In need of a little more convincing to try one of the oldest practices of exercise on the planet? After reading these ten reasons to try yoga, you’ll be signing up to your nearest studio to get your Savanasa on ASAP.
1. Yoga Clears Mind Clutter.
In today’s always-on-the-run world, your mind may be constantly turning, thinking about what happened previously, what’s currently going on and what’s next on your to-do list. Yoga can help you stay in the present moment and clear your head. Things can cause us stress because we hold on to them and let them create stories in our mind, which takes up our precious time. We need to find moments to still our mind.
2. Yoga Improves Your Mood.
If you’re feeling blue, yoga can provide a natural pick-me-up. A 2011 study from Boston University School of Medicine found that yoga improved the moods and decreased the anxiety of 19 yogis over a 12-week period. This is attributed to the levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain, which increases when you practice yoga.
3. Yoga Is Effective Cross-Training
Yoga complements many sports and fitness activities that don’t incorporate stretching or don’t emphasise balance training, such as golf or baseball. “Many professional sports teams now include yoga as part of their practice,” says Laura Burkhart, yoga teacher and founder of Yoga Reach International in San Francisco. “It helps them with the sporting activity in areas like balance, focus and endurance.” If you’re already a fitness buff (be it a runner, cyclist, tennis player or weightlifter) try taking a page from the pros and add some yoga to the mix.
4. Yoga Is An Exercise Anyone Can Do
Yoga is accessible to most individuals. It’s an activity that allows you to move at your own pace and push yourself as little or as much as you’d like. Most poses have several variations, from basic to advanced, and modifications for a wide range of injuries.
5. Yoga Helps With Flexibility
For those who struggle to touch their toes, yoga may gradually ease stiff muscles and increase flexibility. Yoga teacher Jessica Ray says the key to enhanced flexibility is practicing regularly. “Flexibility is something I have to consistently work on. It isn’t something that comes naturally to me, so I fully understand the difficulty people have with this,” she says. Ray recommends thinking about yoga as an investment in your body. If you put in the work, you’ll see results.
6. Yoga Respects Your Limitations
Unlike many sports or fitness activities, in which the focus is on going farther or doing better, yoga respects (and celebrates) your physical strengths and limitations, so there’s no need to be intimidated by anyone else in the class. “Yoga focuses on respecting your body and its limitations rather than pushing the body like other physical activities,” says Laura Burkhart, founder of Yoga Reach International. “It’s a lot more kind to the body in that way.” Yoga allows you to move at your own pace, increasing or limiting the difficulty of poses as your body needs.
7. Yoga Inspires Confidence
Mastering new poses grows your confidence in your physical dexterity and ability to learn something new. “As the practice builds strength in our bodies and minds, we start to become more confident in ourselves and our decisions,” says Jessica Ray, yoga teacher at Back Bay Yoga Studio. “The practice is a great reminder of how we are stronger than we think, both physically and mentally.” You get a self-esteem boost while engaging in an activity that benefits your body and mind.
8. Yoga Relieves Stress
If you feel stressed from work or other demands, Jessica Ray, yoga teacher at Back Bay Yoga Studio, recommends releasing your worries through yoga. “Just the simple act of taking a few deep breaths can help ease the mind and reduce stress as your body moves through poses,” she says. “As you incorporate breath into each movement, the muscles in the body begin to relax and the places we hold our stress and tension start to release.” Have a big presentation coming up? Roll out the yoga mat and run through a few sun salutations or simply sit quietly and meditate, focusing on the in and out of each breath.
9. Yoga Can Help Joint Pain
Those with arthritis might find themselves especially inspired to take up yoga. A 2011 review published in Rheumatic Disease Clinics of North America found that practicing yoga twice a week helped alleviate swollen and tender joints in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Yoga’s gentle, slow movements are an ideal activity for those suffering from these conditions and can also provide relief from painful symptoms for a more comfortable life. If you have either of these conditions — or any other joint issues — ask your doctor or yoga teacher for pose modifications.
10. Yoga Never Gets Boring
The practice of yoga provides endless options in difficulty level and type. From Bikram to Ashtanga and everything in between, there are many different yoga styles to explore. And even within each kind there are endless possibilities to master increasingly difficult poses, and every yoga teacher brings his or her own style to the class. For example, with Vinyasa yoga, there are hundreds of poses and variations that can be combined into a 60- or 90-minute class, so you’re never doing the same flow twice. Tired of the treadmill? Feeling “blah” about bodybuilding? It might be time to give yoga a go.