In 2014 the UN declared June 21 as the International Day of Yoga after a call from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to adopt the day as a global celebration of the practice.
Often seen as a holistic approach to health and well-being, many recent studies have shown that yoga can have significant health benefits on both body and mind. Here we have rounded up some of these health benefits and the reasons to get on the mat on Yoga Day, to celebrate the event and try this ancient Indian tradition for yourself.
Yoga can improve brain health
The benefits of yoga and exercise in general for good cognitive health have already been shown in many recent studies, helping to reduce the risk of developing diseases such as Alzheimer’s. And in a study published just last month, and the first to compare yoga and meditation against memory training, researchers from UCLA and Australia’s University of Adelaide found that a combination of the two could also help improve cognitive function.
Yoga can improve posture
Cameron Shayne the founder of Budokon Yoga, a style particularly popular with men, says that “Out of shape men especially benefit from postural yoga practice almost immediately because it lengthens and strengthens soft tissue, improves blood circulation, and relieves emotional tension,” with recent studies also showing that yoga and meditation, included in yoga styles such as Kundalini, can help with back pain.
Yoga can alleviate arthritis
A study published last year in The Journal of Rheumatology and thought to be the largest randomized trial ever to explore yoga’s effect on arthritis patients found that just eight weeks of yoga classes improved arthritis symptoms of patients with one of two common forms of the disease.
Those who took part in the yoga classes demonstrated a 20 percent improvement in pain, energy levels, walking pace, physical function, and reported being better able to perform physical tasks at work and at home, with the effects still apparent nine months after the study ended.
Yoga can boost your mood
The same study that looked at the health benefits of yoga for sufferers of arthritis also found that after eight weeks of classes patients also reported an improved mood as well as an improvement in their symptoms, whilst the study that looked at the effects of yoga and meditation on memory training also found patients showed bigger improvements in levels of depression, anxiety, coping skills and resilience to stress.
Yoga can help you sleep
A 2015 large-scale US study of over 400,000 adults taking part in various different physical activities found that yoga was one of the most effective in helping you sleep better and achieving a minimum of seven hours a night, while a small clinical trial published in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s Internal Medicine found that meditation, a part of many yoga classes, can help those with disturbed sleep achieve a deeper sleep and more restorative night of rest.
Yoga can help cancer sufferers
The results of a clinical trial published in the Journal of Cancer Survivorship published late 2015 found that cancer patients who took in a mindfulness-based stress reduction program, practicing activities such as yoga and meditation, improved the symptoms of cognitive impairment that occur as a result of cancer treatment. And in a different study also published at the end of last year by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, the team found that men who underwent radiation treatment for prostate cancer could stabilize and even decrease the side effects of the treatment, including erectile dysfunction, urinary incontinence, and cancer-related fatigue, with yoga.
You can find out more about the practice of yoga and also search for events in your area on the International Day of Yoga website.