You've heard it time and time again: friends chatting about how yoga has changed their lives and how much healthier and happier they feel after each session. For a beginner, it is easy to question what exactly is so good about yoga? Is it just a new trend that everyone is hopping on, or is there more to it?
Your fellow yoginis are right: there is a world of benefits that come from practising yoga regularly. For many, yoga is an all-in-one form of exercise that tackles the mind, body and soul.
Whether your goal is to sculpt and strengthen your body, or to help de-stress and get a better night's sleep, studies have proven yoga can help in a multitude of ways no matter how often you do it to begin with or how fit you are.
What do you need to enjoy the benefits of yoga?
Simply put, you don’t need much in terms of preparation or equipment to reap the benefits of yoga. Yoga is a form of exercise that incorporates mindful stretching and poses and, equipped with just a yoga mat, you can do an invigorating workout to energise you for the day or wind-down stretches to help you sleep better at night.
Many people practise the tenets of yoga as a way of life, but to see its benefits you don’t need to follow a strict routine or to make huge changes in your habits. Also, you do not need to be flexible or have some sort of pre-required physical ability. All yoga is good for you, no matter how much or how little you choose to incorporate it in your routine. Also, yoga is good for everybody, regardless of age, physical ability or body type.
Getting on the mat for the first time is accessible to you and will benefit you regardless of the following:
- Your body type: always remember that yoga is for every body
- How fit you are: it doesn’t matter if your last fitness workout or running session was yesterday or 10 years ago. You can ease into a regular yoga practice and are likely to start seeing the benefits from day 1
- How flexible you are in your joints: you can be the most inflexible person on earth and you can still do yoga
- How healthy your body is. You can practise even if you suffer from back pain or have an injury (teacher guidance is recommended)
- If you are pregnant: getting guidance from your yoga teacher is recommended if you are expecting
It’s also completely fine to practise if you don’t own gear or clothing that’s specifically designed for yoga. Chances are that for your first session all you’ll need is a yoga mat, which some studios provide. However. picking the right yoga mat is vital for benefiting from your yoga practice. From varieties in thickness, grip and design, the right mat can massively up your yoga game and offer tailored support to your body, especially if you feel that you need more cushioning or non-slip support.
Thanks to the dual benefits for the mind and your body, yoga is a mainstay in people’s daily lives. So, it may well be that after noticing the positive impact of practising yoga, you’ll be tempted to incorporate it more and more into your daily routine as well.
Is yoga good for you?
100% yes – yoga is good for you! Yoga is said to have a wide range of benefits for your health, ranging from a better night of sleep to increasing serotonin levels. Like all exercise, there is a risk of injury when you practise yoga. Things like an incorrect form or not having the correct thickness of your mat can lead to this.
Being overly ambitious and pushing yourself too much in order to achieve flexibility is discouraged, and instead you are meant to use props like yoga blocks, straps or bolsters whenever you can and to ensure your body remains comfortable when easing into more challenging poses. Also, following yoga teachers or online tutorials, plus listening to what your body needs in terms of equipment, equals good yoga practice.
What yoga can do for your health
Yoga can offer rich mental and physical advantages at all levels of practice, even when you attend a session just once a week (or even less). Chances are that you’ll see how good it is for you after your very first time on the mat!
Here’s a rundown of what is awaiting you from regular yoga sessions, regardless of your current fitness level.
Back pain relief
Yoga is said to be one of the most effective ways of managing back pain. It has a dual approach: meditation-induced relaxation which can ease chronic pain and address bad posture, and physical stretching, which can help ease tension points in your back and build the muscles that help hold up your spine.
Yoga can help with general chronic pain also - the relaxation techniques are a great way to help manage the discomfort that comes with it. People suffering from arthritis could also potentially benefit from the gentle stretches and breathing exercises.
If you suffer from chronic back pain or other type of illness or injury, we encourage you to attend in-person yoga sessions instead of online classes. Also, always let your yoga teacher know of your injury so they can adapt the exercises to suit your condition.
Better heart health
Physicians will often recommend yoga as a low-impact form of exercise that can help to improve your heart's health in the long term. This is also why you’ll notice that teachers will go on and on about opening up your chest when doing certain yoga poses.
Some types of yoga that are more dynamic will help increase your heart rate as you practise. This means that the heart will pump blood more often during your workout, sending more oxygen to your muscles, which in turn helps reduce cholesterol levels and boosts circulation.
Another way that yoga will benefit your heart is through the breathing techniques that regular practice teaches you. Breath work is a very important side of yoga – essentially as you practise you will learn how to regulate your breath by maintaining deep inhales and exhales even during challenging poses. Applied to your daily life, taking deep breaths or doing certain breathing exercises whenever you get stressed or anxious will help you keep a normal heart rate in moments when your hart would otherwise be stimulated to overwork.
Experts also believe that yoga can improve your immune system response - reducing inflammation that can lead to illnesses such as heart disease.
Build strength and flexibility
The slow and deliberate movements of yoga gradually develop flexibility. By relaxing the muscles, they can lengthen and contract more effectively, which will in turn give your body better flexibility all around. A pose that you can try to improve your flexibility and overall balance is the tree pose. Click here for a full guide of beginner poses you can try out.
You may not think it, but yoga is a wonder for strength also! Holding certain yoga poses builds up strength - it takes a lot to be able to hold Warrior II for more than 30 seconds! Active forms of yoga such as Vinyasa especially work on your whole body, from head to toe.
Another way you can build flexibility faster is by attending certain types of yoga classes, such as Hot Yoga. In these sessions, the room is heated up to a high temperature to stimulate circulation, to increase your range of motion and flexibility. You’ll likely notice that your body will be able to go much further into a split when you’re in a heated room than when you practise at normal room temperature!
If you are already doing another form of exercise that is more dynamic, yoga can help with stretching out your muscles in order to avoid injuries during higher impact training such as weightlifting, running, HIIT and more.
Improved mental health
As you know, mental health is such a complex topic that there is no one formula that can help everyone achieve a balanced mental state or to cure ailments. However, the core tenets of yoga can be incredible for helping with stress, anxiety or depression and to stimulate your overall mental well-being.
A lot of the focus in each yoga class goes to paying attention to the feelings in your mind and body, staying in the present moment and observing your emotional states without pushing yourself to feel or become otherwise. As you practise mindfulness more and more in your yoga sessions, you are likely to begin seeing new perspectives on situations previously shrouded in anxiety and sadness. When dealing with a moment of feeling down or stressed, you’ll be able to apply what you’ve learnt in class by observing your feelings as they come and working your way through them without putting yourself down.
There have also been studies which suggest that regular yoga practice can actually result in a boost of serotonin levels, which is the chemical responsible for the feeling of happiness. The clarity of mind that yoga can bring also improves cognitive function, so you’re not only going to be left feeling happier, but smarter as well!
Yoga is suitable for people of all sizes, but if you happen to be on a weight loss journey, embarking on a yoga program can boost your metabolism and reset the hormonal system, which plays a large part in regulating your weight.
Think of it as a gentle way to losing weight, more holistic than spot reduction weight loss, and softer on your joints. Also, the emphasis on connecting to your body and being aware of what it actually needs can help with your eating habits.
Whether you want to cut out habits of stress eating or you just want to feel more comfortable with your current weight, yoga might be the perfect option. Being mindful of your body means being mindful of what goes into it and how you treat it overall.
Several studies have shown that yoga can ease the level of Cortisol, a stress hormone, in our bodies. This is because yoga encourages us to slow down and be still for a while, which comes in contradiction with what we’re used to in the busy modern world. Learning to feel comfortable with taking this time just for yourself can reduce levels of anxiety, stress and encourage a better relationship with your body.
Stress is not just mental strain, it takes a toll on the body also! Lowering stress levels can combat heart conditions, high blood pressure, improving sleep quality, among many other benefits.
How to incorporate regular yoga practice into your routine
With all these potential health benefits, it's a wonder why we aren't all just doing yoga daily! Many people find it tough to find the time for that daily practise in their busy lives.
However, you don't need to do an expensive class or spend hours in zen mode see these advantages. Finding a way to get in just 15-20 minutes of yoga, a few times a week is all you need.
The best way to regularly practise yoga is by slipping it into your current daily routine. For example, doing a short lunchtime yoga session or practising in the evening just before bed will do wonders for you.
If you still need more motivation, then perhaps choosing the right yoga equipment that makes you excited to practise yoga is the way forward; whether that's versatile yoga pants and a new mat or buying blocks that can spice up your poses and improve your overall flexibility.
Yoga is about you: your body and your mind. Find a routine that works for you and adapt your yoga practice to what you want out of it!
Always remember: why is yoga good for YOU?
The answer to the question ‘Why is yoga good for you’ differs from one person to the other, depending on who you ask. The benefits for taking up a regular practice are likely to show for most people. For instance, science tells us that most yogis are pleased to notice that their issues with back pain have diminished or even disappeared completely after starting yoga. However, it’s true that many people will not be concerned with back pain necessarily, but actually enjoy yoga for how it makes their body feel overall in terms of muscular strength and flexibility. Similarly, others may value how yoga helps them become calmer and sleep better.
Wherever you are in your yoga journey, there will be times when you are likely to struggle with finding the motivation to get on the mat. In times like these, it’s important to visualise the way in which yoga benefits you personally and what it adds to your life. Ask yourself: how do you feel immediately after practice? Chances are that some of the ways it makes you feel were discussed in this post, which we truly hope you find useful. However, it can be something that’s totally unique to you. The only way to find out is to get on your mat – whatever type of yoga you choose, and however long you choose to practise it for, it can only be good.
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