This question is something that I get asked quite frequently. Why not Pilates or Zumba or kickboxing? While other forms of exercise are great, yoga is so much more than a workout.
Think of yoga as exercise for your mind, body, and spirit. It’s a moving meditation, combining postures that stretch and strengthen the body while encouraging mindfulness and connection with the breath. Increasingly, science is beginning to prove what ancient wisdom has been telling us for thousands of years: yoga is a life-changing practice.
Seven Reasons to Start Practicing Yoga Today
1: You will increase your flexibility.
So many people think being inflexible means they can’t practice yoga. “I am so bad at yoga; I can’t even touch my toes!” If I had a dollar for every time I heard this, I would be a rich lady.
The truth is, being tight and tense is all the more reason to start a yoga practice. Yoga teaches postures that lengthen the muscles gently. The focus is not on harsh stretches or pushing the body into advanced poses, such as splits, when the body is not ready to go there. Yoga is about working with the body, slowly and consciously opening up tight spaces. Your flexibility can increase and your range of motion can expand within weeks of beginning a regular practice.
2: You will experience a reduction in stress.
Yoga promotes mindful movement, meditation, and deep breathing. All of these have been proven to reduce stress levels. Yoga explicitly teaches us to sit with discomfort and accept our lives as they are. We learn to let go of things we cannot control.
Learning to accept discomfort and stress on the mat trains you to do the same off of the mat. Over time, you will find yourself less stressed and more able to cope with any situation. Obviously, it is a work in progress and the more you practice, the better you will get.
3: You will sleep more deeply and wake with more energy.
Yoga helps us sleep better in a variety of ways. First, it is a form of exercise which helps physically tire out the body, promoting more deep sleep. Second, yoga helps to quiet the mind and focus on one simple thought at a time, such as the breath, or the movement of the body.
This prevents an overactive mind from keeping us awake. Finally, through reducing stress, the body can fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep for longer.
4: Your ability to concentrate will improve.
Yoga helps us to learn how to exist in the present moment, to let our distracting thoughts, to-do lists, and worries fall to one side. Instead, we focus on one single thought, such as our breath or how we are positioning our bodies.
This begins to infiltrate our lives off the mat. Regular practitioners of yoga find it easier to focus on one task and let pesky, unhelpful thoughts melt away. This is an exceptionally useful benefit in today’s busy age of multitasking.
5: You will start to feel physically stronger.
Through long-held poses and repeated strength-building sequences, yoga makes your body stronger. However, the focus in yoga is not on building large muscles, but increasing core strength and stability in the body. This creates a body that is functionally strong, with good posture and a balance of strength and flexibility.
6: You will improve your cardiovascular fitness.
Along with strength, yoga improves your cardiovascular health. Through repetition of movement, the heart rate increases, especially when practiced for a longer period of time. For classes that help with cardiovascular health, try a more active style of yoga, like a power flow, vinyasa, or ashtanga class.
7: You will join a beautiful community.
This is one of the most wonderfully unexpected benefits of starting a yoga practice. Yoga classes provide shared experiences through which you can meet new people and make new friends. Many studios offer other experiences, like meditation classes, workshops, and events. Some even have cafes.
The more you practice yoga and attend classes, the more you will find yourself with like-minded people. So if you haven’t practiced yoga before, or it’s been a while since you last rolled out your mat, it might be time to find a yoga class near you and get practicing. You have so much to gain.
Medical Disclaimer: The information provided here in my “Soulful Yoga” column at SoulfulLiving.com is not intended to be a substitute for the professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by your own Medical Provider. You agree and acknowledge that I am not providing medical advice. All matters regarding your health require supervision by a personal physician or other appropriate health care professional familiar with your current health status. You must not rely on the information in this column as an alternative to medical advice from your own doctor or other professional healthcare provider. Always consult a qualified personal health care provider before making any dietary or exercise changes. As with all situations, there are sometimes unknown individual risks and circumstances that can arise that cannot be foreseen that can influence or reduce results. You understand that any mention of any suggestion or recommendation in this column is to be taken at your own risk, with no liability on my part or that of SoulfulLiving.com, recognizing that there is a rare chance that illness, injury or even death could result, and you agree to assume all risks.
Stephanie Johnson is a passionate school teacher, yoga teacher and environmentalist. As a primary school teacher, she incorporates yoga teachings into all aspects of her students’ learning. She has a severe and incurable case of wanderlust and has traveled to over 50 countries, with more plans to jet abroad in search of yoga and adventure.