Move it several inches forward, however, and you start to strain those muscles. Hold up that forward-leaning bowling ball for eight or 12 hours a day and it's no wonder you're tired. And fatigue might not be your only problem. Poor posture can cause back, neck, and other muscle and joint problems. As you slump, your body may compensate by flattening the normal inward curves in your neck and lower back. This can cause pain and degenerative arthritis of the spine.

3) Can decreases stress- Yoga is known for its ability to ease stress and promote relaxation. In fact, multiple studies have shown that it can decrease the secretion of cortisol, the primary stress hormone. One study demonstrated the powerful effect of yoga on stress by following 24 women who perceived themselves as emotionally distressed. After a three-month yoga program, the women had significantly lower levels of cortisol. They also had lower levels of stress, anxiety, fatigue and depression. When used alone or along with other methods of alleviating stress, such as meditation, yoga can be a powerful way to keep stress in check.

4) Teaches Better Breathing- Most of us take shallow breaths and don't give much thought to how we breathe. Yoga breathing exercises, called pranayama, focus our attention on breathing and teach us how to take deeper breaths, which benefits the entire body. Certain types of breath can also help clear the nasal passages (helpful for people with allergies) and even calm the nervous system, which has physical and mental benefits on and off the mat.

5) Drains your lymph and boosts immunity- When you contract and stretch muscles, move organs around, and come in and out of yoga postures, you increase the drainage of lymph (some viscous fluid rich in immune cells). This helps the lymphatic system fight infection, destroy cancerous cells, and dispose of the toxic waste products of cellular functioning.

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