No Lie: This Migraine-Busting Workout Also Burns Hundreds of Calories

Amy Lawrenson
PHOTO:

Free People UK

For years, yoga was seen as this spiritual thing that hippies did. But thanks to Instagram, yoga has gone mainstream, and slowly people are unlocking the many benefits of this ancient practice. While its roots can be traced back to ancient India, its benefits can be felt in the Western world today. Those who do yoga regularly are impossibly strong (e.g., they can hold poses like handstands with ease), and the body shape of a yogi is long and lean. But beyond the aesthetics, yoga can calm the mind (buh-bye, anxiety) and aid digestion. It can increase flexibility and even help reduce the symptoms of a migraine. Here at Byrdie HQ, we're pretty obsessed with yoga, and while we've discussed what yoga is, the different types of yoga and the best yoga for beginners, we thought we'd explore the wonderful and often unexpected health benefits of yoga.

Keep scrolling to find out what a session on a yoga mat could do for you.

Yoga Benefit: Eases Migraines

If you're prone to migraines, then taking up yoga could help. One study found that people prone to migraines who did an hour of yoga five times per week had significant reductions in monthly headache frequency, average pain intensity and headache-related disability. When regularly attending yoga classes, headaches had "little to no impact on [the] patient's life," the study's researchers found. Exercise is often recommended to migraine sufferers, but for some, aerobic exercise can be a trigger. It would appear that the link between the mind and body, and the slower movements and holds performed in yoga classes prevented or at least tempered migraine symptoms.

Yoga Benefit: Weight and Fat Loss

Exercise is great for health, but a heavy HIIT session isn't always going to be great for your waistline. Not only will you be hungry afterwards, but a serious session can cause a release of stress hormones, which can lead to stress eating. A challenging yoga class, on the other hand, will boost calorie burn (around 200 calories in a 30-minute class) but is unlikely to cause you to want to overeat later in the day. In fact, one study found that overweight women who did restorative yoga lost a significant amount of subcutaneous fat in six months. The researchers put this down to a reduction in cortisol, which has been linked to fat storage around the midsection.

Yoga Benefit: Increased Strength and Flexibilty

You only need to take a look at influential yoga Instagrammers like Cat Meffan and Shona Vertue to know that with time and practice, yoga makes you both seriously strong and flexible. It's worth noting that while yoga does increase bodyweight strength and helps you to eventually hold some pretty impressive poses, both Meffan and Vertue also crosstrain with kettle bells, bouldering and running.

Yoga Benefit: Reduced Stress and Anxiety

Yoga is all about the body-mind connection. During a yoga class, you'll be encouraged to move with your breath and to really think about the poses you're holding (especially where balance is involved). Studies have shown that this type of slow, mindful exercise is better than aerobic exercise for enhancing mood and alleviating stress and depression. Stress is a driving factor in many chronic diseases like asthma and diabetes, and yoga has been found to ease the symptoms of each.

Yoga Benefit: Chronic Pain Relief

As well as migraine relief, according to Harvard Medical School, yoga has been found to help people suffering with chronic pain, such as low back pain, fibromyalgia and arthritis. While yoga sessions are typically 60 to 90 minutes, a short at-home session of 10 to 20 minutes can help relieve chronic pain. Note: If you are suffering with chronic pain, you will need consult a yoga teacher to modify the yoga postures to ensure you're helping rather than worsening your condition.

Next up, how to master a headstand once and for all.

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