Yoga is gaining popularity worldwide, yet whenever I tell people I practice yoga I hear the same misconceptions about what it is and who it’s for. People think it’s just for hippies or a way of showing off flexibility, but the truth is it’s for EVERYONE. If I’m honest, I had my own misconceptions about yoga before I started my own practice. Unless you’ve tried yoga it’s hard to imagine how a strange series of movements and breathing techniques can have such a transformative effect on your life. Experience the benefits first hand and I can guarantee any presumptions will swiftly be pushed aside! I’ve narrowed down the endless benefits of yoga to just 5 to encourage you to start a yoga practice today!
The Benefits of Yoga
Increased muscle strength and tone
There is no doubt about it that yoga helps to build and tone muscle. The constant moving and holding of your body weight in different postures really helps to target those areas you might otherwise neglect. Obviously we’re not talking body building here, but we’re talking good strong muscle to protect you in everyday life. When I first started yoga I was seriously lacking in strength – I used to target my glutes all the time in the gym, but in doing so I neglected the rest of my body. Since starting yoga I have gained so much upper body and core strength! Muscle is so important for protecting your joints, and it doesn’t look too bad either…
Increased flexibility and improved posture
Something that people probably associate with yoga is super flexible yogis posing in all sorts of positions that don’t seem humanly possible. For this reason people often assume they’re “not flexible enough” for yoga, but this is not true! These people got to where they were with regular practice. And furthermore, you don’t have to be able to get into these poses to reap the benefits of increased flexibility. I always surprise myself with how much further I can get into poses when I practice regularly. When you loosen up tight muscles you allow your joints to travel through their full range of motion, which can lessen aches and pains!
An energy boost and better sleep
We know that exercise of any kind is great for boosting energy and fighting fatigue. But the increased flow of your breath and blood during yoga, combined with relaxation, really does a great job of making you feel alive! This is one of my favourite benefits of yoga – I always come out of a session feeling so rejuvenated and ready for the day, and relaxing styles like yin before bed really help me drift off. A Harvard study found that over 55% of people who did yoga found it to have a positive effect on their sleep… zzZZzzZZzz.
Yoga boosts your immune system
Yoga helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and lower stress hormones, which have a negative effect on the immune system. Not only this, but certain styles of yoga, such as Bikram and Ashtanga, are particularly good at expelling toxins through the form of sweat and the breath (pranayama). So instead of splashing money on cold and flu remedies, consider investing in a healthy balanced diet and a yoga mat!
This is number one on my list of the benefits of yoga, because none of the other benefits matter if you’re not happy! Thankfully yoga is an all-encompassing practice.
Science suggests that yoga may be superior to other forms of exercise in lifting mood and reducing anxiety due to an increase in the neurotransmitter GABA. I can speak from experience that yoga has had a really positive affect on my mental well-being. Try it and it might surprise you how uplifted you feel after a session!
If these benefits of yoga aren’t enough to convince you to start your own practice then I don’t know what is… and, if money is a problem, try following YouTube videos such as those by Yoga with Adriene. No excuses!