Why Should You Start a Yoga Practice?
In other words, the benefits of a yoga practice. This post will dive into just a few of the many benefits you can expect.
Why embark on the practice of yoga? What are the benefits and the reasons someone should put time and effort into such a practice? The answer to that is many fold. Let’s dive in and explore the benefits and reasons to consider taking up the practice of yoga.
First we should start with how is yoga different than other forms of exercise. Where yoga differs is the deeper level it can take. Of course there are those who practice yoga purely for the physical and never take that deeper dive into the world of yoga. However, the real benefits of a yoga practice come about when you go deeper. Yoga is about bridging the mind, body, and spirit connection.
This is a big reason people come to the practice of yoga. We live in a society that involves a lot of sitting. This causes people to become tight and inflexible over time. The importance of remaining flexible as we age cannot be stressed enough. Flexibility leads to greater mobility and balance. As we age this is vital.
Ironically, the lack of flexibility is a big reason people site for not practicing yoga. “I am not flexible enough for a yoga practice”, is a common refrain I hear often. However, one of the first and most noticeable benefits you will notice from practicing yoga is an increase in flexibility. In my own personal practice I notice a difference from the beginning of class to the end. The practice itself lends to an increase in flexibility. This is not to say that everyone who practices yoga will be like a gymnast and able to twist into pretzel shapes.
But with a regular practice, many find touching their toes becomes easy, the hamstrings loosen up. The back muscles unclench. The shoulders become more flexible. And so on.
For those that are extremely tight there are many modifications and variations that can be taken to make the practice more accessible until things start to loosen up. This is a wonderful aspect of yoga. It meets you exactly where you are. You do not need to be a certain level of flexibility, strength, or mobility before starting. The practice will help all of those areas over time.
Increase in Strength
Increased strength is another great benefit. The best part, you do not need any fancy equipment to increase your strength. No weights or machines are needed. Instead yoga uses your own body weight to increase strength. I can tell you after some of my practices I walk away feeling strengthened, enlivened, and empowered. It is a powerful practice.
This is one thing I can tell you, I have never walked away from doing a yoga class and thought, “wow, I wish I hadn’t practiced yoga today”. Instead I always feel better, even on the days I may not want to get on my mat. Once I do I am always happy that I did.
As we age it is important to keep our strength and this practice will do just that. Again meeting you where you are in this moment. When I first starting practicing yoga I could not hold plank pose (top of a push-up) for more than a few seconds at a time. I can now hold it for a minute or longer depending on the day.
Mobility, this is another important benefit and something we all need throughout our lives. When you stop moving, especially as you age, you can lose the ability to move about easily. Mobility also encompasses your joints, your bones, and your muscular structure. Spine health is also greatly increased when we increase our mobility. Yoga is great at helping our mobility throughout the entire body.
Mental + Emotional Benefits
Reduced stress and anxiety are often reported. Both from the physical postures but also through controlled breath work and meditation practices. In our modern world anything we can do to reduce both without the aid of drugs is a win in my opinion.
Becoming More in Tune with Yourself
In a world post-pandemic and with predictions for more in the future, immunity is at the forefront in our minds. Yoga is excellent at boosting immunity but also a great support when you are feeling under the weather. Some of the poses in yoga help our lymphatic system function more efficiently. The lymphatic system needs movement in order to pump and move lymph through the system. It does not have its own pump like the heart.
One of my favorites and in my opinion most profound benefits of the practice involves being more in tune with ourselves. This means noticing when we need to take rest or when we need a more demanding practice. It helps us slow down and we all need to do this in our go go society. By slowing down we can really start to listen and tune into what it is our body needs. But not only our body but also our mind and spirit. With the practice we can start to cultivate compassion towards ourselves. Treating ourselves like we would a dear and close friend. This is profound. It helps in how we react to things that come our way. When we can take a step back and look at the situation instead of overreacting it makes us a better person overall.
Over the years through my own practice I have noticed a decrease in negative emotions such as jealousy, lower self esteem, lack of confidence, and a reduction in anger and how I react to negative situations. It has helped me navigate the challenges of life more effectively. Because in the end life will always have challenges. There is no way to completely eliminate them. But if we can find better ways to deal with those challenges as they come our way, I consider that a plus.
In the end there are many more benefits of a yoga practice. I have only touched upon some of the main ways it can help. Other benefits include, better posture, increased gratitude, being content with what you have, more compassion for yourself and those around you, helps with hormone imbalances, teaches you how to best navigate different chapters in our lives, allows you to age more gracefully, makes you more adaptable, and the list goes on.