9 INCREDIBLE Reasons TO Start Doing Yoga
The benefits of yoga are universally acknowledged: increased flexibility, stress relief, better health and physical fitness. All pretty fantastic (science backed) reasons to roll out your mat on a regular basis. However, yoga’s benefits go far beyond those most people are familiar with. Spoiler alert: yoga isn’t about mastering a handstand.
More than 90% of people start practising yoga for the incredible physiological and psychological benefits. However, it’s shown that for most people the primary reason for maintaining a practice changes.
Over time, people discover yoga’s potential to enhance self-reflection, encourage self-awareness, and to change the heart – and we’re talking kindess and self-love here, not blood pressure (though its proven to do this too!). This is what sets yoga apart from other forms of exercise.
If this sounds a little lofty know that the best thing is that the benefits of yoga are available to everyone – no matter your age, fitness level, or experience. There’s a spectrum of positive changes that every yoga practitioner can expect to notice a day, week, month, or several years into their practice. In fact, you’ll feel a difference from your very first class, we promise!
Just starting out? Explore Reformation’s timetable (link). There’s yoga classes to suit every mood, preference and experience level.
Whether you’re new to yoga or need some motivation to keep up a regular practice, read on for 9 incredible benefits of yoga. From changing the body and brain, to transforming your outlook on life.
1. Calmer Mind and Stress Relief
Most people who’ve taken a yoga class intuitively know that it somehow makes you feel calmer. There’s a number of reasons for this, one being that mindful movement and conscious breathing triggers our parasympathetic nervous system into action. This is the “rest and digest” network directly responsible for relaxation.
But the benefits of yoga go even further than the immediate tension release you feel. Yoga actually changes the structure of the brain. A 2015 study found that yoga can help protect your brain from shrinking as you get older. In particular, it protects the of grey matter in the left hemisphere, the side of your brain associated with positive emotions and relaxation. This is similar to the impact meditation has on the brain (link to meditation feature).
2. Increased Strength, Flexibility & Balance
A regular yoga practice is proven not only to strengthen the mind but the body too – and you’ll start to see the benefits pretty quickly.
Researchers studied a group of people who had not practiced yoga before. After just eight weeks of practicing yoga at least twice a week, participants had greater muscle strength and endurance, flexibility and fitness levels. Other studies show specific improvements to core strength, balance, and maintaining a healthy weight.
The amount of fitness and strength you build will of course depend not only on how often you practice but the style of yoga you practice too. Explore our guide to the main types of yoga (link to feature).
3. Lowers Cholesterol & Protects Your Heart
The benefits of both physical activity and managing stress on your heart health are well documented. With an emphasis on both the mind and body, yoga in effect offers a double whammy to keep your ticker in tip-top shape. Yoga is proven to lower blood pressure, cholesterol and heart rate, and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Another ancient practice meets modern wellness phenomenon shown to boost heart health is cacao. Read more about the transformative effects of cacao ceremonies here.
4. Protects Against Illness
Yoga doesn’t just do your heart and head good, there’s a vast and growing body of research on how yoga can boost immunity and protect against and improve a spectrum of other health concerns.
From chronic pain, fatigue, obesity, asthma, arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes, menopause – we could keep going, but you get the drift. Studies also show yoga, as well as breathing exercises and meditation, can help those with cancer: enhancing quality of life, reducing stress, and promoting healing.
5. Better Sleep
Many studies link yoga to improved sleep quality, sleep duration and sleep efficiency – the time in bed that you’re actually asleep (read: the time spent lying in bed scrolling on your phone is not included).
The caveat is that not all yoga is conducive to better sleep. Instead of an energy-boosting vinyasa yoga class right before bedtime try hatha yoga or yoga nidra. Yoga nidra, known as yogic sleep, is an incredibly simple yet powerful deep relaxation technique. In a yoga nidra class, you lie down and allow a guided meditation to lull you into ‘hypnagogic state.’ The body sleeps, but the mind remains alert and aware. Lush.
Yoga is just one way to cheat your way to a great night’s sleep. Read our guide to better sleep here.
6. Increased Focus
One of the key principles of yoga is ‘Dharana,’ meaning ‘focused concentration.’ With some discipline and patience, yoga can teach us how to focus our attention on a single thing. Eventually this trains the mind to become aware and present, both on and off the mat.
Research has even shown that after a yoga class you are generally better able to focus your mind, and process information, and also learn and retain information more effectively.
These benefits of yoga are just as great for kids. In a 2019 study, 5-year-olds doing who swapped the usual school P.E class for yoga were more attentive, less hyperactive and completed tasks faster. Start them young!
7. You’ll Eat Better & Move More
Yoga is a healthy habit, but a growing body of research shows it helps you keep up other healthy habits too. One study found young adults who practised yoga had better eating and physical activity habits. They are more fruit and veg, drank less fizzy drinks and did more physical activity overall.
Another study found the mindfulness aspect of yoga can help us eat more mindfully too. Researchers concluded people who practiced yoga were more mindful eaters. It seems the mind-body awareness you feel during a yoga class can carry over to mealtime. Next time you eat try to savour each bite or sip, and pay attention to how food smells, tastes and feels in you mouth.
8. Better Body Image
You might have noticed that yoga studios typically don’t have mirrors. This is no coincidence. As yoga is a practice that you should feel rather than think your way through, the lack of mirrors helps focus attention awareness inward rather than how a pose – or the people around you – looks.
Research findings (ahem) mirror this pillar of yoga. Multiple studies show those who practiced yoga were more aware of their bodies than people who didn’t practice yoga. They were also more satisfied with and less critical of their bodies. Yoga is even proven to aid recovery from eating disorders.
9. A Better Outlook On Life
The ancient yoga philosophy and practice have long been understood as pathways to living a meaningful and purposeful life. Modern day research is only beginning to understand how yoga can promote personal growth and wellbeing. There exists, however, an indisputable connection between a person’s overall physical and mental health and the inner peace and wellbeing yoga is designed to achieve.
Yoga encourages the unity of mind, body and spirit, a philosophy that can assist people in their pursuit of peace, calmness, and greater wholeness and integration in their lives. Think better interpersonal relationships, increased attentiveness, enhanced self-reflection, and a more optimistic outlook on life. Put simply, yoga can help us live better and suffer less.