Why Not . . . Try Yoga?

Feb 19, 2014


“The beauty is that people often come here for the stretch, and leave with a lot more.” -Liza Ciano

Yoga continues to grow in popularity as more and more studies reveal a long list of health benefits. And while some may refrain from giving it a try for a variety of reasons, whether you choose to attend classes regularly at your local yoga studio or wake up each morning and treat your body and mind to a short routine of poses, the benefits cannot be ignored.

Let me begin by sharing my experience with yoga. I can remember the first class I attempted to take a yoga class, and while I was quite intimidated (mainly due to the fact that I was in my early twenties and insecure about a variety of things), when the instructor came around and told me to straighten my arms (I was doing my best and they were as straight as my body would allow) an then proceeded to shove my arms into a straighter line, I had a difficult time feeling the “zen” that I thought I was supposed to feel. So I quickly chickened out and didn’t attend classes again until my early thirties . . . and then I fell in love with yoga.

I have no doubt that my skittishness during my first initiation of yoga was greatly due to many other factors beyond that particular yoga experience, so whether it was because I was at a more confident place with myself ten years later or that I no longer held a certain ideal of what someone who attended yoga classes had to look like as they went through the poses, I grew to quickly love my hour and fifteen minute weekly class.

Since then my schedule has grown busier, and I am no longer able to attend a weekly class, but instead incorporate short sessions at home.  However, I continually try to rearrange my schedule so that I can attend classes with my preferred instructor. After all, there has not been a time when I haven’t walked out the doors after class and felt refreshed, exhausted and more tranquil. A lovely combination indeed.

Today, I’d like to share with you 11 benefits of yoga whether you choose to become a devoted yogi who lives and breathes the practice or someone who appreciates the benefits of yoga and incorporates it regularly, but as a supplement to an overall health and fitness routine. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, yoga incorporates the powerful practice of readying the mind for meditation, and benefits of mastering your mind is limitless.

Benefits

1. Increase Happiness

As shared in the Yoga Journal, research has revealed that yoga increases serotonin which tells our minds whether we are happy or sad, hungry or satiated, hot or cold, etc. And with increased serotonin, the feeling of happiness increases, thereby decreases depressing thoughts.

2. Lower Cortisol Levels

While temporary bursts of cortisol within our body (adrenaline) protect us from pain and help us survive in moments of peril, chronically high levels of cortisol due to stressful lives can actually erode our body’s good health: weakening our immune system, contributing to depression and osteoporosis and may permanently damage the brain. Yoga has been proven to effectively keep cortisol levels low as we begin to create mindful behaviors, mastering our thoughts and deepen our breathing which effectively calms us down.

3. Fewer Colds

Since the immune system is strengthened, our bodies are better able to ward off common colds that would normally pounce on a weakened immune system.

4. Improve Strength

Using our own bodies as resistance, yoga gradually, yet steadily improves our strength which helps protect the body from arthritis and back pain.

5. Increase Flexibility

One of the primary reasons people incorporate yoga into their fitness routine is to blend the opportunity for improved flexibility. With consistent practice, tight hamstrings which can increase back pain and tight hips which can lead to knee pain begin to loosen thereby decreasing body pain.

6. Decrease Joint Pain

Since yoga runs joints through their full range of motion, joint cartilage (which is built like a sponge) is able to be wrung out and readily able to absorb fresh nutrients which allow the body to become less prone to degenerative arthritis.

7. Improve Circulation

With the regular movement of the entire body, holding poses and strengthening our attention on better breathing, our circulation improves which can reduce swelling as well as clot-promoting proteins in our blood which can decrease the likelihood of heart attacks and strokes.

8. Improve Health & Prolong Life

Our bodies were made to rid themselves of toxins, but often we get in the way of the process by not tending to what our bodies require. By incorporating regular yoga (holding poses, and moving from one pose to the next), we increase the drainage of the lymph which helps combat infection, rid our bodies of cancerous cells and dispose of toxins. And by giving this gift to our bodies, we improve the quality and duration of our lives.

9. Muscle Tone

Strengthening our muscles protects our bones which helps prevent osteoporosis. Muscle tone also increases caloric burn and improves our metabolism, helping to keep our weight in check. So while our muscles become long and lean, our overall health is improved as well.

10. Improve Balance

Balancing poses are one of my favorite aspects of yoga. Why? Well, in time, we come to be much more aware of our bodies and how each limb and slouch effects whether we will remain standing or topple – what a powerful lesson for living well. So as I hold each pose and focus on my breathing, I also can’t help but be reminded to be present, let go of the day and just be still otherwise I may just land on my nose.

11. Improve Breathing 

As we position our bodies into a variety of different poses and are asking our bodies to hold these challenging postures, it is our breathing, that if we focus on, helps us remain stoic. It is our breathing that can help us step away from the struggle and endure. And so if we can carry this practice into our daily routine, we can be reminded that controlling our minds begins with paying attention to our breathing.

Isn’t it amazing how many benefits yoga provides? Granted, many other fitness options offer a plethora of health gifts as well, but simply because yoga doesn’t leave us pouring with sweat at the end of each session, doesn’t mean it isn’t rich with gifts for our mind and body. Whether you are able to include a full hour or more a week to a class or can only do a handful of sun salutations each morning, each time you do, just know you are helping both your mind and your body out immensely. Namaste.

~A Sample Morning Yoga Routine (5-10 minutes)

  1. Mountain
  2. 3-5 Sun Salutations
  3. Warrior II
  4. Triangle
  5. Tree
  6. Seated (traditional cross-legged pose) or Corpse
Sun Salutation Visual Aid

sunsalutation

~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:

~Why Not . . . Meditate?

~Why Not . . . Ride a Bike?

~Why Not . . . Live a Long and Healthy Life?

Images:  (2



7 thoughts on “Why Not . . . Try Yoga?

  1. As a friend said to me yesterday (when we were discussing going to the same yoga class last night)…”nothing makes me feel the way that yoga does”. Sums it up I guess…I find that the benefits/outcome are so much more than one could imagine from what you actually do in the class. I suppose it’s a combination of the benefits you listed, and I really like the idea that it’s time for you, about you, in your own “space”, what your body can give on that specific day,and what your mind/spirit can take away from the practice on that specific day.
    Cathy

  2. I have a very distinct memory of leaving a yoga class feeling taller! I don’t have a studio where I practice now so rely on some online videos. But someday I’d like to practice with an in-person instructor again.

  3. I tried a new yoga video yesterday (I’m still a bit uncomfortable going to a class! At home practice for me…) and for the first time, it finally felt wonderful, spiritual, relaxing and stimulating! After finding this link from one of your recent articles, I think I might try it again!

  4. I had no idea that yoga has so many benefits. It seems like I get colds all the time, so it’s nice that yoga can actually improve me immune system. Maybe I should try yoga out!

  5. Thank you for sharing. I just finished my graduate school research paper on depression in women and how yoga helps decrease depression and improve happiness!

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