Why Yoga? 10 Benefits!

Yoga is an oft-recommended form of exercise. A recurring question then, asked of those who teach yoga is: What is so good about practicing yoga? My doctor says I should do it, but why? Yoga is more than mere physical activity. Yoga is a holistic practice that helps us maintain a healthy body and mind in a myriad of ways. It is good for the muscles, brain, bones, organs, and everything in between that holds it all together.

 1. Flexibility Training

No surprise here! Probably reason #1 people want to do yoga is to improve flexibility. Usually flexibility training takes a back seat to cardiovascular and strength training yet is just as important. It’s not enough to have strong muscles; there must also be good range of motion. Stretching the muscles and accompanying tendons, ligaments, and joints helps keep them loose. If the muscles and tendons are tight, they are tense, range of motion is limited, and all of this is an invitation for body aches and pains. When strength combines with flexibility a person can enjoy a wide variety of activity in everyday life with no pain.

2. Strength Training

Again, no surprise. Yoga is a form of weight bearing exercise that builds strength in the body. Mostly with the help of gravity and our own body weight, yoga poses will strengthen all the muscle groups: core, chest, back, legs, shoulders and arms. It’s all those chaturangas that help you get that nice definition in your arms from strong shoulders and triceps! Weight bearing exercise is also very important for strong bones.

3. Cardiovascular Exercise

I know what you’re thinking. Yoga is not cardio. Well, not per se, however anything that gets your heart pumping around 70% of your heart rate maximum is cardio. An energizing Vinyasa practice can certainly do that – granted, not for a very extended amount of time like going for a run. Still, yoga gets the heart pumping and the lungs breathing and is very good for heart health. People find they have increased lung capacity, lower resting heart rate, and lower blood pressure. These are all signs of a healthy heart and decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attack.

4. Stress Relief

Like flexibility training, another under appreciated component of wellness is stress relief. When under stress, blood vessels constrict, cortisol levels are high, and the body won’t burn fat for fuel. The nostril breathing used in yoga practice helps calm the nervous system, taping into the parasympathetic nervous system, which gets the body into rest & restore mode. Then the blood vessels will dilate, bringing more oxygenated blood to the body, cortisol output decreases, and the body burns fat for fuel instead of storing it.

5. Detoxification

This is yet another benefit that is often unrecognized. The liver, kidneys, lymphatic system, and other organs process and carry toxins where they can be eliminated from the body. Unlike the cardiovascular system, the lymphatic system does not have a pump so it relies on physical movement to move and flush lymph fluids. Yoga postures will press into lymph nodes, the liver, the ascending and transverse colon, and other organs, which stimulates them and helps move waste matter so it can more easily be eliminated.

6. Boost Immunity

It’s the cumulative effects of yoga that work together to strengthen the immune system. Stress is a catalyst for disease, as is a stagnant, sedentary body. Also, a weak respiratory system is more vulnerable to infection. By getting you breathing deeply, moving and stretching, yoga reduces stress and strengthens your lungs and muscles, which all works together to boost immunity.

7. Pain Relief

So many of us experience chronic pain. Most commonly, back and neck pain, knees and other joints, also autoimmune issues like fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis are becoming more common. These pains have a lot to do with poor flexibility, and being sedentary. Autoimmune issues feed off of stress. A regular yoga practice will help decompress the spine, loosen and lubricate the joints, and instill a sense of calm that can last all day.

8. Make Better Food Choices

This is really a fringe benefit. It’s all connected though! If you’re less stressed, your cortisol levels are lower and you’re less likely to stress eat. When cortisol is high, that’s when we crave immediate gratification foods high in sugar and fat. Yoga teaches you to be more in tune with your body and it’s needs, and in combination with less stress (lower cortisol) you’re more likely to want more nutritive foods.

9. Be More Present and Mindful

Too easily we get caught up in past events, what should have been, fretting over mistakes and holding on to regrets. Likewise we get anxious about the future, what needs to be done, worry about things we fear will happen even though they haven’t even happened yet! We miss out on what is happening now, all the simple and delightful things around us. Showing up for practice, getting into breath work helps bring you into the present moment. Yoga trains you to be more aware of where you are and what you’re doing so you can make choices mindfully, not on autopilot. Then you can notice that really beautiful wildflower in the parking lot or just how sweet and delicious fresh picked strawberries are in May in California.

10. Boost Your Mood

You just can’t help but walk out of a yoga class feeling better than you did when you walked in. Happiness comes from being present and aware, from having health and freedom – yoga practice brings these into the forefront and cultivates an attitude of gratitude for the things that enrich your life.

There you have it! So many wonderful benefits of yoga – notice how it’s all linked and works together synergistically? That’s what makes it holistic. That’s why everyone should practice yoga. So… get on your mat today!


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