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A lady practices yoga on the summit of Mt Eden as the sun struggles to shine through a blanket of fog over Auckland City on May 4, 2016 in Auckland, New Zealand.

Yoga and meditation offers physical and mental health benefits for people of all ages. The two go hand-in-hand and if you pick up this sacred practice (which dates back to 2700 B.C.)  you will notice benefits to your body and mind. But the goal of yoga is more far-reaching than that. “Yoga is about harmonizing oneself with the universe. It is the technology of aligning individual geometry with the cosmic, to achieve the highest level of perception and harmony,” India’s Ministry of External Affairs said.

Yoga doesn’t adhere to any particular religion, belief system or community; it has always been approached as a technology for inner well-being. Anyone who practices yoga with involvement can reap its benefits, regardless of one’s faith, ethnicity or culture.

1. Yoga Helps Alleviate Back Pain:

If you’re over the age of 20, it is almost guaranteed that you’ve got some back issues. Yoga is as good as basic stretching for easing pain and improving mobility in people with lower back pain. The American College of Physicians recommends yoga as a first-line treatment for chronic low back pain.

Try: Cat-Cow Pose
Get on all fours, placing your palms directly under your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips. First, inhale, as you let your stomach drop down toward the floor with your head raising towards the sky. As you exhale, draw your navel toward your spine, with your head following.

Try: Happy Baby
Lay flat on your back and grab the inner soles of your feet. Rock side to side for even more low back muscular massaging.

2. Yoga Helps To Ease Arthritis Symptoms:

Gentle yoga has been shown to ease some of the discomfort of tender, swollen joints for people with arthritis, according to a Johns Hopkins review of 11 recent studies. Osteopenia, balance issues, oncology and chronic pain also benefit from the practice of gentle, or Hatha yoga.

3. Yoga Benefits Your Heart:

Regular yoga practice may reduce levels of stress and body-wide inflammation, contributing to healthier hearts. Several of the factors contributing to heart disease, including high blood pressure and excess weight, can also be addressed through yoga.

Try: Downward Dog
Get on your hands and knees, like how you start to set up for Cat-Cow, then tuck your toes under and rise up through your hips with your palms fanned out on the ground. Keep a slight bend in your knees, while you pedal out your legs giving yourself a deeper stretch.

4. Yoga Helps You To Fall Asleep Easier:

Research by John Hopkins Medicine shows that a consistent bedtime yoga routine can help you get in the right mindset and prepare your body to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Try: Lying Butterfly Pose
Lie on your back, allowing your knees to fall open while pressing the soles of your feet together. If that’s too intense, support your knees with pillows.

Try: Corpse Pose (Savasana)
One of my favorite ways to end a yoga session is to get lost in a Savasana pose. To achieve this ultimate form of relaxation, lie flat on your back with your arms and legs out wherever comfortable. Keep your hands open, palms up. Allow your ankles to roll open. You should feel completely relaxed from head to toe. Breathe slowly and evenly. Take it a step further by doing a body scan: start from the top of your head, and as you become aware of each body part, think of relaxing all the muscles and feel the tension release.

5. Yoga Can Boost Your Mood and Energy:

You may feel increased mental and physical energy, a boost in alertness and enthusiasm, and fewer negative feelings after getting into a routine of practicing yoga and meditating.

Try: Mountain Pose
Mountain Pose is empowering and grounding. It increases awareness of your mind/body connection and enhances your ability to be mindful and present. This is the perfect feel-good pose to connect to your deep, conscious breathing.

Begin by standing with your feet hip-distance apart and a slight bend in the knees. Inhale as you raise your arms overhead, shoulders dropped, breathing deeply to keep your calm sense of stability, grounding and presence.

6. Yoga Can Help To Manage and Relieve Stress and Anxiety:

According to the National Institutes of Health, scientific evidence shows that yoga supports stress management, mental health, mindfulness, healthy eating, weight loss and quality sleep.

Try It: Corpse Pose (Savasana)
Lie down with your limbs gently stretched out, away from the body, with your palms facing up. Try to clear your mind while breathing deeply. You can hold this pose for 5 to 15 minutes.

7. Yoga Improves Strength, Balance and Flexibility:

Slow movements and deep breathing increase blood flow and warm up muscles, while holding a pose can build strength and increase balance.

Try: Tree Pose
Balance on one foot, while holding the other foot to your calf or above the knee (but never on the knee) at a right angle. Try to focus on one spot in front of you to assist in maintaining your balance.

8. Yoga Can Help You To Connect with a Supportive Community:

Participating in yoga classes in person or online can connect you with like-minded individuals who are seeking a path to better physical and mental health. The yogi community is filled with positive people who want to support your improvement of lifestyle and strengthening your mental fortitude.

9. Yoga Can Encourage Better Self-Care Practices:

Once you begin the practice of yoga and meditation on a regular basis, you will notice that you will want to take care of yourself in other ways. Whether your interests are skincare, taking baths, cooking, cleaning your space or reading, yoga and meditation helps you re-prioritize doing the things that make you feel good.

10. Yoga Helps To Prevent Cartilage and Joint Breakdown:

Each time you practice yoga, you take your joints through their full range of motion. This can help prevent degenerative arthritis or mitigate disability by “squeezing and soaking” areas of cartilage that normally aren’t used. Joint cartilage is like a sponge — it receives fresh nutrients only when its fluid is squeezed out and a new supply can be soaked up. Without proper sustenance, neglected areas of cartilage can eventually wear out, exposing the underlying bone like worn-out brake pads.

11. Yoga Helps Promote Better Bone Health:

Weight-bearing exercises strengthen bones and helps ward off osteoporosis. Many postures in yoga require that you lift your own weight. And some, like Downward- and Upward-Facing Dog, help strengthen the arm bones, which are particularly vulnerable to osteoporotic fractures. In an unpublished study conducted at California State University, Los Angeles, yoga practice increased bone density in the vertebrae. Yoga’s ability to lower levels of the stress hormone (cortisol) may help keep calcium in the bones.

12. Yoga Increases Blood Flow:

Yoga gets your blood flowing, helping with circulation especially in your hands and feet. Yoga also gets more oxygen to your cells, which function better as a result. Twisting poses wring out venous blood from internal organs and allow oxygenated blood to flow in once the twist is released. Inverted poses encourage venous blood from the legs and pelvis to flow back to the heart, where it can be pumped to the lungs to be freshly oxygenated. This can help if you have swelling in your legs from heart or kidney problems. Yoga also boosts levels of hemoglobin and red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the tissues. This thins the blood by making platelets less sticky and by cutting the level of clot-promoting proteins in the blood which can lead to a decrease in heart attacks and strokes since blood clots are often the cause of these killers.

13. Yoga Can Help Boost Your Immune System:

When you contract and stretch muscles, move organs around, and come in and out of yoga postures, you increase the drainage of lymph (a 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.

14. Yoga Helps You To Focus:

An important component of yoga is focusing on the present. Studies have found that regular yoga practice improves coordination, reaction time, memory, and even IQ scores. People who practice Transcendental Meditation demonstrate the ability to solve problems and acquire and recall information better.

15. Yoga Can Help Increase Self-Esteem:

Many of us suffer from chronic low self-esteem, whatever the level of it may be. Through yoga and meditation, you’ll get a stronger sense of self-worth. If you practice regularly with an intention of self-examination and betterment those negative, judgmental thoughts will be replaced with feelings of gratitude, empathy and forgiveness of the body you were given.

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