You see the girls (and guys) in their yoga pants, and they look so great. They are so self-assured, confident, observant, compassionate, and there is an air to them you can’t quite place. Even casual yogis have that something that makes you wonder what it is that they are doing right. Is it the exercise? The breathing? The meditation? Something else?
The answer is that all of it contributes to that thoroughly healthy glow you see. If you’ve never tried yoga, pranayama (the controlled breathing associated with yoga), or meditation, here are 15 reasons to start immediately!
You Can Do It Anywhere
Sign up at a studio, at home in front of a video, or even at the office! If you’re inexperienced, a studio might be the best place to start, so you can be taught by an experienced yoga instructor. However, there are a lot of online videos and DVDs that teach you the poses, and even apps for your mobile device! Many offices are now offering yoga to help workers unwind, and you can also put together a great routine that you can do right at your desk.
Yoga Helps You Sleep.
Many of the poses in yoga meditation soothe, stretch, and improve breathing. Some, like Legs-Up-The-Wall, are even designed to ready the body for slumber!
Yoga Increases Mindfulness
Yoga provides stretches to the body that relax it, but also make you focus on them, noticing how they feel. This helps you be more aware of your movements.
Yoga Helps Digestions
All the activity from the poses, whether you hold them like in hatha or move like in Ashtanga, gives you an appetite, as well as an awareness of the effects of the foods you are eating.
Yoga Relieves Stress
The poses, breathing, and focus on the body relieves stress by releasing muscle tension and providing a period of “quiet time.” Yoga meditation is all about quiet introspection.
Yoga Lowers Medical Bills
This study from the CDC shows how practices that engage you with your body actually help reduce healthcare costs, even for people you live with!
Yoga Improves Posture
Yoga’s poses make you aware of your posture, and strengthen the muscles in your core that support your back. Many poses actually focus on this while working other muscles as well.
Yoga Improves Breathing
Breathing is so vital that the Hindus called it prana, which means “life force.” They knew by instinct what we know now by science - that breathing adds oxygen to the bloodstream and brain. This gives the brain fuel and helps us think clearly. Yoga includes controlled breathing, but also has poses that open your chest and allow your lungs to expand more than usual.
Yoga Reduces Anxiety
All the breathing and extra oxygen to the brain also helps to keep anxiety levels low!
Yoga Improves the Brain
The amazing thing is that yoga and meditation make changes to your brain. MRIs and PET scans show that mindfulness, the conscious self-awareness that is the state of mind one learns by doing yoga, stimulates the brain in ways that relax the it and preserve it from the effects of stress and aging.
Yoga Improves Circulation
Holding the poses stimulates your muscles, which in turn stimulates blood circulation.
Yoga Reduces Pain
Since the poses use the whole body, good combinations of them reduce lower back pain and symptoms of muscle pain such as sciatica. Yoga is even used by physical therapists, and a whole type of yoga, called Restorative, focuses on this. Meditation is used to help reduce all sorts of pain by teaching us to concentrate more sharply.
Yoga Reduces Injuries
Eventually, practicing all of these movements and being more and more aware of how your body moves has the side effect of reducing your risk of injury. This is because of increased awareness practiced and cultivated with your yoga poses.
Yoga Improves Focus
Yoga meditation improves concentration. Bit by bit, you’ll find you can concentrate for longer periods and are more productive as a result. However, you are also able to observe yourself and your thoughts in a meaningful, nonjudgmental way that has an effect on your stress level, your mood, and your overall well-being. This is what mindfulness is all about!
Yoga is Good Exercise
Over time, holding the poses builds muscle and stamina, as well as increased flexibility. This is another reason it is recommended by physical therapists.
If you can benefit from any of these 15 things, there is no reason not to start yoga. Start by looking into a studio or asking a physical therapist, and find a teacher you like. Your body and mind will be glad you did!