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Photo of a person in yoga's tree pose.
Photo by Chris Thomaidis

Yoga Is Good for You

But just what are the health benefits?

Studies have found that yoga can reduce stress and improve fitness. But researchers are still investigating many of the health benefits credited to the 5,000-year-old mental, physical and spiritual practice. Will the downward dog bring you peace of mind and a trim physique? We asked several professors in U of T’s Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education for their expert opinions.

Does yoga improve the mind-body connection?
Research suggests that meditation can reduce brain activity that would otherwise interfere with motor performance. So, your body may be better prepared to succeed at many motor skills, including maintaining yoga postures, when your mind is in a meditative state.

Does yoga promote calmness and peace of mind?
One needs to practice yoga in a comfortable non-judgmental space and the individual must be able to be mindful. Individuals who bring competitiveness to yoga may not achieve peace of mind.

Do those long and deep inhalations and exhalations help with hypertension and overall heart health?
Yoga may offer some value in heart health and hypertension therapy but larger, more sophisticated studies are required to confirm the consistency and extent of benefit.

Do yoga twists bring fresh nutrients to the spine and flush out waste?
Yoga’s cat-cow motions are especially good. But poses that bend and twist the spine to extremes can result in relatively high stresses being developed in spinal ligaments and intervertebral discs.

Can hot yoga help you to lose weight?
Hot yoga raises your metabolic rate, but many forms of exercise do this better. If you do experience any weight loss during a hot yoga session, it’s probably a result of fluid loss or profuse sweating.

Does yoga’s deep breathing better oxygenate the blood than short shallow breaths?
Really shallow breathing is not good. But deep breathing is likely no better than normal breathing at transporting oxygen into the lungs.

Can yoga kickstart your sex drive?
Yoga helps improve self-esteem and self-confidence, which are both important to instilling a sense of comfort being naked and even more adventurous with sex.

With commentary from Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education professors Tyson Beach, Jack Goodman, Ira Jacobs, Catherine Sabiston and Luc Tremblay.

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