Why Practice Yoga?
For those unfamiliar with yoga, it can seem like a low-impact exercise meant to help you limber up—kind of like stretching. But in fact, yoga is much more than that and can be beneficial for everyone, not just those who have a little trouble touching their toes.
Strength, Flexibility, and Physical Wellbeing
Unsurprisingly, the most common reason that people start doing yoga is for the physical benefits. And it’s true—yoga can be a great workout. While some styles are slower and more deliberate (though no less challenging), there are also styles of yoga such as vinyasa and ashtanga that get your heart rate up and your muscles burning in the same way that any other exercise would. With its combination of static holds and dynamic movements, yoga has been shown to not only improve balance, flexibility, and strength but also lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
One of the other places where yoga really shines is in its ability to help you release the stress that accumulates in your body. We carry around the physical evidence of our everyday lives. In someone who works a desk job, for example, you can often see tension in the back, neck, and shoulders that manifests as poor posture, aches, and pain. And as yoga involves your full body as well as techniques such as controlled breathing and meditation, regular practice can very effectively reverse the symptoms of modern living.
Mental and Emotional Wellbeing
Interestingly, despite the majority of people starting yoga for the physical benefits, it appears that the reason most people keep it up is due to improved mental and emotional wellbeing. Just ask anyone who’s been practicing for a while and they’ll tell you that yoga has made them happier, less stressed, less anxious, and more compassionate.
But for those who aren’t convinced by anecdotal evidence, the scientific evidence indicates that yoga does even more than people realize. A study conducted in 2015 shows that yoga actually changes the brain. As we age, we lose what is known as gray matter in our brains. However, this study showed that those who practiced yoga regularly over a long period of time have the same amount of gray matter as someone much younger. Essentially, yoga protects your brain from shrinking. And the area that benefits the most? The parts of the brain associated with positive emotions and relaxation.
So why not give yoga a try? You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.