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The Benefits Of Yoga

If you already practice yoga, you’ll know just how relaxing, energizing and uplifting yoga is

With its triad of gentle movement, flowing breath and mindful attention, you can practice yoga whatever your age, flexibility or fitness level and enjoy that exhilarating sense of physical and mental wellbeing

Studying The Benefits Of yoga

You may have read about the amazing benefits of a given yoga exercise for relieving your back pain, or eradicating your migraines, or sorting out your digestion

Yet, yoga is not reducible to a list of exercises. Yoga is a mindfulness-based body therapy. The contribution of regulated breathing and mindful attention is incalculable and profound

The things that will help your issues are those that address their unique set of causes. So an exercise that will help my back may have little to offer you

Thus, when studying the benefits of yoga researches tend to pass on individual exercises in favour of studying outcomes associated with the practice of yoga, integrated and whole.

And the results, for the most part, are positive indeed

yoga strengthens and relaxes your body to improve your fitness, relieve fatigue and soothe stiffness and pain

The benefits of yoga for your musculoskeletal system range from increasing flexibility & strength and improved your posture, to

  • back pain relief
  • managing pain and stiffness from wear-and-tear arthritis and
  • easing tension-type headache

Yoga calms your body’s stress response to reduce inflammation and reset all your vital functions

Studies show that yoga lowers your blood pressure, slows your heart and calms your breathing, while stimulating digestion, and boosting your immunity to nurture your whole wellbeing

Yoga improves brain function and lifts your mood, reducing stress, anxiety and depression

Yoga has a strongly positive impact on mental wellbeing.

Studies also show that yoga improves cognitive functions like concentration, memory and learning

Yoga & Meditation

The centrepiece of yoga is attention

Yoga is meditation: whether you’re sitting quietly watching your breath, following a guided visualization or paying attention to your body and breath in a yoga posture, you’re practising yoga when you’re paying attention

Attention settles the mind in the here and now, freeing you from past trauma and future anxiety

Attention stills your mind, calms your breath and takes your body from doing to resting

Mindful attention is the thing that makes yoga yoga. And the driving force behind the amazing benefits of yoga. Read on, or try this practical …

the benefits of yoga and meditation

Stress, Rest & The  Benefits of Yoga

Stress: Motivation & Inflammation

Even before you’re born your brain can distinguish between safety and danger. Of necessity danger takes precedence. Faced with a threat, your body responds to counter the challenge or flee to safety

Stress helps you survive. And also deal with everyday challenges. So why is stress bad? The problem is not really stress, but a lack of recovery

Stress is pro-inflammatory. Sustained arousal is linked to the most common diseases of our age: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic inflammation, anxiety and depression

To maintain your physical and mental balance, stress must give way to rest

Rest: Nature’s Cure

The challenge dealt with, danger gives way to safety

Safety triggers a body-wide rest response to reset all your vital functions and let your body recover and replenish its spent resources

Rest down-regulates inflammation, supports healing and repair and resets pain sensitivity

Rest is not doing nothing. Being inactive can feel anything but restful when you’re holding tension or feeling anxious. Indeed, research shows inactivity is linked to poor health

Yoga lets you rest as you move, soothing your nervous system to help you stay cool, calm and healthy

An Ounce Of Practice Is Worth A Ton Of Theory

In the words of my teacher, the late Swami Sivananda Saraswati, yoga is an experience, not an idea

Here’s an outwardly simple but inwardly engaging yoga exercise which we’ll practice 3 ways, each oriented toward your structural, internal and emotional wellbeing. Let’s start but getting comfy

Constructive Rest: Core Exercise

  1. Lie on your back with your knees up, the soles of your feet firmly on the ground, hips’ width apart, and your head comfortably supported on a small cushion or pillow. Place your hands somewhere comfortable
  2. Position your feet to allow for a small amount of space between the middle of your lower back and the ground, just enough to accommodate the back of your flat fingers
    Walking your feet away will increase the space. If there’s space to spare, walk your feet towards you

This position will decompress your spine, free your neck and help you get into restorative rest mode. Enjoy being here anywhere from a minute to an hour

The Health Benefits of Yoga

Yoga For Your Structural Health

The Musculoskeletal Benefits Of Yoga

Yoga is popularly associated with flexibility. But yoga exercises are multifunctional, helping you build strength, tone, endurance and improved posture as effectively as suppleness and mobility

 Yoga For Flexibility

Yoga movements and postures very efficiently lengthen your muscles, tendons and ligaments to improve your mobility and flexibility

Depending how you practice, yoga can reduce tension in your body to unmask your full movement potential. Or it can actively lengthen your muscles, tendons and ligaments for more lasting changes

However, without adequate support, too much flexibility can become instability

Yoga For Strength & Stability

Providing resistance will challenge your muscles to grow strong and resilient

To build muscle bulk you’ll need external props To improve you structural health gravity can provide all the resistance your body needs

True, lying on your back on a pile of blankets won’t strengthen your muscles, though it will give you other benefits. But before you go running off to do high-end dynamic yoga, know that there are alternatives

Classical posture-based yoga works your muscles very effectively. Sustaining a moderate contraction improves strength and tone and enhances your body awareness and posture to help you move with purpose, power and grace

Click on the tabs below to see how yoga can help you maintain a healthy structure

benefits of yoga constructive rest

1- Rest & Decompress

This is a great way to mobilize and decompress your lower back. Move gently and gradually. If you experience pain stop immediately

  1. Settle into constructive rest position
  2. Locate your feet. Breathing out slowly gently press your feet into the ground so your tailbone tucks under and your lower back flattens a little towards the ground
    Inhaling let your back gradually spring back to it’s starting position
  3. Next, you’re going to let the feet sink into the ground. Feel the knees floating and let feet drop down from the knees. As you feel the pressure on the soles of your feet increasing, do you feel your spine soften and lengthen? If you don’t, return to step 2 and try this next time

Roll onto your side, use your hands to sit up, and stand when you’re fully ready

Musculoskeletal Health

1 - Low Back Pain

Back pain has many causes. It can result from injury, dysfunction and even disease

A catch all for back pain in the absence of trapped nerve or other serious signs, mechanical low back pain is the commonest form

Mechanical back pain can appear after straining you back, following an apparently trivial movement, and sometimes for no obvious reason. It’s made better or worse by various positions and movements, and is not associated with tingling, numbness or other signs of nerve entrapment. It typically resolves by itself withing 2-3 weeks. Or it can persist to become chronic

Yoga has been shown to be helpful with this type of back pain, particularly in its persistent, or recurring chronic form

Considered the highest form of evidence, several systematic reviews have found positive evidence for yoga in managing and resolving low back pain, with results including

  1. reduction in pain intensity
  2. improvement in function, and
  3. measurable improvements in quality of life


Effects of Yoga Therapy on Pain, Quality of Life, and Functional Ability in Chronic Low Back Pain Patients. Singh Rupali et al (2016)

A systematic review and meta-analysis of yoga for low back pain. Cramer H, et al (2013).

Yoga As A Treatment For Low Back Pain. A M Diaz et al 2013

2 - Neck Pain

Neck pain is almost as common as low back pain and has an equally broad range of underlying causes

One of the commoner causes of upper back, neck and shoulder pain is poor posture, specifically the head forward posture

Forward head posture is a common consequence of slouching, sitting at a poorly positioned computer screen, or a product of stress

It can also be associated with conditions that increase the forward curve of the upper back, such as osteoporosis

It’s estimated that for every inch your head is forward from the neutral, your neck muscles have to support an extra 4lb of weight

The constructive rest exercise we practiced above is a great way to reduce head forward posture and help relax your neck

Is there evidence that yoga helps with neck pain?

You bet. Though less extensively studied than low-back-pain, two systematic reviews have found yoga benefits neck pain, with the findings demonstrating a reduction in both pain level and pain-related disability


Effects of yoga on chronic neck pain Sang-Dol Kim (2016)

Effectiveness of Iyengar yoga in treating spinal (back and neck) pain: Crow EM et al (2015)

3 - Tension Headache

Tension type headache is the most common form,  with a world-wide prevalence of 50%

The tension can be anywhere in the upper back, shoulders and neck, as well as in the head itself. There is a strong association with stress

At least two systematic reviews of individual trials have found yoga improves the severity, frequency and also duration of pain

Yoga for Treating Headaches Anheyer Det al (2019)

Effects of yoga exercises for headaches Kim, Sang Dol. (2015)

4 - Osteoarthritis

Osteo-arthritis is joint pain from wear-and-tear. It is associated with age, but can affect younger people, for example after injury

Though the joint wear is not significantly reversible, pain and stiffness are: pain can be sometimes better, sometimes worse, and at other times completely absent

For this reason x-ray evidence of wear and tear tells you little about your current state. It’s estimated that there is a 25% correspondence between the xray findings and pain

That means that 75% of the cause of pain in an area affected by wear and tear is due to other factors. The most crucial factor is probably joint function. Where an area is structurally compromised, good junction can make the difference between experiencing pain, or being pain free

Stress, too, plays a significant part. Stress causes muscle tension and increases inflammation, both of which can contribute to joint pain

Fortunately, systematic reviews have found yoga is beneficial for OA related pain and stiffness and significantly improves function

Yoga for Osteoarthritis: R Lauche, et al (2019)

The Effects of Yoga on Pain, Mobility, and Quality of Life in Patients with Knee Osteoarthritis Kan L, et al (2016)

the benefits of yoga for musculoskeletal health

Yoga For Your Vital Health

The Internal Health Benefits Of Yoga

Stress and a sedentary lifestyle are among the top causes of ill health and mortality in adults worldwide today

Short term, stress is essential for survival. It gets your out of bed in the morning, impels you to achieve your dreams and makes you stronger and more resilient. Long term, chronic stress keeps you in a state of heightened arousal, and is strongly associated with some of the most common diseases of our age


Yoga Down Regulates Inflammation

Stress triggers a cascade of hormones which prepares your body for action. A major effect of stress hormones is to increase the level of inflammation in your body. Persistent, chronic inflammation is linked to conditions from heart disease secondary to blood vessel damage, to arthritis, allergies and even mood changes, with emerging evidence showing a strong link between inflammation and depression

By helping you switch from stress to rest yoga helps you not just turn down inflammation, but actively release powerful anti-inflammatory responses which stimulate your body heal and repair

Yoga & Movement Equals Health

Your body is made for movement. Movement strengthens your bones and muscles and maintains your posture, balance and coordination. Regular movement combats depression, improves cognitive function and, according new research, may even retard the onset of dementia

And it isn’t all about cardiovascular exertion. Certainly, adults over 40 who walk for an hour daily live longer than those who walk less. But a different study by Sanjay Sharma, professor of cardiology at St. George’s Hospital in London, has found that just 25 minutes of daily walking can improve your health and fitness sufficiently to put up to 7 years on your life expectancy

Movement serves as a venous and lymphatic pump. Without effective drainage your tissues collect fluid, high in wastes, and low in nutrients. Movement stimulates your circulation to keep your body nourished and healthy



benefits of yoga constructive rest

2- Rest & Restore

Here, we work with the neck to release the Vagus, the principal nerve signalling safety, rest and calm

  1. Settle into constructive rest position
  2. Rest your head slightly raised on firm cushion or paperback book. Position your head so your chin is neither jutting out nor pulled back
  3. With your head in neutral, let the breath out and allow your chin to sink towards your throat. Do you feel the space between the back of your head and neck soften and open?
    The crown of your head will float up, away from your feet, and your neck will lengthen
  4. Stay here for 2-5 minutes

Sit or stand slowly and gradually, keeping your neck soft

the benefits of yoga for internal health

Internal Health

5 - Cardiovascular Health

Some of the top risk factors for cardiovascular disease are raised blood pressure and altered levels of blood cholesterol and other fats

Add to this excess fat around your waist, and higher than normal blood sugar and you have a worrying combination known as metabolic syndrome, a major risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes and for suffering heart attack and stroke

Yoga has been found to reduce the risk factors for cardiovascular health at levels comparable to aerobic exercise

With the exception of blood sugar, yoga has been found to help all the elements of metabolic syndrome

By decreasing physiological arousal yoga reduces circulating stress hormones and bad cholesterol, lowers your heart rate and blood pressure, moderates your breathing pattern and reduces pain perception

A systematic review on yoga for blood pressure has reached similarly positive conclusions

Systematic Review of Yoga Interventions to Promote Cardiovascular Health in Older Adults. Barrows JL, et al (2016)

A systematic review of yoga for heart disease Cramer H, et al (2015)

6 - Respiratory Health

Yoga For Asthma

Asthma is a respiratory disease characterized by intermittent narrowing of the airways due to smooth muscle spasm. Symptoms include wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing

It can be triggered by allergens, exercise or following a common cold

Positive evidence from early reviews has been somewhat refuted as inconclusive. More recent reviews have found moderate evidence that yoga can improve quality of life in asthma sufferers and can be considered an ancillary intervention to conventional management

Yoga and other slow-breathing techniques have also been found helpful in anxiety-related hyperventilation syndrome (HVS) and its milder cousin breathing pattern dysfunction (BPD)

Yoga for asthma: a systematic review and meta-analysis H Cramer, et al (2014)

Yoga For Asthma Zu-Yao Yang, et al (2016)

7 - Irritable Bowel

IBS is a common condition of unknown cause affecting the digestive system. Symptoms include stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation. The condition affects 11 of 26 people globally

Irritable bowel is a diagnosis of exclusion: rule out overt disease and what remains is IBS

Here, too, the benefits of practising yoga are evident, with a 2016 systematic review concluding that ” yoga might be a feasible and safe adjunctive treatment for people with IBS”

Effect of Yoga in the Therapy of Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Systematic Review D Schumann, et al (2016)

8 - Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a disease of unknown origin characterized by muscle & joint pain, fatigue, insomnia, brain-fog and feeling, anxious or depressed

Yoga and other mindfulness-based movement therapies (Qigong & Tai Chi) have been shown to improve sleep, fatigue, depression & health-related quality of life

Yoga provided the additional benefit of pain relief

Efficacy and safety of meditative movement therapies in fibromyalgia syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials Longhurst J, et al (2013)

Yoga For Your Mental Health

The Cognitive & Emotional Health Benefits Of Yoga

Just as danger arouses fight and flight, safety lets your body rest and digest

The pathways to safety are numerous

Breathing is a major link between your body and emotions. Slow breathing is known to stimulate the parasympathetic pathways that help you rest and digest


We used to have five senses. I’ve lost count of how many official senses we have now

Interoception is your ability to sense your inner body. Hunger, thirst and satiety are interoceptive. So are butterflies in your stomach, anxiety in your chest and those gut feelings that you ignore at your peril

Interoception provides a direct link to our emotional world

By improving your felt sense of your own body and helping you observe without judgement yoga offers you a platform for safety to let your body reset and repair and your mind to relax and enjoy

Click the tabs to learn more about the benefits of yoga for your emotional wellbeing

benefits of yoga constructive rest

3- Breathe & Relax

Being with your breath is one the simplest ways of connecting with your inner body. Breathing out slow and long activates rest and reset all your vital organs

Mindfulness of breathing is a pure meditation which you can practice simply to enjoy being, here, now


  1. Settle into constructive rest position
  2. Notice your breath. Breathing through your nose let your body take the inhalation. Now, let the breath out (through your nose) very slowly and quietly
    Allow the out-breath to completely finish. Then wait. Let the in-breath come to you. Allow your body to take in as much air as it wants
    Exhale again, slowly and quietly, letting the breath pause at the end
    If your mind wanders, just bring it back and carry on. If you feel sleepy, open your eyes
  3. Stay with your breath for 3 to 5 minutes

Mental Wellbeing

9 - Stress

A sedentary lifestyle and stress rank among the top killers of adults worldwide

Stress starts with the – largely unconscious –  appraisal of a situation as a threat. This arouses a cascade of hormones such as cortisol, the main stress hormone and fight-flight responses in the sympathetic nervous system to produce effects such as a rise in blood pressure, systemic inflammation, anxiety and a lowering of your immunity, mood and energy

At least one systematic has shown that movement therapies, including yoga, dance and Tai ‘Chi are beneficial for reducing stress and improving your overall health

Another, more recent systematic review on slow-breathing, including yoga, found that these techniques corresponded to increased parasympathetic (rest & digest) activity and brain-wave changes associated with emotional control and psychological well-being 

Effects of yoga on stress management in healthy adults: A systematic review Chon C S, Et al (2011)

How Breath-Control Can Change Your Life: A Systematic Review on Psycho-Physiological Correlates of Slow Breathing A Zaccaro, et al (2018)

10 - Anxiety

Yoga is effective in managing anxiety and is a recognized adjunct to psychotherapy for dealing with anxiety disorder

Yoga also provides a versatile range of tools to match to your needs

Yoga for anxiety: a systematic review of the research evidence. Kirkwood G, et al (2005)

Yoga for Depression and Anxiety: A Systematic Review Hanson, Rachel (2016)

Yoga for anxiety: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials  Cramer H, et al (2018)

11 - Depression

Systematic reviews show yoga to be an effective tool for people with elevated levels of depression, including individuals diagnosed with major depressive disorder

Yoga for Depression and Anxiety: A Systematic Review  Hanson, R (2016)

Yoga for depression: a systematic review and meta-analysis  Cramer H, et al (2013)

12 - Mental Function

The evidence for yoga and other mind-body systems improving cognitive function is strong

Studies show that yoga improves executive functions such as decision making and judgement, as well as memory, attention and processing speed to make you faster, smarter and more productive

Effects of yoga-related mind-body therapies on cognitive function in older adults: A systematic review with meta-analysis Bhattacharyya K K, et al (2021)

Impact of mind-body interventions in older adults with mild cognitive impairment: A systematic review Farhang M, et al (2019)

Yoga and Cognition: A Meta-Analysis of Chronic and Acute Effects  Gothe N P, et al (2015)

the benefits of yoga for mental health

Yoga & Wellness Retreats

Now that you’re familiar with a few of the fantastic benefits of yoga, time to put theory into practice

Join us on one of our range of yoga and wellness retreats here in sunny Spain, and give yourself that well-deserved break and much needed rest:

with beautiful nature walking, craniosacral osteopathy and other healing body-therapies, lashings of top notch veggie food, and of course yoga and meditation

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