As our lives become more hectic and frenetic—with jammed-full calendars and a seemingly constant stream of messages pinging our phones and computers—self-care practices become paramount. “When people can use simple tools to relax, they feel better about themselves and more in charge,” explains Martin Rossman, MD, a clinical faculty member at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center, and author of The Worry Solution: Using Your Healing Mind to Turn Stress and Anxiety into Better Health and Happiness.
As Rossman and other experts will tell you: self-care practices can relieve mental stress, melt muscle tension, and help you feel confident that, yes, you can tackle your lengthy to-do list and handle whatever else may come.
The Self-Care Benefits of Yoga
Yoga is hands down one of the best self-care tools. Spending time on your mat can benefit your brain, heart, and bones, and even change the expression of your genes. Better yet, “yoga does all these things simultaneously,” says Timothy McCall, MD, co-author of Principles and Practice of Yoga in Health Care, a medical textbook of yoga therapy. “It’s synergistic. The transformation helps with more than one symptom—lives can change—which is something we don’t see much in modern medicine.”
Scientists continue to put research behind the long-touted health benefits of yoga in addition to constantly uncovering new ways this ancient practice creates healthier lives. “The amount of research is just taking off,” says McCall, adding that if you plotted out the research on yoga from 1950 to 2000, there would be a slight upward slope. The curve would escalate dramatically starting in 2000 and even more so after 2010.
To get the most out of yoga, McCall says it’s best to keep a daily practice, even on your busiest days. “Even 10 to 15 minutes a day is valuable in re-patterning dysfunction in your body. It’s about personal practice. That’s where transformation happens,” he says.
Whether you need some inspiration in order to commit to your yoga practice, or simply want to know where the current research stands, read on for 18 of the most groundbreaking recent discoveries on yoga’s healing powers.