By Jen Doyle
Yoga is the suppression of the activities of the mind” – Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, c. 4th century CE.
Yoga is a mental and physical practice of exercises, poses, and meditation techniques that originated in ancient India about 5,000 years ago. Many individuals turn to yoga to switch up their fitness routine because it is a great workout and strength builder, but there is so much more to gain from this practice far beyond the physical benefits.
Yoga has been described in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali as the pursuit of the self, by the self, through the self, which I believe to be completely true, at least, it has been true for me. In Sanskrit, yoga comes from the root word yuj, and means to attach, join, harness, yoke. This is referring to the mind-body connection that’s achieved through regular yoga practice.
Yoga is a spiritual, physical and mental process that connects the mind, body, and soul. Through physical health, mental health and clarity of the self are discovered.
In yoga, you will be challenged, delighted and humbled all at the same time while strengthening the mind and the body.
Like many, I turned to yoga many years ago in pursuit of a new workout, but the benefits I received went far beyond that and these are the reasons that keep me coming back to my mat. I think that consistency is what lead me to achieve some of my wellness goals more so than any specific type of workout could because I actually stick to it. Yoga makes me feel healthy, well and peaceful and that’s what got me hooked.
I have compiled this list of the top 10 benefits of yoga both from my personal experience of 12 years of regular yoga practice and literally scouring hundreds of websites of content to deliver to you.
Top 10 Benefits of Yoga
1. Improves Mental Health and Overall Well-being
Yoga can provide a welcomed escape from the hustle and bustle of busy, everyday life. This alone is relaxing. Even just 10 minutes a day can be enough to de-stress and carry a sense of calm with you throughout your day. Many asanas (yoga poses) are designed specifically to improve relaxation and decrease stress and anxiety, while others (like inversions) create a sense of uplifting energy for your day. Regular yoga practice has been clinically proven to lower the symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression (1).
2. Improves Quality and Quantity of Sleep
A good night’s rest is imperative to overall good health and well being, and many adults aren’t getting enough sleep every night. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of adults in the United States don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis (2).
Yoga has been proven to improve the quality of sleep and help with insomnia. This is achieved mainly by reducing stress and providing a challenging physical workout. A national survey conducted by Harvard Medical School found that 55% of survey participants who did yoga said that it helped them improve their sleep, and 85% said yoga helped reduce their stress levels (3).
3. Increases Energy
Yoga, like many types of exercise, can increase your daily energy levels. I can personally attest to this, especially when I do yoga first thing in the morning. Unlike more intense forms of exercise that can drain you, yoga tends to be a more gentle way of getting the blood pumping and will release endorphins in the body which increase energy levels for the rest of the day. Backbends and inversion poses can be especially energizing because they stretch and awaken the spine while increasing oxygenated blood flow to the brain.
4. Builds Strength
Yoga is a great example of an effective bodyweight exercise that can build strength just as efficiently (if not more) as lifting weights. Many adults have 150+ pounds of bodyweight that when positioned in various asanas (yoga poses) can be used to build significant strength. Arm balances build powerful upper body strength, while the warrior series can really burn up your lower body. Poses like boat pose and forearm plank are great core strength builders.
5. Increases Flexibility
Want to feel more youthful and get rid of that stiff, achy feeling in your limbs? Many exercise programs neglect the importance of a good stretch. Yoga is a great way to stretch those muscles and make them feel more limber and pliable again.
6. Lowers Blood Pressure
Yoga has been clinically proven to help patients dealing with high blood pressure. According to a study conducted by evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2011, “12 weeks of Iyengar yoga produces clinically meaningful improvements in 24-hour systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure (4).”
7. Improves Diet
Yoga encourages participants to eat better by making them more mindful and appreciative of what their bodies can do. This awareness and connection to the body naturally makes yogis want to nourish their bodies better and in a more healthful way. You just don’t really feel like downing a burger and fries after a good yoga session…trust me on this one.
8. Improves Immunity
It’s true, doing yoga can actually help the body fight off illness. Yoga practice is known to decrease inflammation in the body by improving circulation, all of which supports and improves the immune system. Also, yoga is known to lower stress hormone levels in the body, and since these hormones impede immunity, yoga’s destressing effect makes both the body and mind more healthful and disease-free.
9. Supports Joint Health
All the stretching and strength-building regular yoga practice achieves will improve joint health. In fact, recent scientific studies of people with various types of arthritis show that regular yoga practice can help reduce joint pain, improve joint flexibility and function in addition to lowering stress and tension to promote better sleep (5).
10. Improves Confidence
Yoga can be a humbling experience, sure, but once you’ve accomplished a pose you’ve been working towards for weeks, months even – that’s a huge boost in confidence. Yoga also encourages body awareness and appreciation which helps yogis feel more confident and comfortable in their own skin.
Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Jen Doyle. Jen believes you must bring your whole self to the table if you want to thrive in today’s crazy world; your personality, your sense of humor, and most importantly, your heart. All of these elements brought her to found the How’s it Flowin’ blog. She’s not a guru, just a regular person, a wife and a mother who has transformed her health and wellbeing with the power of yoga and meditation.