Walk into any yoga class, and chances are you’ll see mostly women. In fact, 72% of yoga practitioners in the United States are female.
That’s an amazing statistic, given that for thousands of years, yoga was practiced exclusively by men, and was originally brought to the West by male teachers. There’s now a generation of women leading the way, and many of these “new” yoga classes are a distinctly feminine practice – but that doesn’t mean men can’t or shouldn’t practice yoga.
With over 300 million yoga practitioners worldwide, yoga has spiked in popularity tremendously over the past few years, particularly in the United States.
1. Yoga helps to cultivate a healthy body image.
83% of women in the US are dissatisfied with their appearance, which may be why many women struggle to maintain a healthy relationship with exercise. They view it as something they “need” to do in order to lose weight or look more fit. But women aren’t the only ones who struggle with self-confidence – many men (74% of men in this survey) reported feeling unhappy with how they looked.
Yoga has very little emphasis on competition or weight loss, but rather is a practice that encourages mindfulness and silences negative thoughts. There’s no focus on perfectionism, but instead an active appreciation on all the good things your body does for you. Talk about a nurturing mindset!
2. Yoga helps maintain a healthy hormone balance.
When there’s a hormonal imbalance, you can develop a wide variety of symptoms, including skin problems, insomnia, fatigue, weight gain, muscle loss, and headaches. Hormonal imbalances can occur in anyone – we all have hormones. Luckily, yoga can help alleviate and prevent some of these symptoms by reducing stress and increasing physical activity levels. It’s easier to notice if something is off when you’re more in touch with your body and have a baseline for your physical health.
For those suffering, studies show that yoga can alleviate PMS, improve fertility, relieve menopausal symptoms, and boost your sex drive. Though the biological processes are complex, it’s likely because yoga is so powerful at relieving stress, a top culprit in hormone imbalance.
3. Yoga is excellent for bone health.
Osteoporosis and low bone mass are incredibly common in people as they age, and 80% of those with osteoporosis are women. The good news is you can slow, and possibly even reverse, bone loss by engaging in weight-bearing exercise. A 2016 study found that a simple twelve-minute daily yoga routine was able to measurably reverse bone loss due to osteoporosis.
Unlike running or other forms of exercise, yoga is a great weight-bearing activity that doesn’t put stress on your joints and lengthens muscles. It also improves posture and balance, decreasing the risk of falls and bone fractures, which can lead to serious complications for the elderly.
4. Yoga is an incredible stress reliever.
Stress reduction is one of the most commonly cited benefits of yoga. The stretching, breathing, mindfulness, and sense of community all contribute to a sense of wellbeing in today’s world where many people – especially women – feel overscheduled and under-supported.
While much of the yoga practiced in the US tends to focus on the physical aspect of yoga, the practice is much more involved than simply transitioning to one pose after another. Yoga encompasses a mindfulness aspect as well, and includes lots of meditation, self-awareness, and breathing exercises.
The Bottom Line
For men and women alike, yoga is an incredibly nourishing form of what we call primary food at Integrative Nutrition – all the factors in your life that feed you beyond the food on your plate. Yoga fuses physical exercise with spirituality and has the power to have a positive effect on your relationships, your mood, and your overall wellbeing.