Hope & Healing: The UF Health Blog

5 benefits of yoga

The mind plays a powerful role when it comes to our health. Our minds can reduce the harsh effects of sickness, depression, anxiety or stress in many ways, but one of the oldest and most commonly practiced is yoga.

Therapeutic yoga involves meditative movements and breathing practices used to calm the mind and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, said Tammy Bernard, M.Ed., a yoga practitioner who teaches classes on Wednesdays from 4:15 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. in the UF Health Shands Cancer Hospital.

Affecting the parasympathetic nervous system, the body system that slows heart rate and increases intestinal activity, allows your body to relax. This relaxation can account for some important benefits that may just have you considering a new hobby:


Yoga allows for movements that improve functional mobility as well as balance. It is a meditative and relaxing form of exercise that can get you burning calories while pursuing inner peace.

Improves sleeping quality

By improving overall well-being, yoga has been found to improve sleep.

Reduces sense of perceived pain

“Yoga is part of a very strong system of healing to treat specific health conditions,” said Irene Estores, M.D., medical director of the UF Health Integrative Medicine program. “Yoga can release endorphins, which are a type of neurotransmitter that help in masking physical pain. Combining yoga with treatment of depression, back pain, diabetes, cancer and other forms of illnesses could play a big part in a patient’s recovery.”

Allows for relief of stress

The relaxation response from the parasympathetic nervous system promotes the production of dopamine, which helps to reduce anxiety and stress. Effective breathing practices can greatly impact one’s level of anxiety and stress. Combining the breathing practices with meditative movements allows for a calming and relaxed environment.

Provides feeling of empowerment

“The biggest tool is that people feel more empowered,” Bernard said. She said patients who were once afraid of needles and procedures prior to practicing yoga notice a difference in empowerment when they are able to watch a heart rate monitor during yoga and see their heart rate and blood pressure go down. “There is a confidence in the participation of their own healing.”

Whether it’s getting some exercise, improving sleeping habits, helping in recovery, providing stress-relief or a enabling a confidence boost, yoga has benefits for practically everyone. As research on the positive effects of yoga continues to accumulate, the practice has become a major tool in integrative medicine, helping to combat illness and improve quality of life.  

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Amanda Austin

Social Media Coordinator

Amanda manages UF Health's Facebook and Twitter accounts, and curates information about healthy and wellness, health industry news, and updates on UF Health research....Read More