There are a myriad of ways yoga can improve your life. Yoga is a rich philosophy that originated more than 4,000 years ago in India. In simple terms it teaches you to quiet the constant "mind-chatter" that often underlies stress. Yoga is a powerful transformational tool. I am honored to share my experience with you both as a yoga practitioner and a teacher.
1. Stress reduction:
Yoga means to yoke, to achieve a peaceful state of mind by harmonizing and uniting the physical and mental. Whatever problems you are facing, a complete lifestyle change is not necessary for yoga to improve the quality of your life. With its fluid movements and focus on the breath, yoga draws your focus away from your hectic life and your busy thoughts. It teaches you to let go of past regrets and worries about the future by becoming aware of your breath and learning to live in the present moment. Some research has found that practicing yoga releases the hormone oxytocin, which is associated with feeling relaxed and connecting to others.
2. Increased flexibility:
You are never too old, unfit or "tight" to practice yoga! I have many students in their seventies and even eighties. Yoga poses, called asanas, are a series of movements designed to increase strength and flexibility by gently stretching your muscles, which releases lactic acid buildup that causes pain, stiffness, tension and fatigue. The asanas should always be steady and comfortable. Never struggle to achieve a pose. Think of your yoga practice as a moving meditation and begin to use your breath like an internal massage to release your muscle tension.
3. Increased Strength and Balance:
Some styles of yoga are more rigorous than others but even gentler styles improve muscle tone, build strength and improve balance. The upper body is strengthened as well as the lower body. Practiced correctly almost all the poses build core strength in the deep abdominal muscles. One of my students, in her early seventies, told me that her yoga practice has given her confidence walking down the street. Her balance has improved and she has less fear of falling.
4. Improved posture:
Many postural problems are caused by hours spent hunched over a computer at work or driving a car. Yoga will make you appear taller, thinner and more confident by improving your posture. On a purely physical level yoga decompresses the body from the downward pressure that causes the body to shrink. Yoga also increases body awareness, which can help counteract your tendency to slouch.
5. Aids in weight loss:
Yoga has two prime benefits for those wanting to lose weight. It improves digestion and relieves constipation, water retention and bloating. It also improves blood circulation to major endocrine glands (such as the thyroid and pancreas) that control your appetite, moods and sleep patterns. Practitioners are less stressed and more mindful helping them make healthier food choices and reduce emotional eating.
6. Management of chronic health conditions:
I began practicing yoga zealously when I realized that it gave me relief from my debilitating pms symptoms. It balances my energy, relieves anxiety and allows me cope better emotionally. Yoga helps with a variety of health conditions such as cancer, ms, asthma, arthritis, back pain, pms, menopausal symptoms, anxiety, chronic pain,depression, insomnia, fatigue and mood.
7. Heart Benefits:
Yoga lowers blood pressure and slows the heart rate. A slower heart benefits those with hypertension, heart disease and stroke. On a biochemical level, studies point to an anti-oxidant effect of yoga. It has also been associated with decreased cholesterol and triglyceride levels as well as boosting the immune system.
8. Anti-Aging tonic
Going upside down brings fresh blood to the face and gives you what us yoga instructors like to call an "internal facial" Yoga may not be the ultimate fountain of youth but it's close. I have found that people who practice yoga on a regular basis and over a period of time look a lot younger than their biological age. They have wonderful posture; energetic bodies, firm skin and most of all exude a radiant inner beauty. Certain poses such as the lion have been found to firm and tone facial muscles.
9. Better Sex:
By now you're aware that yoga can reduce stress and help tone your body but I bet you didn't know it could help improve your sex life. No, I am not talking about becoming a contortionist in the bedroom! In yoga philosophy sexual energy is considered sacred. Your whole body is a vehicle for enlightenment. Yoga can improve your sex life by making you feel more confident in your body and about your body. You will begin feeling more sensual simply by becoming aware of all the sensations in your body. Yoga improves your sleep quality giving you more energy (an important factor for a healthy sex life). On a purely physical level certain poses increase blood flow to the pelvis and others strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which play a major role in orgasm.
10. Concentration and mood:
The first thing you may notice after practicing yoga is that you feel happy, at peace and tranquil maybe for the first time in a long time. You find you are breathing deeper and not clenching your jaw. When I first started practicing on a regular basis I felt like I was walking on air after class. Yoga teaches you to breathe deeply boosting oxygen levels to the brain, which elevates your mood and helps you concentrate better.
I am grateful for the many ways that yoga has improved my life and the lives of my friends, family and students. The only way to be certain of how yoga can improve your life is to try it for yourself and see.
References: Yoga Journal, Yoga Burns Fat by John Maddern,
Published On: February 04, 2010