The benefits of yoga extend well beyond being able to smugly tell people you do yoga regularly (although it is nice). In fact, as a form of exercise, it’s hard to beat for accessibility or ease – you need little to no equipment and it can be done anywhere you have enough room to move in.
That little space by the side of your bed? Yes, yoga can happen there! Your living room floor? 100%. Wherever you can fit your yoga mat, you’re good to go.
Plus, no matter what Instagram culture tells us – rooted in India’s spiritual practices, yoga is less about doing headstands and much more about building mental and physical strength and cementing healthy habits for life. So, scroll on for 5 benefits of yoga as well as answers to your most FAQs.
5 benefits of yoga you should know about
1. Builds full-body strength
Building strength doesn’t have to be done solely through gym workouts or strength training sessions. In fact, using your own body weight as resistance is a form of resistance training and can be a great (and free) way to build strength across your entire body.
For example, Chaturanga (a key flowing transition in Yoga) builds strength in your upper body and core whilst Warrior poses works your lower body (hamstrings, quads and glutes).
Pick stronger styles like Vinyasa, Hatha, Power and Rocket to build muscular endurance and strength – just make sure to skew it to your level. Most teachers will give modification advice to make the poses easier, so listen out.
2. Helps to reduce stress and build stress resilience
We get it. It’s hard not to feel more than slightly wired (read: stressed out) with emails and social updates erupting out of your inbox. That’s where yoga comes in. Shown to “reverse” the DNA reactions that cause stress, yoga also lowers levels of inflammatory compounds (cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) in the blood.
3. Can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression
With instances of anxiety and depression on the rise, one of the main benefits of Yoga is its ability to combat both. In fact, research shows that yoga is actually superior to all forms of exercise when it comes to improving mood – linked to increased GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid), low levels of which are associated with anxiety and depression), and decreased anxiety.
To reap the rewards, twice-weekly practice is the sweet spot, according to experts. And the best bit? The benefits of yoga for anxiety and depression accumulate over time, according to research published in Psychological Medicine.
4. Can alleviate sleep issues
You’ve got your sunrise alarm clock, weighted blanket and calming bedtime rituals but good, consistent sleep still evades you. Why? Well, it could be because you’re not actually calming your nervous system down with IG scrolling or passive Netflix watching. The thing that could help you? Yoga, shockingly.
We’d recommend a calming Yin Yoga sequence or short, calming flow to help make bedtime as calm as possible.
5. Improves balance
As we age our centre of gravity can shift, this can make it harder to maintain balance. This is due to the liquid that lubricates our joints (synovial fluid) declining as we get older. Add into the mix that our ligaments also tend to lose moisture and elasticity and we have an issue of rigidity and stiffness on our hands.
Exercise stimulates the production of synovial fluid, which is why it’s so important to stay moving as we get older. Experts suggest working against resistance to build strength and improve balance simultaneously, something yoga is brilliant for.
What happens if I do yoga every day?
Loads of great things. You’ll get stronger, fitter and improve your posture, bone health and skill. You might also find your sleep, stress management and mood improve, too.
1. Try different forms of yoga, stick with what you enjoy
‘The same goes for teachers – try a number, and find what you like. You’ll never form a routine if it’s a chore, but when it’s something you enjoy you’ll make time for it.’
2. Take it slow
‘Don’t put pressure on yourself by looking at the other people in the room, virtual or otherwise, judging yourself for not being as “good” as them. Everyone starts somewhere. Try to remember that everyone’s concentrating on their own practice, so if you can’t do something, no one will notice, they’re focused on themselves.’
3. Ask questions
‘Remember that instructors are only humans, and they’re there for you – if you have any questions, always be sure to ask after class.’
So, once and for all, is yoga good for you?
Let’s wrap this one up real quick – yes, yoga is good for you. Moving more regularly, connecting your breath with your body, becoming more mindful and potentially alleviating symptoms of anxiety and depression can only be a good thing. Roll out your yoga mat, take a few calming, clearing breaths and get going.