13 Proven Benefits of Yoga for Students
19 March 2021
Scientists and Health Professionals have been recommending Yoga and Meditation for centuries. Considered to be one of the best ways to keep your physical and mental health in check. With that in mind, we thought we’d share 13 benefits of Yoga for students that are actually supported by science. Hopefully this guide can inspire you to get back on the mat & bring some zen into your lockdown life.
1.Yoga Can Decrease Stress
Yoga is known for its ability to ease stress and promote relaxation. (Perfect for our stressed out students who have been on lockdown for the majority of the academic year during 2020/2021).
In fact, studies by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) have shown that yoga can decrease the secretion of cortisol, the primary stress hormone responsible for regulating a wide range of body processes including metabolism & immune response. (2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source).
One study demonstrated the powerful effect of yoga on stress by following 24 women who perceived themselves as emotionally distressed. A controlled clinical trial, by the National Library of Medicine, found women that participated in a 3 month yoga programme demonstrated the following:
Pronounced and significant improvements in perceived stress, anxiety, wellbeing, vigor, fatigue & depression. Physical well-being also increased. Salivary cortisol decreased significantly after participation in a yoga class.
This study can be found on the NCBI website here.
After the program, the women had significantly lower levels of cortisol. They also reported reduced stress, anxiety, fatigue and depression (4Trusted Source).
Used alone, or along with other methods of alleviating stress, such as meditation, yoga can be a powerful way to keep stress in check.
As a student, during your studies may be the first time you start to experience feelings of anxiety, this could be due to living away from home for the first time, or feeling the pressure of studies mounting up on you during lockdown.
Many people begin practicing yoga as a way to cope with these feelings of anxiety. By implementing good self-care habits at a young age, you can really benefit from the self soothing techniques you learn while practising yoga.
Interestingly enough, there is quite a bit of research showing that yoga can help reduce anxiety.
In one study, 34 women diagnosed with an anxiety disorder participated in yoga classes twice weekly for two months.
At the end of the study, those who practiced yoga had significantly lower levels of anxiety than the control group (6Trusted Source).
Another study followed 64 women with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is characterized by severe anxiety and fear, following exposure to a traumatic event.
After 10 weeks, the women who practiced yoga once weekly had fewer symptoms of PTSD. In fact, 52% of participants no longer met the criteria for PTSD at all (7Trusted Source).
It’s not entirely clear how yoga is able to reduce symptoms of anxiety. However, it highlights the importance of being present in the moment and finding a sense of peace, which could help treat anxiety.
3. May Reduce Inflammation
In addition to improving your mental health, some studies suggest that practicing yoga may reduce inflammation as well.
Inflammation is a normal immune response, but chronic inflammation can contribute to the development of pro-inflammatory diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer (8Trusted Source).
A 2015 study divided 218 participants into two groups: those who practiced yoga regularly and those who didn’t. Both groups then performed moderate and strenuous exercises to induce stress.
At the end of the study, the individuals who practiced yoga had lower levels of inflammatory markers than those who didn’t (9Trusted Source).
Similarly, a small 2014 study showed that 12 weeks of yoga reduced inflammatory markers in breast cancer survivors with persistent fatigue (10Trusted Source).
More research is needed to confirm beneficial effects of yoga on inflammation. But, these findings indicate it may help protect against certain diseases caused by chronic inflammation.
4. Could Improve Heart Health
Heart health is an essential component of overall health. Studies show that yoga may help improve heart health and reduce several risk factors for heart disease.
One study found that participants over 40 years of age who practiced yoga for five years had a lower blood pressure and pulse rate than those who didn’t (11Trusted Source).
Some research also suggests that incorporating yoga into a healthy lifestyle could help slow the progression of heart disease.
A study on 113 heart disease patients looked at the effects of yoga, combined with dietary modifications and stress management as a lifestyle change. The study included one year of yoga training.
Participants saw a 23% decrease in total cholesterol and a 26% reduction in “bad” LDL cholesterol. Additionally, the progression of heart disease stopped in 47% of patients (13Trusted Source).
It’s unclear how much of a role yoga may have had versus other factors like diet. Yet it can minimize stress, one of the major contributors to heart disease (14Trusted Source).
5. Yoga Improves Quality of Life
Yoga is becoming increasingly common as an adjunct therapy to improve quality of life for many individuals.
In one study, 135 seniors were assigned to either six months of yoga, walking or a control group. Practicing yoga significantly improved quality of life, as well as mood and fatigue, compared to the other groups (15Trusted Source).
Other studies have looked at how yoga can improve quality of life and reduce symptoms in patients with cancer.
One study followed women with breast cancer undergoing chemotherapy. Yoga decreased symptoms of chemotherapy, such as nausea and vomiting, while also improving overall quality of life (16Trusted Source).
A similar study looked at how eight weeks of yoga affected women with breast cancer. At the end of the study, the women had less pain and fatigue with improvements in levels of invigoration, acceptance and relaxation (17Trusted Source).
Other studies have found that yoga may help improve sleep quality, enhance spiritual well-being, improve social function and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression in patients with cancer (18Trusted Source, 19Trusted Source).
Some studies show that yoga may have an anti-depressant effect and could help decrease symptoms of depression.
In one study, participants in an alcohol dependence program practiced Sudarshan Kriya. This is a specific type of yoga that focuses on rhythmic breathing.
After two weeks, participants had fewer symptoms of depression and lower levels of cortisol. They also had lower levels of ACTH, a hormone responsible for stimulating the release of cortisol (2Trusted Source).
Based on these results, yoga may help fight depression, alone or in combination with traditional methods of treatment.
7. Could Reduce Chronic Pain
Chronic pain is a persistent problem affecting millions of people. It has a range of possible causes, from injuries to arthritis.
There is a growing body of research demonstrating that practicing yoga could help reduce many types of chronic pain.
In one study, 42 individuals with carpal tunnel syndrome either received a wrist splint or did yoga for eight weeks.
At the end of the study, yoga was found to be more effective in reducing pain and improving grip strength than wrist splinting (23Trusted Source).
Another study in 2005 showed that yoga could help decrease pain and improve physical function in participants with osteoarthritis of the knees (24Trusted Source).
Although more research is needed, incorporating yoga into your daily routine may be beneficial for chronic pain sufferers.
8.Could Improve Sleep Quality
Studies show that incorporating yoga into your routine could help promote better sleep.
69 elderly patients took part in a 2005 study. They were assigned to practice yoga, take a herbal preparation or be part of the control group.
The yoga group fell asleep faster, slept longer and felt more well-rested in the morning than the other groups (28Trusted Source).
Another study looked at the effects of yoga on sleep in patients with lymphoma. They found that it decreased sleep disturbances, improved sleep quality and duration and reduced the need for sleep medications (29Trusted Source).
Though the way it works is not clear, yoga has been shown to increase the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness (30Trusted Source).
Yoga also has a significant effect on anxiety, depression, chronic pain and stress — all common contributors to sleep problems.
9.Improves Flexibility and Balance
Many people add yoga to their fitness routine to improve flexibility and balance.
There is considerable research to support this claim. A recent study looked at the impact of 10 weeks of yoga on 26 male college athletes. Doing yoga significantly increased several measures of flexibility and balance, compared to the control group (31Trusted Source).
Another study assigned 66 elderly participants to either practice yoga or calisthenics, a type of body weight exercise.
After one year, total flexibility of the yoga group increased by nearly four times that of the calisthenics group (32Trusted Source).
A 2013 study also found that practicing yoga could help improve balance and mobility in older adults (33Trusted Source).
Practicing just 15–30 minutes of yoga daily could increase both flexibility and balance.
10. Could Help Improve Breathing
Most types of yoga incorporate these breathing exercises, and several studies have found that practicing yoga could help improve breathing.
In one study, 287 college students took a 15-week class where they were taught various yoga poses and breathing exercises. At the end of the study, they had a significant increase in vital capacity (34Trusted Source).
Vital capacity is a measure of the maximum amount of air that can be expelled from the lungs. It is especially important for those with lung disease, heart problems and asthma.
Another study in 2009 found that practicing yogic breathing improved symptoms and lung function in patients with mild-to-moderate asthma (35Trusted Source).
Improving breathing can help build endurance, optimize performance and keep your lungs and heart healthy.
11.May Relieve Migraines
Migraines are severe recurring headaches that affect an estimated 6 million people here in the UK. (36Trusted Source).
Traditionally, migraines are treated with medications to relieve and manage symptoms.
However, increasing evidence shows that yoga could be a useful adjunct therapy to help reduce migraine frequency.
A 2007 study divided 72 patients with migraines into either a yoga therapy or self-care group for three months. Practicing yoga led to reductions in headache intensity, frequency and pain compared to the self-care group (37Trusted Source).
Another study treated 60 patients with migraines using conventional care with or without yoga. Doing yoga resulted in a greater decrease in headache frequency and intensity than conventional care alone (38Trusted Source).
Researchers suggest that doing yoga may help stimulate the vagus nerve, which has been shown to be effective in relieving migraines (39Trusted Source).
12. Promotes Healthy Eating Habits
Mindful eating, also known as intuitive eating, is a concept that encourages being present in the moment while eating.
It involves paying attention to the taste, smell and texture of your food. It requires you to acknowledge any feelings or sensations you experience while eating.
Intuitive eating can promote healthy eating habits. These can help control blood sugar, increase weight loss and treat disordered eating behaviors. (40Trusted Source, 41Trusted Source, 42Trusted Source).
Yoga places a similar emphasis on mindfulness, studies show that it could be used to encourage healthy eating behaviors.
One study incorporated yoga into an outpatient eating disorder treatment program with 54 patients. The study found that yoga helped reduce both eating disorder symptoms and preoccupation with food (43Trusted Source).
Another small study looked at how yoga affected symptoms of binge eating disorder. Binge eating is a disorder characterized by compulsive overeating and a feeling of loss of control.
Yoga was found to cause a decrease in episodes of binge eating, an increase in physical activity and a small decrease in weight (44Trusted Source). Practicing mindfulness through yoga can aid in the development of healthy eating habits.
Here are some useful links if you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder:
BEAT (Beat Eating Disorders) also have a student support helpline number: 0808 801 0811
ABC (Anorexia and Bulimia Care) provide support & advice for anyone affected by eating problems. ABC helpline number: 03000 11 12 13
13. Can Increase Strength
In addition to improving flexibility, yoga is a great addition to an exercise routine for its strength-building benefits. There are even specific poses in yoga that are designed to increase strength and build muscle.
79 adults performed 24 cycles of sun salutations. (A series of foundational poses often used as a warm-up) for one study. They did this for 24 weeks, six days a week .
They experienced a significant increase in upper body strength, endurance and weight loss. Women also saw a decrease in body fat percentage. (45Trusted Source).
A 2015 study had similar findings. It showed that 12 weeks of practice led to improvements in endurance, strength and flexibility in 173 participants. (46Trusted Source).
Yoga can be an effective way to boost strength and endurance, especially when combined with a regular exercise routine.
Take the time to practice 20 minutes of yoga twice a day can have profound effects on your overall health.
The GLC Team wish you a peaceful weekend. Namaste!