Here are some of the ways yoga can improve your health

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Most people who have practiced yoga—myself included—will tell you that it has made a positive difference in their lives. Some question whether the benefits are real or imagined. To me it doesn’t really matter: if it make you feel better, it’s worth your time. But for those of you who are curious about this, the fact of the matter is that there is scientific evidence demonstrating that yoga produces far more than just a placebo effect.

According to the medical website Healthline, studies have consistently found that yoga decreases the amount of cortisol, major stress-producing hormone, in your body. In one study, two dozen women who described themselves as experiencing significant stress practiced yoga for three months. When they were done, their cortisol levels were lower, and they reported feeling less stressed, anxious tired and depressed.

Another study observed the effects of yoga on 64 women with post-traumatic stress disorder, which can result in some of the most extreme forms of anxiety. Some of the women in the study did a 10-week yoga program, after which they had less PTSD symptoms. And 52 percent of these women no longer had PTSD at all.

Stress is bad for your heart—it causes high hypertension (the silent killer) among other problems. One study concluded that people over the age of 40 who did yoga for five years had notably lower blood pressure and pulse rates than those who did not practice yoga.

It’s very difficult to be healthy if you’re not getting enough sleep. In addition to causes chronic fatigue and a dependency on caffeine, sleep deprivation is linked to numerous health problems, including depression and high blood pressure, which we have seen can be assuaged by yoga. Studies have shown that yoga stimulates secretion of melatonin, a hormone that is crucial to maintaining a healthy sleep cycle. And in another study, elderly people who practiced yoga, even for a short period of time, began falling asleep more quickly; they also slept for longer periods of time and felt better-rested upon waking up.

The benefits of yoga are very real. Now go and experience them for yourself—you won’t regret it.