Hatha Yoga Health Benefits

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The article Hatha Yoga Health Benefits has been scientifically fact-checked and all relevant references to the claims are through peer-reviewed journals, scholarly work, and research papers. All medical and scientific references have been mentioned in the references section. The article follows the editorial guidelines and policy of WYF. Recommendations made in Hatha Yoga Health Benefits are meant to be general guidelines. In case you have any medical conditions, consult your doctor.

Hatha Yoga health benefits have now been well studied and documented by numerous researchers around the world. Most studies have concluded that there are many massive Hatha Yoga health benefits.

Physical health and Mental health are the basic requirements to enjoy life and have peace. Peace and satisfaction in life can be fulfilled by practicing Hatha Yoga. It not only cures but is preventive as well. It has numerous positive benefits on the nervous system including reducing anxiety & stress, helping the cardiovascular system, keeping the body in good shape, and improving immunity. It strengthens the respiratory systems, internal organs, reduces metabolism, strengthens the spine, joints, and improves the lymphatic system.

​In this article, we’ll clear a few misconceptions around Hatha Yoga & health, explore more on how Hatha Yoga and its regular practice can improve all key systems in the body, and answer commonly asked questions on health and Hatha Yoga. There are numerous well-documented studies that have explored Hatha Yoga Health Benefits in a scientific manner and broadly classified into 7 massive Hatha Yoga health benefits.

Health Benefits of Hatha Yoga


According to yoga philosophy, health is the balance and proper functioning of all physical, mental, and energy systems. Hatha Yoga helps you immensely in staying healthy. With the modern-day pressures, stress, anxiety, and other health-related issues Hatha Yoga can provide immense health benefits. It has proven to help regularly practicing individuals with massive health benefits. ​Asanas were conceived in ancient times to promote holistic health by stimulating and balancing the internal body systems and maintaining homeostasis.

Misconceptions about Hatha Yoga Health Benefits

​Yoga and its popularization by the media (both the mainstream media and social media) as a way to remain healthy has unfortunately resulted in some misconceptions about Yoga. Some of the original principles of Yoga and remaining healthy have become diluted.

The original purpose of yoga asanas has been to keep the internal physical body and the energy body healthy and in balance. Asanas have been specifically developed for this reason. These days with a lot of emphasis on being in a good shape, yoga practices generally focus on toning and stretching the musculoskeletal system. It is important to remember that the changes in bodily appearance through the regular practice of yoga asanas are only side effects and should not be mistaken for the main goal.

Difference Between Hatha Yoga and Few Modern Yoga Asanas

​The main difference between a Hatha Yoga practice and a modern yoga asana practice is how the asanas are performed. Classically, asanas (yoga poses) are defined as steady, comfortable, poses. As soon as the asanas are performed in a dynamic way, without steady holds, we enter the realm of modern asana practice.

​Ancient scriptures define asanas with the words sthira sukham asanam, which defines the state where body and mind are steady and comfortable in a pose. To sum it up, an asana practice according to Hatha Yoga principles aims to keep the internal body healthy and in balance rather than focusing on weight loss, toning, and shaping the exterior physical body and performs asanas with long, comfortable, and steady holds, rather than in a vigorous or dynamic manner.

As we begin to understand the health benefits of Hatha Yoga, we need to understand how it helps various functions and systems of our body. It helps the Nervous System, Circulatory System, Lymphatic System, Respiratory System, Metabolism, Spine, Joints, and positively benefits the Internal Organs.

We’ll discuss how these systems are impacted below

1. Nervous System

Hatha Yoga has immense benefits in reducing anxiety, keeping you in a state of calm, and a lot of value in keeping you happy. This is one of the main benefits among the 7 Hatha Yoga Health Beneifts as it influences many other functions and systems of the body. A healthy mind is key to a healthy body.

The mind is a funny place. It has a tendency to make heaven out of hell and hell out of heaven. Through regular practice of Hatha Yoga, you can be in a state of calm and composure and lead a happy life. This in turn positively affects your relationships, work, and helps you realize your true potential.

The autonomic nervous system is also known as the involuntary nervous system. It maintains the homeostasis in your body. Homeostasis is the maintenance and balance of relatively stable conditions in your body’s internal systems despite changes happening inside and outside your body. The autonomic nervous system branches into cardiac muscles, smooth muscles, and various endocrine and exocrine glands. It, therefore, has an impact on most tissue and organ systems in your body.

The autonomic nervous system has 2 subsystems

  • Sympathetic Nervous system (fight or flight response)
  • Para-sympathetic nervous system (Rest & digest)

The sympathetic nervous system prepares your body for action. It is popular for its fight or flight response and has been designed to ensure your survival. For instance, if a tiger attacks you, your muscles will prepare to flee. All your body’s systems will be put into an emergency response in order for you to survive. The sympathetic nervous system activates when we experience stress. Fortunately not all situations today are similar to a situation where a tiger is attacking us. We don’t have to make decisions where we have to flee or fight. If our sympathetic system is active most of the time, we’ll experience problems with digestion, lower immunity (as most of these systems have been put into a slow gear as your body has activated a fight or flight response).

To counter the sympathetic nervous system, we have a parasympathetic nervous system. It brings your body into a rest-and-digest mode. It counterbalances your sympathetic nervous system, restoring your body to a state of calm and activating regular functions such as secretion of saliva in your mouth or digestive enzymes in your stomach.

Only one of the 2 systems can be active at a time. In a healthy person, the transition between the 2 systems is of utmost importance and is smooth, swift, and regular.

Hatha Yoga, with yoga poses (asanas), engages both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. It triggers both and trains your body to be in a state of calm, as well as action (when required).

Hatha Yoga Health Benefits – Reducing Stress, Anxiety

Research has suggested Yoga to be an effective stress management technique17. Stress is extremely unhealthy. It triggers the sympathetic nervous system. This stress-induced triggering of the sympathetic nervous system causes the most common chronic diseases. Diseases whose development has been linked to both stress and inflammation include cardiovascular dysfunctions, diabetes, cancer, autoimmune syndromes, and mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety disorders1. A systematic review of 17 studies totaling 501 participants has suggested Hatha yoga to be a promising method for treating anxiety16.

In a study conducted on 668 including 384 Yoga practitioners in 2021, it was found that yoga practitioners had significantly lower depression, anxiety, & stress (DASS), and higher general wellbeing (SWGB) as well as higher peace of mind (POMS) during the COVID lockdown2.

The ability to minimize inflammatory responses to stressful encounters influences the burden that stressors place on an individual. If yoga dampens or limits stress-related changes, then regular practice could have substantial health benefits3.

2. Circulatory System

The heart is the most important organ of the circulatory system. ​Hatha Yoga offers a proven, effective cure. Cardiovascular health along with the nervous system is again one of the key Hatha Yoga health benefits.

A scientific study published in 2013 studied Hatha Yoga classes to check the effects of Hatha Yoga on the circulatory system. Before, during, and after the classes, arterial blood pressure and pulse were measured. Decrease of arterial blood pressure and pulse due to hatha yoga exercise were detected during the study, as well as a greater decreasing tendency in subjects with high arterial blood pressure.

In a study on coronary 60 Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) patients below the age of 65 years, it was found that the yoga regimen was found to improve lung functions and diffusion capacity in patients besides improving cardiovascular functions. Systolic blood pressure decreased 11%, from 143 to 127 mmHg5.

3. lymphatic System

The lymphatic system is a network of tissues, vessels, and organs that work together to move a colorless, watery fluid called lymph back into your circulatory system (your bloodstream)6.

The key functions of the lymphatic system are

  • Maintaining fluid levels in your body
  • Absorbing fats from the digestive tract
  • Protecting your body against foreign invaders
  • Transporting and removing waste products and abnormal cells from the lymph

In a nutshell, the lymphatic system plays important role in detoxification. It removes wastes and toxins while maintaining your body’s immunity against pathogens. It does this by circulating lymph—a transparent fluid containing white blood cells and proteins. ​

Yoga asanas work in three ways to increase the flow of lymph and relieve lymphatic congestion.

Inversions reverse the effect of gravity and drain lymph and used blood from your legs.
Twists (as well as forward, backward, and side bends) stimulate the flow of lymph up through the core of your body.
Contracting and releasing large muscles move lymph through your body. To eliminate toxins is one of the key qualities and purposes of Hatha Yoga.

4. Respiratory System

Breathing is of utmost importance in Yoga. Hatha Yoga has immense benefits on the respiratory system. Proper oxygenation of your cells is an important aspect of good health. ​Cells need oxygen to generate energy. To get enough oxygen to your cells, you must improve the blood’s absorption of oxygen.

Several studies had been undertaken to prove the role of yoga for the improvement of pulmonary functions in various disease conditions as well as in healthy individuals. A study conducted on 75 medical students of both sexes found that pranayama in Yoga has significant positive physiological benefits on the respiratory system as evidenced by improvement of pulmonary function.

Long-term yoga practice improves the depth of breathing8. A study done on 30 healthy men in the age group of 25-35 years showed that Yogic practices for 3 months resulted in an improvement in cardiorespiratory performance and psychologic profile. The plasma melatonin also showed an increase after three months of yogic practices9.

5. Metabolism

The biggest myth about Yoga is that ​it stimulates metabolism and causes weight loss. ​In fact, the intention and the effect of Hatha Yoga prove to be the exact opposite. ​This metabolic rate differs from person to person, and these calories are the absolute minimum amount of energy that your body needs to stay alive and to execute all involuntary activities such as digestion, respiration, circulation, waste removal, and temperature regulation. ​The secret of weight loss or maintaining an ideal weight has nothing to do with a fast metabolism, but with mind and psyche.

A study comparing regular Yoga practitioners with healthy subjects found that experienced yoga practitioners show regional long-term decreases in glucose metabolism related to years
of practice10. Another study conducted on adolescent girls with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) found Yoga to be more effective than conventional physical exercises in improving glucose, lipid, and insulin values, including insulin resistance values, in adolescent girls with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)11.

The dramatic rise in obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) has been associated with increased mortality, morbidity as well as public health care expenses worldwide. A study to assess the effects of intensive integrated approach of yoga therapy (IAYT) on body fat, body mass index (BMI) and resting metabolism in mid-life overweight patients with T2DM found a significant decrease in body fat and BMI and resting metabolism12.

The regular practice of asanas affects the mind and desires. These in turn help to curb overeating and stress-related eating. Furthermore, slowing your metabolism through calorie restriction can possibly protect against cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. It can even help you live longer. ​Thus, combining Hatha Yoga, which has been shown to decrease the metabolism, and a calorie-restricted diet seems to be a formula for better health and longer life.

6. Spine & Joints

​Hatha Yoga Health Benefits include keeping your spine young. And you are only as young as your spine is flexible. These are common statements in the yoga world. They are supported by science. According to medical studies, yoga can slow down the deterioration of spinal discs.

Physical inactivity is one of the reasons for the diminishment of our natural body flexibility. The consequence of physical inactivity is decreased flexibility of soft tissues surrounding joints. Simple yoga techniques including body postures and breathing techniques can restore natural body flexibility. A study on 9 young healthy women found that therapeutic yoga exercises, with the aim of increasing joint mobility as well as stretching shortened skeletal muscles resulted in a significant increase of mobility in elevation through abduction, shoulder retroflexion, hip flexion, internal and external hip rotation, dorsal flexion and inversion of the ankle. The mobility of the thoracolumbar part of the spine was increased in all the measured movements: flexion, extension, lateral flexion, and rotation of the spine13.

In another study on understanding Hatha Yoga health benefits involving 56 women ranging in age between 50–79 attending 90 minutes hatha yoga sessions once a week found that yoga exercises increased spinal mobility and flexibility of the hamstring muscles regardless of age14.

A meta-analysis and a systematic review to check the effectiveness of Yoga for lower back pain showed strong evidence for short-term effectiveness and moderate evidence for long-term effectiveness of yoga for chronic low back pain15.

Research on the effects of hatha yoga exercises on spine flexibility in young adults has concluded that regular yoga exercises could increase the flexibility of the spine and the hamstring muscles. Hatha yoga training may be a good intervention for improving flexibility, but for better results, it should be performed more often than once a week18.

​Practicing asanas can prevent arthritis, which is the wear and tear of joints in the back, neck, hips, fingers, or knees. In a healthy joint, a well-lubricated lining of cartilage covers the ends of bones. This cartilage gets worn down most commonly by sports injuries, poor body posture, or dysfunctional movement patterns.

Yoga asanas bring awareness to formerly unconscious postural habits. Hatha Yoga’s varied movements keep your spine as well as joints well-lubricated. As a result, you remain younger, stronger, and more flexible. Research on the shaping of the curvature of the spine finds that hatha yoga exercises have a positive impact on one’s body posture19. An interesting study on the effects of 8-months yoga training on shaping the spine in people over 55 years of age showed that yoga training leads to an improvement in the habitual body posture in case of aggravating curvatures of the spine20.

In conventional exercise, the variety of movements is less, and more often than not these movements are neither gentle nor very controlled. Therefore the joints experience wear and tear, and the aging process of your spine is not slowed down. A study to evaluate the efficacy of integrating hatha yoga therapy with therapeutic exercises for osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee joints found An integrated approach of hatha yoga therapy is better than therapeutic exercises in improving walking pain, range of knee flexion, walking time, tenderness, swelling, crepitus, and knee disability in patients with OA (osteoarthritis) knees21.

Dynamic and vigorous asana practices are in this case better for your joints and spine than conventional exercise. They provide a large and varied range of motions for your spine and joints.

7. Internal Organs

To keep the body in a state of holistic health, the ancient yogis believed that they needed to stimulate and balance the functions of the internal organs and specifically the endocrine glands. They did so with the practice of yoga asanas designed to directly influence the endocrine system. Asanas influence this system in three hypothesized ways. They induce the squeeze-and-release effect in the body, which intensifies the circulation to specific parts of your body. Try squeezing your hand tightly for 20 seconds. As blood is pushed out, your hand becomes pale. As you release your grip, freshly oxygenated blood rushes into your hand through the arteries. A similar effect takes place in all asanas. Asanas also stimulate local nerves subsequently stimulating the body’s own regulatory functions. Your body constantly works to negotiate and balance external and internal disturbances. Finally, asanas increase specific blood circulation in your body. Yoga increases blood flow and levels of hemoglobin and red blood cells which allows for more oxygen to reach the body cells, enhancing their function. Twisting poses wring out venous blood from internal organs and allow oxygenated blood to flow in when the twist is released. Inverted poses encourage venous blood flow from the legs and pelvis back to the heart and then pumped through the lungs where it becomes freshly oxygenated23.

A Hatha Yoga practice may have a similar effect on the viscera as do the gentle palpitations and manipulations during Visceral Manipulation. When you practice asanas, there is a lot of movement, compression, extension, and rotation in your trunk. By bringing movement to the fascia in the trunk you remove restriction and activate your body’s self-correcting and self-regulatory system.

Hatha Yoga Health Benefits – Healthy Aging Growth and Youth Hormones

Human growth hormone (GH) secreted from the anterior pituitary has an important role in the growth of almost all tissues, metabolism, and changes in body composition. Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS), secreted by the adrenal cortex, acts in the human body as a neurosteroid, cardioprotective, antidiabetic, antiobesity, and immunoenhancing agent. It is also reported as the youth hormone. GH and DHEAS are both endocrine markers for aging. A study on 45 volunteers found that Regular Hatha Yoga practices promote healthy aging of the body. It reported a significant increase in growth and youth hormone after yogic training for 6 days a week for 12 weeks in both men and women22.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Hatha Yoga Health Benefits

In this section, we’ll answer some of the questions that commonly arise when understanding Hatha Yoga Health Benefits

Hatha Yoga Health Benefits answered by experts

What are the advantages of Hatha Yoga?

Hatha Yoga Hatha Yoga means the forceful practice of yoga. It is a discipline you practice to purify and control your body. It has numerous advantages on the heath of an individual. These include physical and mental health. Regular practice of Hatha Yoga can lead to a healthy body and a high quality of life. This has been well documented in several studies. Hatha Yoga has been found to be an effective way to deal with stress, anxiety1,2,3. It has a positive impact on your cardiovascular/heart health5, improves your respiratory system8,9, reduces metabolism, promotes weight loss12, and keeps your spine & joints young, and leads to healthy aging22.

Is Hatha Yoga a good workout?

Yes, Hatha Yoga is an excellent workout. One of the key Hatha Yoga health benefits is on the body. It keeps the spine and joints young, leads to healthy aging, reduces the metabolism, including lowering resting heart rate, and consequently toning your body. However, it is important to understand that these are positive side-effects of doing Hatha Yoga regularly and properly. As stated earlier The original purpose of yoga asanas has been to keep the internal physical body and the energy body healthy and in balance. Asanas have been specifically developed for this reason. These days with a lot of emphasis on being in a good shape, yoga practices generally focus on toning and stretching the musculoskeletal system. It is important to remember that the changes in bodily appearance through the regular practice of yoga asanas are only side effects and should not be mistaken for the main goal.

How many times in a week should I do Hatha Yoga?

Regularly Hatha Yoga practice is important. A minimum of once a week is required for Hatha Yoga. However, it is important to note that there is no single formula. No two people are alike. It is important to understand the principle of individual differences in Hatha Yoga and being mindful of your body.

What is Hatha Yoga known for?

Hatha Yoga is a branch within Raja Yoga. It is also called the “yoga of control” and is one the of the four paths of Yoga. Hatha Yoga focuses on Asanas and Pranayama (yoga poses and meditation) and a large part of Yoga that we see today in the form of Yoga poses and asanas are essentially Hatha Yoga. Over centuries, Hatha Yoga has evolved into a detailed practice, which details out yoga asanas / yoga poses for each chakra (or energy center) of your body. It is meant to keep your internal body and mind in balance.

Is Hatha Yoga good for depression?

Yes. Hatha Yoga has positive effects on mental health. A study on adults with mild-to-moderate major depression, an 8-week hatha yoga intervention resulted in statistically and clinically significant reductions in depression severity24. A scientific review of the evidence for the efficacy of hatha yoga for depression has concluded Yoga may be an attractive alternative to or a good way to augment current depression treatment strategies. Aspects of yoga including mindfulness promotion and exercise (poses/asanas) are thought to be “active ingredients” of other successful treatments for depression.

Does Hatha Yoga tone your body?

Yes, Hatha Yoga when practiced regularly tones your body. Hatha Yoga has a positive impact on toning your body. There are many studies that conclusively indicate that Hatha Yoga has a positive impact on physical fitness. One such study evaluated the effect of an 8-week Hatha Yoga training program. It found a statistically significant increase in Isokinetic muscular strength for elbow extension, elbow flexion, and knee extension, Isometric muscular endurance for knee flexion, Ankle flexibility, shoulder elevation, trunk extension, trunk flexion, and an increase in Absolute and relative maximal oxygen uptake.

Does Yoga Change Your Body Shape?

Doing Yoga properly can help you correct issues with your spine, joints and help you stay in the correct posture. Modern lifestyle including staying for long hours in front of a computer, driving, watching TV, can lead to poor posture. Regular Hatha Yoga practice can help correct this.

Is Hatha Yoga good for anxiety?

Yes. Hatha Yoga has a massive positive impact on your nervous system. It can restore the balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. A systematic review of 17 studies totaling 501 participants has suggested Hatha yoga to be a promising method for treating anxiety16.

Which Yoga is best for mental health?

Any holistic yoga practice promotes physical and mental health. Hatha Yoga when coupled with asanas and pranayama (poses and meditation) has a massive positive effect on mental health. It has been a well-researched topic given the wide interest in Yoga and there is conclusive scientific evidence. Yoga has proven to be an effective way to reduce stress, anxiety, and event augment treating depression. Hatha yoga can not just improve physical health but promote mental health, and well-being25.

Is Yoga Better than Physical Exercise?

Any form of exercise is good as long it is being done under trained supervision and being done regularly with mindfulness. In the context of asanas, yoga resembles more of a physical exercise, which may lead to the perception that yoga is another kind of physical exercise. When we compare Yoga with physical exercise, physical exercises and the physical components of yoga practices have several similarities, but also important differences. Evidence suggests that yoga interventions appear to be equal and/or superior to exercise in most outcome measures. Emphasis on breath regulation, mindfulness during practice, and importance given to the maintenance of postures are some of the elements which differentiate yoga practices from physical exercises26.

Conclusion on Hatha Yoga Health Benefits

This article has attempted to provide you with credible research on Hatha Yoga Health benefits. We find that physical and mental health benefits of Hatha Yoga are immense. When practiced regularly, we find massive value in its ability to augment treatments, and aid in cure or a lot of diseases and also preventive health. Hatha Yoga and its regular practice can boost physical and mental health. We’ve seen how it positively benefits the nervous system, circulatory system,

It should however be noted that you should be cautious if you have health conditions and consult a doctor or an expert before your begin Hatha Yoga. It is also recommended that if you are a beginner, you start practicing Hatha Yoga under the guidance of an experienced trainer or instructor to avoid injuries.

References and Further Reading

  1. Mariotti A. The effects of chronic stress on health: new insights into the molecular mechanisms of brain-body communication. Future Sci OA. 2015;1(3):FSO23. Published 2015 Nov 1. doi:10.4155/fso.15.21
  2. Sahni PS, Singh K, Sharma N, Garg R (2021) Yoga an effective strategy for self-management of stress-related problems and wellbeing during COVID19 lockdown: A cross-sectional study. PLoS ONE 16(2): e0245214. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0245214
  3. Kiecolt-Glaser JK, Christian L, Preston H, et al. Stress, inflammation, and yoga practice. Psychosom Med. 2010;72(2):113-121. doi:10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181cb9377
  4. Piekorz, Z., Bułatowicz, I., Radzimińska, A., Lewandowski, A., Piekorz, S., Grabarczyk, G., & Ciesielska, M. (2013). The influence of hatha yoga exercise on arterial pressure and pulse. (pdf)
  5. Yadav A, Singh S, Singh K, Pai P. Effect of yoga regimen on lung functions including diffusion capacity in coronary artery disease patients: A randomized controlled study. Int J Yoga. 2015 Jan;8(1):62-7. doi: 10.4103/0973-6131.146067. PMID: 25558135; PMCID: PMC4278137.
  6. Lymphatic System: Parts & Common Problems. (2020). Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/21199-lymphatic-system
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  9. Harinath, K., Malhotra, A. S., Pal, K., Prasad, R., Kumar, R., Kain, T. C., … & Sawhney, R. C. (2004). Effects of Hatha yoga and Omkar meditation on cardiorespiratory performance, psychologic profile, and melatonin secretion. The Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, 10(2), 261-268.
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