6. May Fight Depression
Some studies show that yoga may have an anti-depressant effect and could help decrease symptoms of depression.
This may be because yoga is able to decrease levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that influences levels of serotonin, the neurotransmitter often associated with depression (20Trusted Source).
In one study, participants in an alcohol dependence program practiced Sudarshan Kriya, 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).
Other studies have had similar results, showing an association between practicing yoga and decreased symptoms of depression (21Trusted Source, 22Trusted Source).
Based on these results, yoga may help fight depression, alone or in combination with traditional methods of treatment.
Chronic pain is a persistent problem that affects millions of people and 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 those who suffer from chronic pain.
8. Could Promote Sleep Quality
Poor sleep quality has been associated with obesity, high blood pressure and depression, among other disorders (25Trusted Source, 26Trusted Source, 27Trusted Source).
Studies show that incorporating yoga into your routine could help promote better sleep.
In a 2005 study, 69 elderly patients were assigned to either practice yoga, take an 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 that backs this benefit, demonstrating that it can optimize performance through the use of specific poses that target flexibility and balance.
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 each day could make a big difference for those looking to enhance performance by increasing flexibility and balance.
10. Could Help Improve Breathing
Pranayama, or yogic breathing, is a practice in yoga that focuses on controlling the breath through breathing exercises and techniques.
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 1 out of 7 Americans each year (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’s about paying attention to the taste, smell and texture of your food and noticing any thoughts, feelings or sensations you experience while eating.
This practice has been shown to promote healthy eating habits that help control blood sugar, increase weight loss and treat disordered eating behaviors (40Trusted Source, 41Trusted Source, 42Trusted Source).
Because yoga places a similar emphasis on mindfulness, some 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, finding 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, 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).
For those with and without disordered eating behaviors, practicing mindfulness through yoga can aid in the development of healthy eating habits.
13. Can Increase Strength
In addition to improving flexibility, yoga is a great addition to an exercise routine for its strength-building benefits.
In fact, there are specific poses in yoga that are designed to increase strength and build muscle.
In one study, 79 adults performed 24 cycles of sun salutations — a series of foundational poses often used as a warm-up — six days a week for 24 weeks.
They experienced a significant increase in upper body strength, endurance and weight loss. Women had a decrease in body fat percentage, as well (45Trusted Source).
A 2015 study had similar findings, showing that 12 weeks of practice led to improvements in endurance, strength and flexibility in 173 participants (46Trusted Source).
Based on these findings, practicing yoga can be an effective way to boost strength and endurance, especially when used in combination with a regular exercise routine.