It helps you live in the present
Most of us spend the majority of our time thinking about the past or the future (regretting, worrying, planning), or checking out completely into the land of cell phones and social media. Many of the benefits of yoga stem from the ability to unplug and focus on what’s going on in your body and in your life right now. Happiness can only be found here and now.
It helps with stress relief
Yoga reduces perceived stress and anxiety, which in turn reduces the physical effects of stress on the body. By encouraging relaxation, yoga helps to lower the levels of the stress hormones such as cortisol. Related benefits include lowering blood pressure and heart rate, improving digestion and boosting the immune system.
You will sleep better
When we are less stressed we sleep better, and when we sleep better we are less stressed. Physical activity and mental relaxation fuel this virtuous cycle. A variety of studies have shown that yoga can improve sleep quality and quantity in people struggling with insomnia. Other studies have shown similar results in other groups of people, including cancer survivors and postmenopausal women.
It can help relieve chronic pain
Studies suggest that practicing yoga reduces pain for people with conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune diseases, and hypertension as well as arthritis, back and neck pain, and other chronic conditions.
It will make you stronger
Yoga is a full-body workout, targeting all the muscles of the body with both static holds and dynamic movement. You’re supporting your own body weight, building functional strength in areas where you really need it. This is strength with purpose.
You will gain flexibility AND mobility
People often talk about flexibility, but what’s really important is mobility–the functional flexibility that makes it easier for you to complete everyday movements that require kneeling, bending or reaching–or maybe just cramming into a tiny airplane seat. Yoga increases mobility so that you can bring more ease to your movement and don’t feel so stuck in your body.
It helps the body detoxify and aids in organ function
Physical activity increases the motility and mobility of the organs and muscles, allowing them to perform their natural detoxification process. Deep yogic breathing enhances the function of the lungs. Sweating ramps up the cleaning mechanism of the body just a little more.
Gain a sense of inner calm
Yoga quiets the monkey mind. At the very beginning of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is Sutra 1.2: Yoga chitta vrtti nirodha, or “Yoga is the stilling (regulation, quieting) of the turnings of the mind.” Yoga teaches us how to step back from our churning thoughts and maintain a state of inner calm.
It reminds you to breathe!
Our breath and emotions are connected in a feedback loop. Yoga brings awareness and control to our breath patterns, allowing us to notice when our emotions are affecting our breath, and using the breath to calm our emotions. Sometimes a deep breath is what separates you from saying something you will regret! The more you can connect with your breath, the clearer you think, even in difficult situations.
You enhance proprioception
We only get one body to live in, shouldn’t you get to know it better? Yoga has you turn your mind inward to what your body is feeling right now. Where are your legs and arms? What are they doing? Which muscles are active? This practice develops you skills of proprioception, which in turn leads to things like better posture and better balance.
You will build your self confidence
Yoga asks you to challenge yourself. You will struggle, sweat, probably tip over more than once. And guess what: no matter how you look in your practice or how many poses you fall out of, no one is going to judge you and you’ll feel great in savasana! Most importantly, if you dedicate yourself to practicing, you will see improvement. Together, these experiences build confidence to take on challenges beyond the mat.
It helps with weight management
Yoga is exercise, and you do burn calories doing yoga. But even less vigorous styles of yoga can help you control your weight by reducing stress, bringing mindfulness to your eating habits, and providing a heightened sense of well-being and self-esteem.
You become a part of a lineage
We are a culture without deep roots, for better and for worse. Whether or not it’s a good thing for Americans to pastiche together our identity from many places, there’s no question that we are open to embracing other practices and cultures. When we practice yoga, we become a part of a two thousand year old tradition that gives us tools for enriching our lives with philosophical and spiritual—as well as health enhancing—practices.
It will improve your posture
By combining core strengthening with core mobility and proprioception, yoga can help improve posture. Better posture reduces anxiety, improves productivity, reduces back pain, and helps you breath better
It helps with concentration
Distraction and obsessive ‘multi-tasking’ is one of the neurosis of our time. Concentration is shifting your focus from many things at once to one thing at a time. Observing your body, breath and emotions through the yoga practice teaches you to focus your mind on one thing at a time. It is proven that as you observe your breath, it will slow down, and that as the breath slows down, the mind will follow suit. Over time practicing focus will shift you into a restful but aware state, which will recharge the mind and can help with enhanced mental facility and creativity.
You will cultivate an attitude of gratitude
By bringing awareness to your body and what it can do and clearing your head, you can see how much you have to be grateful for in your life. Many yogis begin and end their practices by dedicating their time on the mat to someone or something important to them. Can’t we all agree that the world could use a little more gratitude?
It can be cathartic and help unlock stuck emotions
Your mat is a safe space to work through emotions you maybe haven’t let yourself address directly (or didn’t even know you needed to address). Sometimes a pose will start you crying and it won’t stop. That’s totally normal, so don’t try to rein it in—just consider it good (and cheap!) therapy.
Deeper breathing reduces stress and inflammation
In addition to being relaxing, deep breathing has been proven to physiologically impact the heart, brain, digestion, immune system—and maybe even the expression of genes. Deep breathing also alkalinizes the body, keeping it balanced in its naturally slightly alkalinized state.
You will have steamier sex!
Studies have found that yoga practice significantly increases levels of testosterone in the blood, which is in turn correlated with increased sexual desire and activity in men and women. Other studies have shown links between yoga and a variety of satisfaction factors in bed, including confidence and performance.
You will become more playful
Practicing yoga encourages us to approach new and challenging situations with curiosity and playfulness instead of ego and frustration. As adults we rarely attempt new things, like balancing on our hands or our head. Taking on physical, mental and emotional challenges as part of a ‘practice’ (instead of a ‘performance’) helps us cultivate ‘child mind’… where we are less goal-oriented and more present from moment to moment.
You grow your community
There are more than 35 million Americans practicing yoga in the U.S., or about 15 percent of U.S. adults. Yoga can be such a potent seed for discovering new friendships, new teachers, and new communities. Go out and explore. Find inspirational teachers—and inspire and be inspired by your fellow practitioners! There is a global community of yogis waiting for you.
Join the Wanderlust 21-Day Challenge here! In just three weeks, you’ll master 60 poses and set the foundation for a healthy practice to last a lifetime. Join Wanderlust’s National Director of Yoga Schuyler Grant as she teaches the basics of a solid flow, breathwork, and the benefits of yoga. Sign up for free here and unlock one video every day beginning January 9. You’ll have the opportunity to purchase for $29.99 on January 31.