There are over 100 different types of yoga practices, but most of them have the same core format: deep breathing, stretching and strengthening poses, and a meditative and mindful quality. This brings with it many benefits of yoga for your whole being.
Whether you’ve never tried yoga, have done a few classes, or you’re a practiced yogi, here are some of the biggest reasons to make it a regular part of your life.
Mental and Emotional Benefits of Yoga
Yoga is a unique physical practice because it has several proven benefits for your mind and emotional health. Here are the top ways it can help.
1. Stress Relieving and Mood Boosting
One of the most well-known benefits of yoga, especially restorative yoga, is its ability to help relieve stress and promote more calmness. This is why many people experience lower stress levels, less anxiety, and a greater ability able to handle life when practicing yoga regularly.
Studies have demonstrated this, as well:
- A study on 70 periodontitis patients with stress-related anxiety and depression found those with a regular yoga practice had low levels ofcortisol, a primary stress hormone . Cortisol influences levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which often associated with depression.
- Another study looked at the effects of Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY), a cyclical breathing yoga practice, on inpatients of alcohol dependence. The SKY participants completed two weeks of alternate day breathing practices. At the end of the two weeks, researchers found the SKY subjects had a reduction in cortisol levels as well as a reduction on the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) scale .
- A 10-week study on 131 people comparing yoga with relaxation found yoga was more effective in improving mental health than relaxation and as effective at reducing anxiety and stress .
- Other research has shown yoga to be effective at lowering symptoms of anxiety, PTSD, and depression [4,5].
Starting a regular yoga practice can be a great way to naturally help yourself handle life’s stressors and feelings of anxiety.
2. Teaches You Mindfulness
Yoga encourages you to connect with your body, sync your body with your breath, and breath deeply. This helps bring you more into the present moment, which is something most people don’t do enough these days.
In our chaotic world full of life, work, social media, and fast-paced technology, it’s hard to stop and be mindful. Yoga helps us achieve more of the slow, mindful living that’s good for the mind. This is evident in the mental health-related benefits of yoga demonstrated in #1.
Yoga can also help encourage more mindful eating—being present in the moment while eating each meal or snack. When you learn to pay more attention to the smells, tastes, and textures of your food, you’re more likely to enjoy it more and not over- or under-eat as much.
3. Encourages More Self-Care
When you make a habit of slowing down and connecting with your body more often, it can help you make self-care more of a priority. At its core, self-care is about making more time for yourself.
After taking on a regular yoga practice, perhaps you’ll start making more time for something you enjoy or healthy habits that make you feel good.
Physical Benefits of Yoga
Besides improving mental health, mindfulness, and self-care, there are physical benefits of yoga too. Those can include the following.
4. Improved Balance and Flexibility
Many people will incorporate yoga into their fitness routine because it’s great for increasing flexibility and improving balance. This can help prevent injuries and boost physical performance and mobility.
5. Can Make You Stronger
Yoga can also help you build muscle naturally! Certain yoga exercises include poses that really use your body weight to support yourself, such as:
A consistent yoga practice can help stretch and strengthen your entire body, especially if combined with regular cardio and weight training. And faster-paced practices like power yoga already include a cardio element.
See also: Muscle Building
6. Builds Your Core Strength
Yoga includes many poses that build your core strength—the muscles in your middle, around your trunk and pelvis. This is important because a strong core means:
- Better stability and balance as you train your pelvis, lower back, ab, and hip muscles to work together
- Stronger and more toned abdominals
- More ease doing everyday activities and fitness activities
- Better posture and less fatigue, lower back pain, and muscle or joint injuries
7. May Support the Heart
Yoga may help improve your heart health and possibly even reduce the risk of heart disease through a lower pulse rate and blood pressure . High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart problems.
Some research has also known yoga may help in decreasing total and LDL “bad” cholesterol .
8. May Improve Sleep
Sleep is extremely important for good health and feeling your best—but many people don’t get near enough rest each night.
Yoga may help promote better sleep so you can feel more rested and alive in the morning and throughout your day. This may because yoga has been shown to increase the hormone melatonin, which regulates sleep, in the body .
Plus, we know from above that the benefits of yoga include a positive effect on mood and stress, which are often factors in getting good sleep.
9. Promotes a Healthy Lifestyle and Weight
Mindfulness can naturally steer you towards healthier habits. That includes mindful eating, which can lead to eating less overall and more healthful foods for your body.
It also helps you treat yourself with kindness, getting rid of negative self-talk that could contribute to disordered eating habits like binging.
Overall, yoga is a fantastic practice for your mind and body. Pick up a good yoga mat today and experience the benefits of yoga for yourself!
And for all your fitness-related needs, check out our Sport and Fitness section here at Nature’s Ideal.