Today I thought I’d share some benefits of yoga. These are just some of the ones that I’ve experienced. I’m sure if you look at research and journal articles you’ll find a lot more. The ones I’ve listed below and just the ones that I’ve experienced myself.
My very first yoga class was in 2010 or 2011. A co-worker of mine (who is now a really good friend) was in yoga teacher training, and she invited me to come to the very first class that she was student teaching.
It was a really tough class for me. I really struggled, but I stuck with it and finished the class with everyone else who was there. I was exhausted, super sweaty, and sore for days.
Something about yoga clicked with me though, because within a year or two I was going to yoga regularly. There have definitely been ebbs and flows in my yoga practice, but I kept coming back to it. When I decided to enroll in yoga teacher training it felt like the natural next step in my yoga journey.
Now that you know how I got into yoga, I’ll get to some of the benefits that I’ve experienced.
Yoga is a big stress reliever for me.
When I’m taking an ashtanga class and I’m really sweaty from working hard, I work out my stress. Sweating out my stress is exactly what yoga does for me, just like when I’m doing cardio at the gym. Yoga is such a great outlet for my stress.
When I walk into the studio and lay out my mat, I’m not worrying about work, getting my to do list done, or what I have to do when I get home. My focus is on my body, and doesn’t go beyond the four corners of my mat.
Whenever I get stressed or anxious I don’t breathe nearly as deeply or as slowly as I know I should. Linking my breath to each movement in a yoga class changes that for me. I breathe more deeply and more evenly. My breaths aren’t as shallow. Paying attention to my breath makes a huge difference.
Yoga is one of those things that is hard to do if you’re not present. You’re not sure what pose you should be in so you look around to see what other people are doing. You don’t hear the cues the teacher is giving so that you can get into the pose just a little bit deeper.
Like I mentioned above, when I’m on my mat I’m not thinking about anything other than the pose I’m in (and maybe when I can move into the next one if the pose is a tough one for me). So often I’m looking into the future, thinking about what could happen tomorrow, next week, or next year. Alternatively it’s easy to get caught up in the past and dwell on things that I can’t change now.
Being able to be present, feeling my breath, my body, and having my mind occupied with the pose, is such a good thing for me. It’s not very often that I’m present outside of the yoga studio – there’s so many other things that pop into my head.
It feels good to stretch.
If you’re anything like me, it can be tough to talk myself into stretching at the end of a cardio or strength training workout at the gym. By the time I’m done my workout I’m tired and want to get home and showered. It’s so easy to skip.
Stretching is so important that it’s actually one of the 5 health related components of fitness. Since I’m not very consistent with my stretching when I’m at the gym, it’s perfect that I love yoga so much. I’m able to get in my stretching even if I don’t do it after my gym workouts.
On the topic of stretching and flexibility, I want to squash a yoga myth. You absolutely do not need to be flexible to do yoga. In addition to not going as deeply into poses, there are also so many modifications that you can do for virtually every single posture. If you have a good teacher they can help you figure out how to do the poses that may be a challenge for you. A typical yoga class in real life doesn’t look anything like yoga on Instagram. Real people come to classes, and they have tightness, chronic health conditions, and injuries.
I love the community.
My favorite yoga studio has the absolute best community a yogi could ask for. The teachers are all super knowledgeable and really know their stuff. They’re able to help with modifications for tight bodies or injuries.
The other students are great too. Classes always have a great energy – which is partly due to the teachers, but also the other students in the class with me. They’re more than willing to shuffle over to make room for another mat or two.
Yoga keeps my ego in check.
Our bodies are always changing. Just because I could get deeply into a pose last week, doesn’t mean that I’ll be able to do it again today. One side of my body might be loose and flexible, while the other side might be be tighter and less flexible.
I can definitely see a progression in my yoga practice over time, but as soon as I let that go to my head and my ego gets involved, I always seem to get a reality check in yoga class.
What’s a way that yoga benefits you? Share it in the comments below.