13 Surprising Health Benefits Of Yoga That Will Make You Want To Try It Yourself

Charlize Theron swears by yoga, Gisele Bündchen loves to Instagram about it, and Christy Turlington even wrote a book about it, but celebrity endorsements aren't the only reason you should consider unrolling your dusty mat. Outside of the standard healthy side effects that all regular exercise has, there are some amazing and surprising health benefits of yoga that just might give you a reason to use those yoga pants the right way.

I've practiced yoga off and on for more than 10 years, and each time I recommit to myself and my mat, I'm reminded of just how incredible that kind of exercise really is, and not just for the typical reasons. Over the years and through the classes — Hatha, Vinyasa, Bikram, Yollet, you name it, and I've tried it — yoga has helped improve my flexibility, and calm my mind. But you've heard all these perks before, and trust me when I say, yoga does so much more than that.

From improving asthma to pain management, the benefits of yoga are vast and unexpected. A holistic approach to exercise, yoga doesn't just focus on one part of the body, but rather the entire body and how it works with the mind and the spirit. If you've considered trying, or getting back into, this kind of workout but don't have the right motivation, here are 13 surprising benefits of yoga to convince you it's time to hit the mat.

1. It Reduces Risk Of Heart Disease

According to the American Heart Association, practicing yoga regularly can help reduce the risk of heart disease. Though yoga doesn't count towards the recommended weekly 150 minutes of aerobic activity, it is still exercise, and the kind of exercise it does is centered around one main idea: well-being. By working yoga into your regular routine, you start to lead a healthier, more conscious lifestyle overall, which is a huge contributing factor when it comes to reducing heart disease.

2. It Helps You Sleep Better

It's a well known fact that exercising daily helps you get a better night's sleep, but if you really want to improve your bedtime routine, try yoga. Yoga, which involves calm breathing, clear thinking, and meditation, prepares the body to relax, making it the ideal exercise for people who have trouble falling asleep. Try these simple yoga poses to help you sleep better if you don't believe me.

3. It Can Help Cure A Hangover

The last thing you want to do after a heavy night of drinking is wake up and exercise, but according to the Yoga Journal, it turns out that yoga can actually help ease the pains of a hangover. Doing certain poses the morning after a wild night can help relieve that stiff neck you got from falling asleep on the couch, speed up your body processing the alcohol, and even "encourage" your liver's cleansing process. Forget the Gatorade and greasy breakfast sandwich, because yoga is the real way to cure your hangover.

4. It Relieves Stress And Anxiety

Yoga is often cited as being a relaxing activity, but those feelings go well beyond the hour you spend actually practicing yoga. Doing yoga regularly can actually help relieve stress and anxiety in your life overall. According to the Mayo Clinic, yoga's mind-body practice, which combines controlled breathing with physical activity and meditation, can even work to lower blood pressure and heart rate. Doesn't that sound relaxing?

5. It Can Improve Memory Problems

A new study from neuroscientists from UCLA discovered that a three-month yoga and meditation course can help with memory problems, including Alzheimer's as well as dementia. The study also found that yoga works better than brain trainers, such as puzzles and crosswords, when it comes to cognitive problem management. Take that, Sudoku.

6. It Fights Arthritis

People suffering from arthritis have a limited range of motion because of it, so you might think yoga isn't an option. Think again. John Hopkins Arthritis Center encourages the use of yoga for treating arthritis. When used correctly, it can help gradually rebuild the strength, flexibility, and balance arthritis patients may have otherwise lost. It's all about simple, gentle movements.

7. It Supports Your Immune System

Cold and flu season may be behind us, but germs and viruses are everywhere, and the best way to stay healthy is to boost your immune system. Yoga can help you with that. As Anna Roberts McMurray explains on Active, because of its focus on breathing, yoga helps maintain our respiratory system and improve our lung function, a major factor in fighting off things like pneumonia. Doing yoga also massages vital organs, which improves circulation and helps optimize the function of the parts of the body that fight to keep us healthy.

8. It Helps Ease Treatment Side Effects

Treatments for serious illnesses, such as chemotherapy in cancer patients, can ravage the body almost as much as the diseases they're trying to fight. Luckily, yoga is there to help ease the pain of the side effects. While there are a lot of alternative ways to treat chemo side effects, yoga is a great all natural option and, according to the Yoga Journal, it can truly help patients feel stronger, healthier, and more at peace.

9. It Helps Improve Asthma

From the first moment of yoga to the last and every pose between, breathing is one of the main focuses of the exercise. Because of that, yoga is a great way to relieve the effects of asthma, a condition that is caused by constricted airwaves and causes difficulty breathing. Doing certain yoga poses can reduce the pain of asthma and actually help improve the condition over time.

10. It Reduces The Occurrence Of Migraines

If you've ever had a serious migraine, then you know just how terrible they feel, and you'd probably try anything to get rid of one. Instead of popping a handful of pills, try yoga poses that help relieve migraine pain, or if you get them frequently, you can even try yoga to help prevent migraines from happening to begin with.

11. It Improves Your Sex Life

As Bustle's Sara Tardiff reported, yoga can improve your sex life in more ways than one. It increases your energy, ups your sex drive, and even helps you have much stronger orgasms. Bonus: yoga poses just might inspire some new moves in the bedroom.

12. It Can Help Improve Fertility

Women's fertility is a complicated science, but there are three simple aspects of it that yoga can help with: pelvis alignment, blood flow, and relaxation. According to Eden Fromberg, D.O., a gynecologist and yoga teacher, certain yoga poses can boost fertility by increasing blood flow in the body, keeping participants calm and relaxed, and by correcting misaligned pelvises. It's a simple and all natural way to try and increase fertility, and works best if done four or five times a week.

13. It Balances Your Hormones

Just because you aren't a teenager anymore doesn't mean you don't have to worry about hormones. They're constantly acting up, making us feel sad or angry or just a little insane, but yoga can help get them back in line. The next time you're feeling unbalanced, try these yoga poses for balancing hormones.

Images: marcoreyes/Pixabay