The benefits of yoga for health are endless! Of course, as a yoga teacher I am pretty biased but I honestly think that starting a yoga practice is one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental health. In this article I want to share the top benefits of yoga for health that I have experienced over the last 10 years of practicing yoga.
Benefits of yoga for health (physical body)
The practice of yoga has so many health benefits for people of all ages. A daily yoga practice, even just 10 minutes, is a great way to get your body moving, get your blood flowing, loosen up your joints, improve your flexibility and strength. Physical health benefits of yoga include:
Better cardiovascular health and reduced risk of heart disease. Like any other type of exercise that gets your body moving, the health benefits of yoga include improved cardio-vascular fitness. Unlike many other types of exercise, yoga is low intensity and not stressful on the joints so it is a great way for those new to exercise to start out. Vinyasa and other types of “flow” yoga can be especially good for improving your fitness.
Lowered blood pressure. Practicing yoga regular can help to lower your blood pressure, reducing your risk of heart disease and stroke. There are certain yoga postures which specifically help to lower blood pressure including standing forward fold, downward facing dog and legs up the wall pose. Practicing yoga daily along with a healthy diet can lead to huge improvement in your blood pressure readings.
Reduced muscular tension from prolonged sitting and sedentary lifestyles. Now more than ever we are spending increasing amounts of time in front of our computers and phones. Especially with COVID19 restrictions, many of us are working from home and sitting for long periods of time. Yoga helps to counter-balance habitual tension in the neck, shoulders and hips creating a sense of ease and wellbeing in your body.
Improved flexibility and mobility
Improved flexibility, balance and joint health. One of the most well-known benefits of yoga for physical health is improved flexibility. Remember you don’t have to be flexible to practice yoga but practicing yoga will help to improve your flexibility! Yoga practice improves mobility in all of the main joints in the body including the spine, knees, hips and wrists, helping you to stay fit and mobile as you get older and improving your quality of life.
Stronger, more toned muscles. Many fitness enthusiasts see yoga as “not challenging enough”. Then you get them on the mat and watch them struggle! A yoga practice can be a full body workout where you are challenging and all of your muscles in a holistic, functional way. Of course, the intensity of a physical yoga practice varies a lot. Nevertheless, practicing yoga can definitely be a great way to strengthen and tone your upper body, core thighs and glutes.
Improved sleep quality. Yoga helps to calm and relax both the body and mind. This can definitely help you to get a better nights sleep. Practicing yoga in the morning helps you to stay calm and relaxed throughout the day and sleep more soundly at night. A gentle bedtime yoga practice is also an excellent way to wind down. Yoga helps to let go of the stress of the day and prepare your body for sleep. Better sleep has all sorts of health benefits including better blood sugar control, improved energy levels and lowered inflammation.
Benefits of yoga for health (mental and emotional body)
As well as the physical health benefits of yoga, there are also many mental health benefits of yoga. In today’s busy world, most of us feel some level of pressure, tension and stress on a daily basis. As a result, cases of anxiety, depression and other mental health issues are also on the rise. The benefits of yoga for mental health include:
Anxiety and stress
Reduced anxiety and stress levels. Getting yourself onto your yoga mat to take some time for yourself and close out the outside world is a great way to reduce anxiety and stress levels. Unfortunately life will happen and no matter how we try. We can reduce the external stressors in our life the but the fast pace and pressures of modern society will always cause us some level of stress. Practicing yoga helps to reduce this stress and the anxiety that going with it.
Improved nervous system health. Because of the high levels of stress, adrenal fatigue and burn out are becoming more and more common. If you have a stressful job or busy family life, drink a lot of caffeine or spend excessive time on the internet or social media it’s highly likely that your nervous system could do with some attention. Yoga practice, especially breathwork and meditation but also physical asana practice is a great way to nurture your adrenals, activate your parasympathetic nervous system and and strengthen your capacity to deal with the stress of daily life.
Feelings of calm and wellbeing. Regular yoga practice helps you to tune into your body, notice habitual patterns of tension and gripping. Also to learn to let go into deep states of relaxation. Often we hold on tightly to life, feeling like we need to control every little thing. Yoga invites us to surrender to the flow and accept what is, creating a sense of peace and wellbeing in your body and mind
Improved self-awareness. I wrote an article on yoga and self-awareness recently. I think improving self-awareness is a key benefit of yoga for mental health. Yoga helps you to listen to your thoughts and feeling. Over time you become aware of patterns that may be hurting you or holding you back in life. Through practicing yoga regularly, you can learn to rewire these patterns. This is the first step to changing the way you think about yourself and the way that you approach life.
Greater connection with others. Yoga classes have been an amazing sense of community for me over the years. From the huge gym classes I took when I started out my practice to the intimate group in my teacher trainings. I have always found yoga to be a gateway to deep connection with others. I’m not sure if it’s because people who are more emotionally open and vulnerable are drawn to yoga. Or whether it is yoga that cracks people wide open. But either way, I’ve always found this sense of connection and community amongst yogis. For those interested in embarking on a spiritual path, yoga is also a great way to connect with your surroundings, higher self and something greater.
How to start a home yoga practice
I started practicing yoga by going to face to face classes. I always recommend this as the best route for beginner yogis. But a home yoga practice is a great way to complement teacher led classes and deepen your practice. The way that I started my home yoga practice and still continue to learn more about yoga is through reading yoga books. You can find books on the foundations of yoga, yoga philosophy and history, yoga anatomy and physiology and meditation and pranayama (breathwork).
Yoga book recommendations
Some of my favourite yoga book recommendations are:
Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness by Eric Schiffman
Yoga for Women by Bobby Clennell
Light on Life/Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar
Thrive through Yoga: A 21 day journey by Nicola Jane Hobbs
These yoga books will give you different perspectives and techniques and highlight the health benefits of yoga. They will talk you through the basics of connecting with your breath and quietening your mind. You will also learn the alignment of the asana which will form the foundation of your home yoga practice.
Online yoga classes
Also with the internet and social media it is now easier than ever to find information. You can find a yoga huge variety of classes and practice in the comfort of your home. There are endless yoga tutorials on Youtube from beginners foundation classes to crazy advanced ashtanga sequences. Whatever level you are at, you can find an online class to suit you. Some of my favourite online yoga teachers are Yoga with Adriene, Yoga Upload, The Mindful Movement and Cat Meffan. You can check out my Youtube channel Moon Life Yoga. I am planning to upload more guided yoga classes this year!
I am also offering 3 online yoga classes a week during the COVID19 pandemic.
Absolute Beginners – Tuesday 1pm UK/3pm Greece
Beginners/Intermediate – Thursday 4pm UK/6pm Greece
Yoga for Women – Sunday 4pm UK/6pm Greece
You can find out more information about current class schedule and sign up for a class here.
Today’s challenge: Feel the benefits of yoga for health
Your challenge today is try try out this yoga practice for beginners by Yoga with Adriene. Focus on connecting with your body during the practice. Reflect on your experience afterwards and share any comments below!
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