Yoga is a popular practice in practically every part of the world. It is said to improve mental health, flexibility, and balance, as well as give excellent fitness practice. As more and more people get into it, it begs the question, is yoga all it’s cracked up to be?
Yoga is not overrated. Some yogis give it credit where none is needed, but overall, yoga indeed is an incredible physical and mental practice that can improve heart health and metabolism, help people struggling with anxiety and depression, and ensure overall well-being.
People often claim that yoga is overrated because yogis tend to exaggerate its effects, making yoga seem like a magic pill able to cure anything. While anything that sounds too good to be true probably is, yoga is still extremely effective in many mental and physical health aspects. In this article, I will go through every effect yoga is claimed to have on the human mind and body, providing research data and scientific evidence.
The Effects of Yoga on Mental Health
Yoga, just as any other form of physical exercise, will boost our mood by the end of the session. Regular practice will result in an overall increased level of serotonin, which helps people who suffer from anxiety and depression.
The ever-so-important breathing practices of yoga help improve your focus and achieve tranquility. With regular training, one can learn how to be present in the moment, calm down, and have better control over their mind. These skills are amazing for reducing stress and are also extremely helpful for people who struggle with anxiety or depression.
Apart from that, consistent yoga practice impacts your brain (if you struggle to create a yoga routine, you can find all the essential tips here). It influences the hypothalamus, which, among its other functions, is also responsible for emotional responses.
Regular yoga training helps restore the protective mechanisms that regulate your responses to stress, decreasing it significantly and achieving a more balanced and peaceful state of mind.
While all of the above is true, yoga is not a universal solution for mental health issues. It is great as a complementary therapy and can achieve terrific results, improving your overall well-being and developing useful skills that will help you fight anxiety and depression.
Still, it is crucial to properly address mental health issues, combining various approaches and, most importantly, working with a therapist to determine the right cause of action. Relying solely on yoga in such matters is nothing short of dangerous.
While yoga is not a magic treatment able to cure mental health issues, it can help a lot. Many people turn to it as a complementary therapy to support the effects of medicine and therapy sessions. These approaches are team players. Everyone is different, and yoga can step in where medicine or conversations with your therapist don’t quite achieve the desired results.
The Effects of Yoga on Heart Health
Among the various effects yoga has on the human body, you have probably heard heart health mentioned quite often. Yogis promote the practice as a means to normalize blood pressure, stimulate blood flow, and improve the effectiveness of your heart, to the point where it can potentially prevent heart attacks and other medical conditions.
Is it all true? Let’s get the facts.
Research  indicates that yoga can be an effective way to avoid heart-related medical conditions. It stimulates blood flow, making it more efficient and thus increasing the efficiency of the heart. It also improves mental health, reducing anxiety and stress, which also contributes to preventing heart failure and ischaemic heart disease.
What is more, yoga can also be helpful for the rehabilitation of people with chronic heart diseases. Of course, it is only a supplementary approach. Still, physical exercise dramatically contributes to heart health, and yoga practice shows impressive results while not putting too much stress on the heart and not being too demanding.
Regular exercise improves heart health and is one of the main recommendations for preventing heart attacks. That is true for any type of exercise. However, yoga, which doesn’t involve much movement or visible activity, holds no worse than other types of fitness. A lifestyle that fully embraces yoga practice leads to better heart health and prevents dangerous conditions.
The Effectiveness of Yoga as Physical Exercise
Static positions instead of active movement are what makes yoga stand out among other forms of fitness. Yogis claim that this approach works wonders. Is it worth it, though, if compared to other types of physical activity?
This actually depends on what type of yoga you’re doing (more on the differences between yoga styles in this article). Some yoga sessions, such as power yoga, revolve around stimulating your muscle strength so much that they can be actually considered strength training.
If your goal is to build muscle and you want to combine it with spiritual and breathing practices, yoga is an excellent choice. It also works great for people who are not into weight training, can’t afford or simply don’t want to get a gym membership, or have restrictions regarding this type of physical activity due to a medical condition. If the latter is the case, consult a specialist before getting into yoga practice.
But what about the actual activity? Each yoga session feels like a full-on cardio workout, and the enthusiasts often claim that it is just as good for you as any other type of physical activity, or even better.
That is, however, not exactly true. Research  indicates that, despite being a great physical practice in many ways, the lack of actual activity during yoga practice does not make it sufficient to substitute classic fitness. In fact, the levels of activity can be compared to walking on a treadmill at the speed of 2 miles (3.2 km) an hour.
Moving your body is essential, and despite the endurance yoga requires to last through a practice, it does not involve enough physical activity to stand comparison with gym training. Combining yoga with regular cardio exercises is best to ensure your body is strong and healthy.
Effects of Yoga on Metabolism
Finally, I want to mention the great benefits of yoga for your metabolism. This topic is probably more researched than others on this list and thus less controversial, but I would like to discuss it anyways.
Improved metabolism is a goal for many, but especially for people who suffer from or have a risk of getting diabetes. Studies show that yoga is highly effective in terms of glycemic control, increasing the sensitivity to insulin, which means glucose is processed more effectively and its levels decrease.
There are studies  that even suggest it can be as effective as medicine, but that should be taken with a grain of salt. Still, research suggests that yoga can significantly improve metabolism and reduce sugar, contributing to your overall health and well-being.
The amount of praise yoga receives makes people understandably question whether it’s worth all the fuss. It is becoming increasingly popular to claim that yoga is overrated, though that is simply not true. Yoga has many positive effects on your body and mind, such as:
- Reduced stress.
- Improved anxiety and depression.
- Better heart health.
- Stabilized blood pressure.
And many others! Making yoga a part of your daily routine will definitely pay off, so if you’re still having doubts, give it a try!
-  BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies: Does practicing hatha yoga satisfy recommendations for intensity of physical activity which improves and maintains health and cardiovascular fitness?
-  Yoga & Physical Therapy: How Might Yoga Work? An Overview of Potential Underlying
-  Scinapse: Beneficial Effects of Yoga Lifestyle on Reversibility of Ischaemic Heart Disease: Caring Heart Project of International Board of Yoga