Yoga is an ancient practice designed to unite the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of ourselves. And along the way, the yogi (practitioner of yoga) gains a plethora of benefits! So if you’re not sure if yoga is right for you, check out a few of the benefits that you will experience:
- Increased flexibility – This is the most commonly known benefit of yoga. And it’s true! Many yoga poses are based on stretching the body, allowing for greater flexibility and range of motion. This means that when you turn 70, you will still be able to tie your own shoes!
- Increased strength – Many of the yoga poses also increase our muscular strength. Try practicing sun salutations for 15 minutes, and you might start to feel the burn in your triceps!
- Increased balance – Yoga also helps increase our balance physically. Any pose where you are standing on one foot (tree pose, dancer pose, etc.) will help you find stability so you are less likely to fall over off of the mat. This becomes more important as we age…
- Better posture – In yoga, we are constantly guided to lengthen the spine. If you see someone hunched over during a yoga class, hopefully the teacher is quickly guiding them to sit up straight! With a straighter and stronger spine comes better posture. And with better posture comes more oxygen to the brain, allowing for more coherent thinking.
- Increased joint mobility – The physical yoga practice guides you to utilize your body’s full range of motion. This helps your body build cartilage around the joints, preventing the onset of arthritis!
- Healthier spine – There are many spinal doctors that now prescribe yoga for patients with spinal disc problems. This is because in yoga, we move the spine in all 6 directions: forward bend, backbend, left side bend, right side bend, left twist and right twist. But you don’t have to wait for spinal degeneration to practice yoga! Yoga can help prevent degradation in the spine, allowing for a healthy and pain-free back.
- Healthier bones – Yoga is considered a weight bearing exercise, and weight bearing exercises encourage the bones to build up stronger infrastructure. Stronger bones decreases the chance of osteoporosis allowing for a longer, healthier life!
- Increase circulation – An inversion is a pose where the hips are higher than the heart (think about downward facing dog, standing forward fold, handstand, etc.) These poses increase circulation throughout the body, but especially towards the head. When you move from an inversion to an upright position, you often feel more relaxed. This is because your blood pressure has decreased! This is a powerful benefit for anyone with circulation or heart problems.
- Increases immunity – Practicing yoga allows the lymphatic system to function more easily. By stretching and contracting the various muscles of the body, the lymph nodes are able to drain naturally, and the lymphatic system experiences an increase in circulation, allowing your body to fight off infections and diseases more easily!
- Regulate adrenal glands – Yoga helps us reduce cortisol, the stress causing hormone. During yoga, we are focused on the breath and constantly working to deepen the breath. The movements are linked with the breath, allowing the parasympathetic nervous system to engage and giving our adrenal system a little break.
- Increase weight loss – For overweight yogis, yoga can help restore a healthier weight. This is somewhat due to the fact that you burn some calories in yoga, but mostly due to the fact that you are becoming more mindful. Yoga teaches us to focus on the present moment, which is especially important during mealtimes. When we practice mindfulness when eating, we are more likely to stop when we feel full (not stuffed!) and to feel satisfaction after the meal is complete.
- Increase happiness – Practicing yoga often leaves us with an increase in endorphins. These endorphins literally make us feel happier, decreasing symptoms of depression. And we could all use a little more happiness in our lives!
- Decrease stress – Similar to the physical benefit of “regulate adrenal glands”, yoga allows us to simply relax. By spending time thinking about the breath and body, your thoughts naturally become less overwhelming, and you are left with a feeling of peace.
- Clearer thoughts – during yoga, we practice good posture, especially with the spine. When we have good posture, it’s easier for the blood to get to the brain, providing fresh oxygen to the brain. This fresh oxygen allows us to think more clearly.
- Less violence – In yoga, we practice ahimsa, which is non-violence or non-harm. This is practiced by being gentle to ourselves on the mat and being gentle to the world us off of the mat.
- Greater understanding of truth – Yoga teaches us satya, to live our truth. By becoming in tune with our inner self, our voice of reason, we gain a greater understanding of the world around us and how to live our lives as our true self.
- Greater integrity – Another yoga concept is asteya, or non-stealing. This one seems obvious, yet we see people everyone taking what isn’t theirs. Yoga helps us relearn this simple concept of not stealing.
- Greater contentedness – Aparigraha, or non-possessiveness, is a powerful yoga concept. It teaches us to accept what we have instead of always wanting what we lack. This helps increase our level of contentment, increasing our overall satisfaction in life.
Hopefully a couple of these benefits appealed to you! And this is just the beginning. As you deepen your yoga practice, you will experience benefits above and beyond the basics that I have listed. So have fun on your yoga journey!