Mark your calendars! September is National Yoga month, set up by the Yoga Health Foundation to educate the public about the health benefits of yoga and to inspire a healthy lifestyle. You probably already know some of the more obvious health benefits of yoga, like it improves flexibility and therefore can help prevent injury. You probably also know it has been linked to stress reduction, and also improving muscle tone (hello yoga arms).
However, there are many surprising health benefits of yoga you may not know about. Here are some unexpected reasons to pick up your yoga mat:
1. It helps you fight food cravings
Researchers found that practicing yoga regularly can bring more mindfulness to eating and enhance the mind-body connection, making those who practice yoga more likely think about whether or not they really want the fourth cookie before woofing it down. Part of it could be practicing all that yoga breathing brings more awareness to cravings and helps us slow down before acting. Another factor could be yoga’s stress-fighting properties. Since we’re likely to overeat foods high in sugar and fat when we are stressed and seeking out comfort, the fact that yoga is so effective at reducing stress could make it a secret weapon in the fight against obesity.
2. It prevents migraines
A 2007 study showed that migraine sufferers who participated in the study reported fewer and less painful migraines after three months of yoga practice. Although it’s not fully understood, researchers attribute this to a combination of mental stressors and physical misalignment that create migraines and other head and neck pain. An hour and a half of stretching, especially the neck, shoulders and back can do wonders for those who work hunched at a desk all day.
3. It can boost your memory
Yoga may even boost your brain power. Numerous studies show physical exercise can make people more alert — combine physical exercise with reducing mental stress and you may have the winning combo that can help you clear out your mind and focus on more organized thoughts. “By reducing mental stress and physical tension, we are able to recall easier and have more organized thoughts. Improved cognitive function happens when we are able to clear our minds and refresh,” said Bethany Grace Shaw, founder and president of YogaFit, Inc to Everyday Health.
4. It can lower your blood pressure
Yoga can also have profound positive medical effects: Researchers at the University College of Medical Sciences, in Shahdara, New Delhi found that there was a significant decrease in blood pressure for those with type 1 diabetes who practiced yoga for 40 minutes a day for 40 days, according to the Yoga Health Foundation.