While different varieties of yoga offer different things (focused breathwork in kundalini; holding stretches for longer in hatha) they all share something in common: they’re great for your health! Yoga focuses on connecting breath to movement, which not only brings harmony to your mind and body but offers an amazing workout that builds strength, increases flexibility, and leaves you feeling both accomplished and a little more zen after all is said and done. Whether you’re a beginner at yoga or you just haven’t been to a class in a while, here are 25 reasons to do more yoga for your mind, body and soul.
1. Energizes you for the day ahead
Yoga gets your blood pumping and helps you shake the sleep from your eyes and shake out any cricks from your neck. Even doing a few sun salutations in the morning can help energize you for the day ahead and help start your morning off on a positive note.
2. Strengthens your muscles
Anyone who’s been to their first yoga class will probably tell you that it was harder than they thought. This isn’t to say that yoga is always difficult, but it certainly isn’t easy. Yoga requires you to use your own bodyweight to push up, down, and bend into different poses. You’ll utilize nearly every muscle group and build strong, beautiful muscles!
3. Reduces stress
Yoga helps regulate your nervous system through deep breathing and awareness. It lowers your blood pressure, your heart rate, and allows you a calm space to be free from stressful interferences or stimuli. The Mayo Clinic asserts that yoga is a proven way to manage stress; you may find that doing a regular yoga practice helps you be a calmer, more patient person in all aspects of your life.
Related:The Beginner’s Guide To Yoga
4. Boosts your mood
Because it helps you manage stress, yoga can also improve your mood. A German study published in 2005 looked at two different groups of women: both considered themselves to be under emotional distress, but one group took two 90-minute yoga classes per week for three months. The women in the other group did not. At the end of the three months, women in the yoga group scored lower for feelings of depression and anxiety than they had before the study; the women without the yoga classes did not.
5. Provides relief for panic attacks
Panic attacks can be truly terrifying to anyone who suffers from them; your breathing gets shallow and rapid, your heartbeat quickens, and you start to feel as if you’re doomed to some terrible fate. This unfortunate sensation can be helped by yoga. How? Distressed breathing from a perceived threat is something that often occurs when you have a panic attack. You then notice you’re breathing shallowly, and your panic increases. If you can slow down and notice your breath—as you’re taught to do in a yoga practice—you can calm your nervous system and lessen the severity of an attack.
6. Helps you lose weight
You’ll not only burn some calories doing yoga, but being aware of your body and how you feel in it can help you be more mindful in all areas of your life—when you’re eating, exercising, etc. If you really want to burn calories in a yoga class you’ll have to get your heart rate up—so try an Ashtanga, Vinyasa, or Power Yoga class instead of a more relaxing class. Some Yoga Sculpt classes, for instance, incorporate hand weights into movements to up the intensity of the movements.
7. Aids in digestion
Certain yoga poses help massage your internal organs and stimulate them, calming digestive discomfort and helping get things moving if you’ve been constipated. Poses like twists and inversions can help regulate your digestive system, and the calming effects of yoga can also settle your tummy if your issues are anxiety-related.
8. Improves your balance and stability
Perhaps the most obvious benefit of yoga is that it can improve your balance—a skill needed for pretty much any physical activity you do, and one that is increasingly important as you get older to help avoid falls or injury. Yoga is full of poses that require you to stand on one leg or balance on one side, like tree pose, mountain pose, and triangle pose to name a few. By practicing them often you’ll improve your balance and stability.
9. Engages your core
Because you’ll be balancing a lot or holding certain poses for a while, you’re forced to engage your core. Not only does this strengthen your core and help sculpt your abs, but having a strong core protects your back from injury. Being able to engage your core in difficult movements takes the stress off other parts of your body, namely your back!
10. Puts you in the present moment
Can’t sleep at night? Troubled by stress that seems to lie just below the surface of your thoughts? It could be partly due to our fast-paced world which demands us to constantly multi-task and be thinking of three things at once. By connecting breath to movmenet, yoga brings you back to the present moment—the only one we have.
11. Increases range of motion and flexibility
As we age, our joints can get stiff and we can be afflicted with problems such as arthritis or joint pain. Holding different yoga poses can increase our flexibility and range of motion, keeping our joints pain-free.
12. Helps detoxify your body
Yoga assists your body’s natural detoxification process. Yoga poses like twists (such as chair pose with twist) help wring out the organs and rid the body of toxins. Plus, sweating as you flow through your practice helps detox the body all the more.
13. Improves your posture
Yoga is all about proper postural alignment. If you find yourself slouching a lot, doing yoga regularly can help improve your posture and be more aware of when your body is out of alignment.
14. Keeps your lungs healthy
Deep yogic breathing helps lung function, and a new study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine confirms that regular yoga can boost your lung function and capacity. How? Your lungs are similar to muscles in that they need to be worked in order to stay healthy—otherwise they can become rigid and you’ll end up taking shorter breaths. In yoga, you take full, deep breaths that helps fully expand your lungs and improves their function.
15. Builds resilience and self-confidence
When you’re faced with a challenging pose, yoga teaches you to face it head on, and to face feelings of discomfort and uncertainty. When you can sink into a pose even if it’s uncomfortable or difficult, you come out the other side feeling more confident and resilient, building your mental toughness.
16. Helps you connect to others
If you’re practicing yoga in a group setting, there can be a great sense of oneness or unity during a yoga class. You’re sharing a space and all breathing in peace together—it can be powerful to feel boundaries or divisions fade away and realize that you’re all there to practice the same thing.
17. Boosts circulation
Good blood circulation is critical to your overall health. Yoga increases your circulation, particularly in poses called “inversions” where you’re slightly upside down. Poses like legs up the wall or forward folds use gravity to re-stimulate blood flow.
18. Improves focus and concentration
By quieting your mind and shutting out distractions, you train yourself to pay deep attention to one thing at a time. In yoga, it’s your breath, but learning this skill can help you in all areas of your life more deeply focus on the task at hand without getting distracted by multi-tasking or other thoughts.
19. Helps you feel more gratitude
Often we go through our busy day flitting from task to task without stopping to marvel at one simple thing: our ever-steady breath, which reminds us that we are alive. Noticing this gift helps us tune back into gratitude.
20. Helps you work through difficult emotions
The next time you’re angry and about to say something you regret, take a deep breath. Notice how different you feel? Because yoga teaches us to pay attention to and focus on our breath, it allows us to notice when our emotions affect our breath—when we’re angry, sad, or scared, we naturally breathe more shallowly. By teaching you to get in tune with your breath, you can work through negative emotions with self-compassion—allowing you to respond to life with patience rather than solely react to things with your first reaction.
21. Reduces inflammation
Inflammation is associated with many chronic diseases such as arthritis, cancer, and heart disease—and researchers have found that a regular yoga practice can reduce inflammation. A study published in The Journal of Critical Oncology asked a group of breast cancer patients to attend yoga classes twice a week for twelve weeks. At the end of the trial, laboratory markers for inflammation levels had decreased by as much as 10-15%, aside from the patients’ own testimonies that they felt better and less fatigued.
22. Alleviates chronic pain
Yoga has been shown to help alleviate chronic pain and can actually change the way our brain learns to perceive pain. According to a Harvard medical study, yoga is comparable to standard exercise therapy in relieving chronic pain.
23. Improves sleep
Constant stress can take a toll on not only our minds but our bodies as well. Being unable to sleep no matter how tired you are is a sign that you could be dealing with chronic stress. Luckily, a regular yoga practice can calm both your body and mind, alleviating the physical and mental symptoms of stress and helping you to get a better night’s sleep.
24. Eases tension headaches
Next time you have a headache, try a few yoga poses before you pop an advil. Doing inversion poses where your head is below your heart help boost your circulation and stretch out sore spots in your head and neck, getting the blood and oxygen flowing and hopefully relieving that pain!
25. It’s a great way to end your day
Stretch out those kinks from sitting at a desk all day, or spend a few minutes lying in savasana (or corpse pose) to find peace and stillness after a long day. Whatever brings you to your mat today, know that you’re doing something helpful for your body and mind.
Psst: Download this free chart to help you do more yoga every day!