Yoga is a widely practised discipline across many cultures. But what is it exactly that makes yoga so popular? We have collated a list of the top ten yoga benefits to inform people about the discipline and inspire them to take it up as a hobby. Whether you practice yoga regularly, or you’re completely new to the practice, there is bound to be something on this list that surprises you!
1. Yoga improves flexibility
The varied postures and poses of yoga help to stretch out your muscles and improve your range of motion. A common misconception about yoga is that you need to be flexible to be able to do it, however, that’s certainly not the case. The great thing about yoga is that the stretches and movements can be as gentle as you need them to be, fitting to your level of flexibility. And you’ll be surprised how quickly your flexibility can increase through regularly practising yoga.
Tip: if you’re keen to improve your flexibility, hot yoga is an excellent choice. The heated conditions warm up your muscles, reducing your risk of injury, improving your range of motion, and allowing you to safely push yourself that bit further.
2. Yoga helps to build strength
All yogis will know just how deceiving yoga can be. Whilst some poses and movements can look effortlessly easy, they can be felt in muscles in your body and test your abilities. So, although it might not be the most high-intensity workout, the slower and more controlled movements engage numerous muscles simultaneously, and often for prolonged periods. Put simply: you will most certainly feel the burn.
Because it helps to build strength, it is very beneficial to practise yoga alongside other forms of exercise. The strength gained through yoga can help to improve your form in other sports, as well as target muscles which you may not actively use in other exercises.
3. Yoga improves mental health and wellbeing
A great way to improve your well-being is to gain confidence through learning a new skill, and yoga is a perfect choice. Whether you choose to do it from your living room using a free YouTube video, or you join your local yoga class, it’s a hobby that’s accessible to all.
It’s well known that exercise causes our bodies to release ‘feel-good’ chemicals called endorphins, helping to improve your mood. However, yoga stands out from other forms of exercise in its benefits to mental health and wellbeing. The meditative element of yoga promotes the engagement of the mind in each movement. It encourages the mind to focus on the practice and sound out the outside world, as well as busy thoughts. Giving your brain a break from the daily overstimulation of modern life makes yoga an excellent form of mindfulness.
Yoga can also be wonderfully rewarding. Noticing that you have become stronger and more flexible than when you first started practising yoga can provide a real sense of achievement, which also improves our mental health and wellbeing.
4. Yoga improves posture and reduces back pain
Posture problems most often originate from us remaining in slouched positions at a desk or perhaps for long car journeys. Lots of yoga poses can be used to correct poor posture. Yoga can encourage you to stand and sit with a straighter back and keep your shoulders rolled backwards by stretching out the muscles in your abdominal region, lower back, and upper body. Stretching and promoting better posture will also reduce back pain, which is often caused by slouching.
In addition, yoga is an excellent core-strengthening exercise. Those who have practised yoga before will know that many yoga poses require you to engage your core. Regularly engaging your abdominal muscles, and strengthening them in the process, can take the pressure off your back and upper body - the areas where we most often experience posture-related pain.
5. Yoga improves balance
As a strength-building exercise, yoga can significantly improve balance. Many yoga poses will test your balance in a range of stances and movements. To aid your ability to balance successfully in these tricky poses, yoga teaches you to engage all your muscles, squeezing them tightly for the duration of the movement. This helps to provide stability in each pose, thereby aiding your balance.
What is more, yoga is a mind to body discipline, meaning that it encourages you to connect your mind and body to complete the movements. Regularly practising this connection can help to improve your balance by aiding your ability to focus your mind on a physical movement for long periods.
6. Yoga improves sleep
Yoga is a very calming practice which can help you fall asleep more easily, as well as improve the quality of your sleep. This is, in part, because meditative yoga styles feature lots of breathwork. In yoga, these practices are called ‘pranayama’. They help to improve the awareness of the breath, allowing you to better regulate your breathing and relax in the process. And, when we’re more relaxed, we find it easier to both fall asleep and remain asleep for the duration of the night.
Also, as a form of mindfulness, yoga can release melatonin, which is the body’s sleep hormone. As a result of its sleep-inducing properties, many individuals who struggle with insomnia take melatonin as a supplement. However, yoga can help our body naturally release this hormone, without having to take anything additional. So, why not integrate 10 minutes of relaxing yoga into your nightly routine and see how it benefits your quality of sleep?
7. Yoga helps to tone muscles
As a result of its muscle-strengthening qualities, yoga is a great exercise for toning and gaining more muscle definition. All yogis will know just how deceiving yoga can be. Whilst some poses look effortlessly easy, they can be felt in muscles in your body. So, whilst it might not be the most ‘ high-intensity workout, the slower and more controlled movements are very effective in working your muscles.
Yoga can not only tone your muscles, but it can also grow them. You are, after all, using your body weight in the movements, which can be more effective than you may think. Most people tend to associate weight training with toning and growing muscles and whilst it is undoubtedly an effective way to become stronger and gain more muscle definition, there are plenty of other exercises through which you can achieve this, yoga being one of them! Through practising yoga, you can target smaller groups of muscles. These muscles are harder to hit through using generic weight machines, as they tend to work the major muscles. As a result, yoga can help you to achieve a more elongated and sleek body composition.
8. Yoga reduces stress and anxiety
Yoga promotes steady and mindful breathing, which can help to calm a racing heartbeat and reduce the feeling of shortness of breath. By teaching the importance of focusing on the breath, yoga can also help to shift your focus away from anxious thoughts and provide a distraction from what is causing you stress.
What is more, the process of tightening and relaxing muscles through yoga practice can help to release tension that can build up in your body when you’re feeling anxious or stressed.
9. Yoga can lower blood pressure
The meditative styles of breathing exercises, as well as the movements involved in yoga, can be effective in reducing blood pressure. But what exactly is it about yogic breathing and exercises that help with blood pressure? Well, the controlled breathing patterns of yoga can help to regulate your heart rate, whilst the poses and movements improve circulation. As a combination, these elements of yoga practice help to promote heart health and reduce the risk of complications, such as heart attacks or strokes.
Yoga is a natural, safe, and accessible way to control your blood pressure. By taking just 15 minutes out of your day to find a quiet space and follow a free guided mediation on YouTube, you can benefit your heart health with minimal effort and little to no financial cost.
10. Yoga promotes healthy joints
Yoga is a form of functional fitness. The practice makes you move in the way that your body is designed to, with the twisting, bending, and stretching beneficial to daily life movements.
Modern life can involve us being sedentary for long periods, for instance at a desk during working hours, which can lead to stiffness and discomfort. Yoga is an excellent way to exercise your joints, keeping them conditioned to perform the movements that it was designed to do. This promotes healthy joints and also protects against injury. As a result, yoga is a great discipline to regularly practice alongside a sport.
So, have we convinced you to try yoga? If you're looking for somewhere to get started, head over to shop our sustainable suede yoga mats and kick your yoga journey off the right way!