Yoga isn't just another fad exercise with the potential to help you slim down and tone your body. This ancient Indian art has been around for thousands of years, and scientists are increasingly studying the positive effects it can have for bone and joint health.
Increased Bone Density
Bone density is a major predictor of osteoporosis, and women with low bone density are especially susceptible to this crippling disease. Resistance-based training can stimulate the production of new bone-building cells, and some yoga poses -- particularly Warriors and Chair -- force muscles to work against gravity. Over time, this can increase bone density. A small study reported in "Yoga Journal" found that people suffering from bone loss who engaged in a short yoga routine every day experienced increased bone density.
Many people think of flexibility as purely the product of stretching muscles, but flexibility is actually a form of strength. Yoga increases muscle strength due to both resistance and frequent stretching, which can increase your flexibility. It also decreases your likelihood of losses in flexibility that are the result of age or a sedentary lifestyle. While flexibility might seem like a small benefit, flexibility is correlated with a reduced risk of injury. Further, being flexible can make exercise less uncomfortable, making it more likely that you'll continue your routine.
Improved Muscle Tone
Yoga strengthens your muscles over time, which improves their performance. Muscles are attached to bones and run across joints, which means that strong muscles can improve joint function and overall health. For people with joint pain, the improved muscle tone that comes with yoga can be a godsend. Moreover, yoga requires participants to keep joints loose and moving, which can reduce joint pain that is the result of insufficient exercise.
Synovial Fluid Benefits
Synovial joints are joints that release synovial fluid to remain lubricated. Joints like the knees and ankles are synovial joints. Yoga can help to release synovial fluid, keeping these joints more lubricated. Perhaps even more importantly, synovial joints help to lubricate cartilage when the fluid is circulated. By loosening synovial fluid, you increase circulation to both cartilage and joints. This can increase overall joint health in addition to reducing pain.
Decreased Arthritis Pain
Osteoarthritis of the spine is a painful condition associated with aging, though people of any age can suffer from this. Yoga may help improve the pain of arthritis and slow the progression of the disease. A study by Duke Integrative Medicine found that seniors who practiced yoga had decreased pain associated with their arthritis.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.