I’m sure you have heard that yoga is good for you. You might have even been told by a doctor to give it a try. In 2016 a survey conducted by the Yoga Alliance and Yoga Journal found that the number of Americans doing yoga has grown to over 50% in the last four years, making it about 36 million practicing in 2016. Now sitting here two years later we can be sure that the number has grown even more since then. But why yoga? What are the benefits of practicing yoga? Why have so many people gravitated toward this modern practice rooted in thousands of years of ancient Indian texts and traditions? Maybe it has something to do with the many benefits it brings to our everyday lives. Over 90 percent of all current research on yoga has found that yoga has a positive impact on your health. Here are just five of the ways a daily yoga practice can benefit you.
- Yoga builds strength and endurance – There are many styles of yoga for all body types. Some styles are more low-impact while others are more powerful and faster paced. But both can be great for your heart. According to research conducted by the Harvard Medical School, 24 rounds of sun salutations 6 times a week significantly improved upper-body strength over 6 months. And another study found that an hour of power yoga twice a week for 8 months increased leg strength. By using your own body weight, yoga strengthens muscles that support your spine and can improve your overall posture. Yoga can build muscle mass and strength as well. With increased strength, your joints are better supported. A consistent yoga practice can help pump fresh blood, oxygen and nutrients to the cartilage in your joints and support areas within your body that might otherwise be neglected.
- Yoga helps build a mind-body connection – There is no way around it, the world in which we live in brings on many stressors throughout our day. Yoga has been proven to fight stress. By moving our body in and out of different poses as well as meditating we can connect our minds with our body and relieve some tension brought on by our everyday lives.
- Encourages you to pursue a healthier lifestyle – the beauty of being more aware of your body and discovering it in a deeper way, brings on feelings that naturally start happening. Things that are bad for you no longer hold the attraction they once may have had. Your diet, for example, may start to change effortlessly. Foods you once craved or wanted may start to not be what you look for anymore. Even lifestyle habits may also change without you even consciously knowing. A consistent yoga practice helps you stay more aware of your everyday choices.
- Yoga can help improve your sleep – It’s really no surprise that a daily practice of yoga and meditation would help you get a good night’s rest. If yoga helps reduce stress and helps relax the mind, think about the nighttime when you are ready to lay your head down. Your body and mind will be in a calmer state allowing for you to focus on the task at hand…sleep. Rather than having your thoughts consume you, by doing yoga at some point in your day, you’ve allowed for your body to release the noise and focus on what it needs to do once bedtime comes. In short, yoga helps you become more aware of the mental and physical states that prevent sleep.
- Improves balance and flexibility – Over time, yoga help you increase flexibility throughout your whole body by loosening and stretching connective tissues and muscles. And further, it helps improve balance by building strength and stability. According to the National Journal of Yoga, a practice that consisted of yoga done twice-weekly helped improve flexibility and balance in college athletes in just 10 weeks.
I often get asked what the hardest pose or asana in yoga is. I’ve had a lot of time to think about this question. And with all my time on my mat, I truly believe the hardest part is letting go. But that is why yoga its so important to me. Not only have I experienced the five benefits we talked about above. But my bonus benefit for you all is the ability to let go. Sometimes we can’t be in the driver’s seat. Sometimes we have to trust the path we are on and let it take us where we are supposed to go. So, I leave you with one thought…
Whatever comes, let it come. Whatever stays, let it stay and Whatever goes, let it go!