13 Times That Yoga Can, Literally, Save Your Life

by Charlotte Phillips

For those of you who think yoga is only for hippies, freaks and anyone who has ever uttered the words “downward dog” with a straight face… think again.

Time and time again, the physical and mental health benefits of yoga have been shown to go beyond giving you better posture and the ability to touch your toes. Yoga gives you something deeper and more innate than those.

There’s got to be a reason celebrities, like Miranda Kerr, practice it so religiously. Some people say they can't even get out of bed without first holding a yoga pose.

And just why do people get so hooked on it? Because it can, literally, save your life.

1. Well, your sex life, at the very least.

In two main ways: practicing yoga regularly increases sexual arousal, and it also promotes increased blood flow throughout the entire body, including the pelvic region, says neurologist Vikas Dhikav in New Delhi.

"It usually takes an hour of yoga a day for four weeks to see improvements," he said. Worth a try.

2. It teaches you to listen to your body.

Part of Arianna Huffington's ethos is about how we don't listen to our bodies enough. How we sleep-deprive them, force-feed them sugar and caffeine, and push ourselves when we should really stop.

By practicing yoga, you learn so much about your body, from its physical limits, like flexibility, to how to focus the mind. This transferable skill is essential for a happier, healthy life.

In fact, NOT doing yoga and the consequences of NOT listening to your body, don't sound pretty. See you on the mats.

3. It stops you from killing yourself.

Mmm, kind of. But, it definitely alleviates depression. Studies, like this one out of Boston University, have shown that practicing yoga causes the body to produce more gamma-aminobutyric acid, a natural chemical produced in the brain that enhances relaxation.

Depression in its severest form could result in isolation, hospitalization or suicide. So, namaste.

4. It means you can ditch the diet.

Yoga's not about extensive cardio and only eating grapes. It doesn't preach deprivation or self-bemoaning. Rather, it helps you tone up and practice mindful eating.

It's not that yoga burns the most calories, just that it changes your approach to food and lifestyle for something much more holistic and rewarding in the long term, according to this article in ACTIVE. I'd say that result is worth a few downwards dogs.

5. Even if you don't ditch the diet... you'll look thinner.

And that's because yoga gives you amazing posture, as it stretches out your core and inner muscles. We all know that sitting or standing straight takes pounds off you. Holding poses also gives long, lean limbs. Sounds like a life-saver to me.

6. You don't sweat the small stuff.

How often have you bemoaned yourself for not running that last mile, for having that fourth coffee, for not being good enough at your job?

We all have a tendency to criticize ourselves and focus on the bad rather than all the good. Yoga is about the opposite, advocating that it doesn't matter how long you hold the pose, how many times you practiced.

It's about appreciating the here and now, and if we could all learn that kind of self-love, the world would be happier.

7. It can help with your asthma.

Asthma may sound petty on the illness index, but can be very serious and life-threatening. After practicing yoga for 10 weeks, patients saw a 43 percent improvement in their asthma symptoms, according to a study carried out by the American College of Sports Medicine. 

Yogis practice deep breathing and focus on the body's every inhale and exhale, which promotes healthy lung function.

8. It helps you sleep better.

Honestly, this is truly life-changing, as anyone who has ever suffered from insomnia knows. Lack of sleep leaves you irritable, hungry for the wrong foods and lacking the ability to fully focus or function.

One solution is yoga, which enables the mind to switch off and induces a healthy state of relaxation before bed, according to the Huffington Post. A sun salutation for sweet dreams? Sold.

9. It can help you have babies.

Practicing yoga doesn't just make for better recreational sex. It delivers results.

It has been proven to increase sperm count and quality, according to this study, published in the International Journal of Yoga, and improves prostate health.

10. It will make you live longer.

Well, it will boost your immune system, according to this Norwegian study, and that's basically the same thing.

Literally, as you lie/stand/crawl on a mat practicing yoga, your immune system is being boosted at a cellular level. In fact, it boosts your overall well-being more than, say, going on a hike.

11. You won't get FOMO.

This is, literally, the only reason I tried yoga: It was killing me that everyone else was suddenly an expert on a topic I knew nothing about.

From Ashtanga to Bikram, most of my friends had experienced some version of yoga and had a great story, while I was laughing at them.

It turns out I was the idiot. Try it, if only to save social face and not miss out.

12. It makes you smarter.

Quite literally, according to this article in Scientific American. People who regularly studied yoga were found to have more brain cells in certain areas of the brain, and key areas of the brain grew in correlation with the number of hours spent practicing yoga.

Um, why aren't we all currently in a Warrior pose?

13. It will make you more open-minded.

In life, we miss out on so much purely because we form pre-judgements. We enter unfamiliar territory with a preconceived notion of what it will be like, and that's neither healthy nor fair to us.

Embrace something new, and you never know what other positive changes could happen.

Photo Courtesy: We Heart It