Posted 18/01/2021 in Category 1

How Does Yoga Improve Your Relationships?

How Does Yoga Improve Your Relationships?


Millions of people around the world practice yoga. People have practiced yoga for thousands of years and more recently, researchers have examined the physical, mental, and emotional health benefits. We can now quantify the benefits to you and I. In sport and exercise setting, many athletes are practising yoga to get the best from their sport performances and lengthen their sport careers. Researchers have shown that yoga can improve cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, cancer, arthritis, asthma, and depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder. But what exactly is yoga doing to our body and mind to bring these benefits to us?


One explanation is that yoga is downregulating the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and the sympathetic nervous system response to stress. What this process means is that yoga helps our body to slow down and calm itself. Yoga is helping us to reinterpret the stress response. Most of the research to date explored the physical poses, breath work and meditation associated with yoga. But if yoga is good for your body and mind, perhaps the benefits extend beyond the physical to the social? 


Ross and colleagues examined whether the relationships one develops with one’s yoga teacher and peers confer health benefits beyond the benefits from the physical practice of yoga. When we think more broadly about groups, group behaviour and our need to belong, it seems sensible that practising yoga with others also brings social benefits. Research has consistently shown that the quality and quantity of one’s social relationships predict good health. After all, being without friends and colleagues – social isolation – profoundly affects one’s health and well-being. In fact, social isolation is punishment or torture. Strong social relationships increase the odds of our survival, regardless of age, gender or cause of death. Some of these relationships are social, other are romantic. In these committed relationships, people feel better, happier, healthier compared with those in unhappy relationships. 


Ross and colleagues’ interviews found that yoga practice brought four key benefits: personal transformation, increased social interaction, coping mechanism to help with relationship losses and difficulties, and spiritual transcendence. Through yoga, the yoga teachers believed that yoga changed the attitude of the participants. The participants changed their perspectives, making them more patient, kind, mindful and self-aware. Through yoga, participants felt part of the community. They had met new friends and belonged to a group. The friendship groups and shared sense of purpose were a benefit to their personal lives and relationships. 


In short, yoga benefits social and spiritual health by helping people to meet people who through their changing perspectives have more for themselves and for others. The patience, kindness, understanding and self-awareness keep on giving inwards and outwards. For those in sport, the benefits are not only physical; they are social and spiritual. Feeling a sense of belonging will always contribute to our health and wellbeing. And perhaps its helping us on the pitch and golf course. Maybe the benefits to yoga that you did not see will become the greatest benefits to you. 


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References

Ross, B. (2014). I am a nice person when I do yoga!!!: A qualitative analysis of how yoga affects relationships. Journal of Holistic Nursing, 32(2), 67–77. https://doi.org/10.1177/0898010113508466

Image by AndiP from Pixabay