Breathe in….breathe out….and feel the stress roll off. We’ve all heard about the benefits of yoga, from a feeling of serenity and balance to increased flexibility and the strong, lean “yoga body” we’ve seen on celebrities and fitness gurus. Most of us who’ve tried it agree that it feels good to take time out of our busy schedules to stretch, breath and focus the mind, body and overall wellness. But you may not realize that while yoga that includes intentional breathing and focused calm can help you emotionally and physically, it can actually benefit your cells as well.
A recent study shows that yoga is not just a good way to shape up and chill out -- it can also naturally boost antioxidants in the body, lowering signs of oxidative stress in the body such as fatigue, brain fog or joint pain/inflammation and fighting premature aging and disease in addition to stress relief. Antioxidants are nature’s “scrub brushes” -- compounds that neutralize the dangerous unstable atoms known as “free radicals” in the body, helping to prevent illness, slow premature aging and improve overall health.
This is big news for those of us who place a priority on wellness and self-care. It has long been known that certain foods, such as brightly colored vegetables, wine, polyphenol rich purple tea, and even chocolate, contain these age-busting, disease-fighting antioxidants. But as important as it is to be mindful of what you put in your body, mindfulness in how you treat that vessel is crucial as well.
According to the research, a daily 40 minute yoga practice that includes movement (asanas), breath work (pranayama) and meditation produced higher levels of health-boosting antioxidants than running, cycling or jumping rope. The study concluded that “Regular yoga practice remarkably...improved antioxidant levels of the body. Moreover, yoga beneficially affected stress hormone releases as well as partially improved immune function.”
So remember— eating well is important, and incorporating a wide array of antioxidant rich foods such as beans, nuts and purple fruits, vegetables and tea is a no brainer for optimal overall health. But for an even greater boost to the body’s hard working, disease fighting, immune strengthening defense system, get out your yoga mat! It may be just what the doctor ordered.