I used to spend hours in the gym, lifting heavy weights, going to body pump, running for hours and doing lots of HIIT training. I was determined to lose the baby weight I had gained from three pregnancies and get in the best shape of my life. I didn’t though. I was exhausted, cranky, irritable. I didn’t have the energy I needed to keep up with my young children. My body had been through the ringer over the last six years, carrying and delivering three babies, enduring lots of sleep deprivation - LOTS of sleep deprivation, and not eating well. Now I was giving it even more challenges.
I decided this wasn’t working for me, but I still wanted to be active and workout. I had always done yoga since I was a teenager, but I decided I would re-commit to my practice with the goals of connecting with myself, releasing stress, sleeping better and feeling better. I also committed to walking outside most days of the week.
The difference in my life has been amazing! I am less stressed, I sleep great and have a better sense of calm in my life. I find myself less cranky and more present with my family. Lastly, because this is not as much as a priority as my other goals, I have lost all the baby weight. I also feel stronger.
I kept returning to my mat not to reach a certain number on the scale, but to improve my overall wellness and take a little “me time.” But I also found that depending on the type of yoga you choose, it can be quite the physically challenging workout as well - it doesn’t have to be all about relaxing and stretching. I’m sore after a power yoga session - in a good way!
There are so many benefits I have personally received from my yoga routine, so I thought I would research the science-based benefits for you here.
40 Benefits of Yoga Practice
1 - Yoga provides an escape from a normally busy and chaotic life
Even just 10 minutes a day can be all it takes to give you the benefit of a little “me” time and feel more relaxed and ready for your crazy day.
2 - Yoga encourages you to eat better
It just does. You don’t feel like downing a burger and fries after a yoga session. You’re more mindful and appreciative of your body and you want to treat it well.
3 - Increased flexibility
This is huge for feeling well and ridding ourselves from the achiness that many of us get in our lower back, hips, and limbs.
4 - A stronger body
Yoga is proof that body weight exercising can be just as effective, if not more effective than lifting weights. Try spending ten breaths in chaturanga and you will see what I mean.
5 - Lowers blood pressure
The physical activity involved in practice and the meditation are scientifically proven to lower blood pressure.
6 - Lowers blood sugar
Yoga has been proven to lower excessive blood sugar levels in people with non-insulin dependent diabetes and reduced their need for medications.
7 - Improves mental health
Yoga has been shown to decrease stress and alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety.
8 - Reduces inflammation
Some studies suggest that yoga can reduce inflammation in the body. Reducing inflammation can prevent heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
9 - Reduces pain in the body
This may be a result of increased flexibility, mobility and circulation.
10 - Improves sleep quality
Since yoga is so effective in reducing stress and improving a sense of a calm mind, yogis also sleep better.
11 - Invigorates the body and mind
I find this is especially true when you do yoga in the morning.
12 - Enhances spiritual well-being
This is especially true with all the meditation you do when you’re practicing yoga. I also get really into incorporating affirmations, mantras, and daily gratitude with my practice which I feel enhances my spiritual well-being greatly.
13 - Improves confidence
This was huge for me. Just feeling more centered, stronger, more flexible, and more balanced goes a long way in improving confidence.
14 - Improves balance
This comes slowly but surely, but the more you practice the better your balance will be.
15 - Can relieve migraines
Doing yoga may stimulate the vagus nerve, which has been shown effective in relieving migraines.
16 - Improves endurance
This is especially true with vinyasa yoga, where poses flow fairly quickly from one to the next. This type of yoga is great for cardiovascular health and building endurance.
17 - Increases energy for the day
I can personally testify to this. On days when I do yoga in the morning, I definitely feel that I have more energy throughout the day.
18 - Improves metabolism
Yoga has been shown to improve metabolism since it’s a great strength-builder.
19 - Weight loss
I mentioned this is not the focus of my practice, but it has been a result.
20 - Improves circulation
Inversion poses especially improve circulation, as well as energetic vinyasa flows.
21 - Protection from injury
The increased flexibility you gain from yoga practice protects you from injury during other physical activities.
22 - Improved focus
Holding a pose for a long period of time and focusing on your breathing improves your focus and you can feel that throughout the day.
23 - Increased mindfulness
Yoga helps you to focus on the now and being present in your body in the moment.
24 - Encourages positivity
The peace and clarity yogis experience promotes a positive outlook on life.
25 - Improves immunity
Yoga has been shown to help the body fight off illness.
26 - Relieves congestion
Yoga improves breathing and lung function, which can help with congestion and common cold symptoms.
27 - Improves posture
Poor posture can cause terrible neck and back pain. Yoga encourages you to elongate the spine and keep your head positioned above the spine, making it less difficult for your neck and back to support it.
28 - Supports joint health
Yoga pulls your joints gently through a full range of motion and stretches out cartilage, encouraging more to grow and cushion the joints.
29 - Improves spine health
By stretching and elongating the spine, yoga practice protects the spine from chronic pain and injury.
30 - Improves bone health
Practicing body weight bearing exercises like yoga naturally protects the bones from osteoporosis.
31 - Detoxifies the body
By increasing blood flow and draining the lymph nodes, yoga naturally detoxes the body.
32 - Fights cancer
The improved immunity we receive from yoga also applies to cancer.
33 - Lowers your risk of a heart attack
By increasing your heart rate, yoga improves heart health and lowers your risk for heart attack.
34 - Gives you more control over your body
Regular practice of yoga improves the brain’s power over the body. Experienced yogis can often calm their minds and bodies in stressful situations, easily lowering their heart rates with the power of their minds.
35 - Improves lung function
Practicing yoga can increase your lung’s capacity to hold oxygen and can improve asthma, bronchitis and the common cold.
36 - Improves digestion
Yoga can be highly therapeutic for individuals with digestive issues like IBS by lowering stress and increasing body movement. Some yogis believe that spinal twists are especially helpful for the digestive system.
37 - Makes you mentally strong
Mastering challenging poses or achieving deeper stretches improves confidence and mental strength. This mental strength can help you make changes in your life.
38 - Decreases the need for medication
Regular practice of yoga can improve heart health, blood sugar levels, chronic pain, and asthma, leaving yogis less likely to turn to medication to help with their conditions.
39. Increased awareness over body and mind
Regular practice of yoga increases your body awareness and the state of your mind, making it easy for yogis to identify and control negative emotions like anger, judgement, and resentment and change their mindsets to more positive thinking.
40. Improves your relationships
The concept of Namaste represents the light that exists inside me respects the light inside you. Meditating on this concept daily will give you more appreciation and patience with those that surround you in your life.
The Bottom Line
Yoga has been shown to improve many aspects of physical and emotional well-being, making it a natural cure-all.
I can personally testify to the great changes daily practice of yoga has made in my life and health, and science is showing there is proof in its effects.
To get started in your yoga routine, see my post on Top Ten Beginner to Intermediate Yoga Poses.