It’s no secret that yoga’s good for you, but many people simply look at yoga as something to use when they need to gain flexibility, improve their balance, or de-stress. Those are all yoga benefits, but the positive things you can gain from practicing yoga regularly extend far beyond those perks. Here are thirteen yoga benefits that may surprise you.
1. Stress Prevention and Relief
It’s probably not a surprise to you that you can mellow out with a yoga session after a rough day, but did you know that a daily yoga practice can actually decrease the likelihood that you’ll get stressed out in the first place? In a study, a yoga group and a control group took an exam. The yoga group had practiced yoga 35 minutes per day with a trained instructor for 12 weeks prior to the test. The yoga group didn’t have a significant increase in stress (based on heart rate, respiration, and blood pressure), but the control group did.
2. Improved Immunity
Similarly, yoga was shown to decrease postoperative stress in breast cancer patients, which led to a stronger immune system (no significant immune system depression after surgery) and better odds of a successful recovery from surgery. In this study, yoga was said to decrease anxiety and depression, too.
3. Improved Relationships
Yoga affects your mind and spirit in a way that has an effect on your relationships with others—your spouse, your kids, your parents, your friends, and even strangers. When you feel more at peace, more in the moment, more in tune with everyone around you, you begin to notice things and interact with people in a much more positive and compassionate way. If yoga has given you more confidence (likely!), you’ll probably be more open to communicating your own thoughts, needs, and suggestions. Don’t be surprised if you not only begin strengthening your current relationships, but begin to attract new friends and acquaintances, too.
4. Ability to Stay in the Moment
Have you ever tried to hold a balancing pose while your mind was on dinner, the drama with your sister, or some issue at work you’ve been dealing with? You topple over, right? Yoga trains you to keep your mind focused and in the moment, and with enough practice, that ability bleeds over into all other areas of your life. You’ll be a more attentive friend because of it, and you may also find that you’re much more efficient in your daily life because you’re not slowing yourself down by letting your mind travel into the past or the future while you’re working on something else. In addition, you’ll really get to revel in those little moments of joy you might have otherwise missed, and those all add up to a happier you!
5. Ease of Making Better Food Choices (and Less Binge Eating)
Yoga lowers levels of cortisol and increases levels of serotonin in the body. When cortisol is up, you’re more likely to binge eat (aka stress eat!). When you practice yoga, you become more in tune with what your body really needs, not what it’s craving in order to fill a void, and you’ll be less likely to reach for a convenience food with no nutritional value. By calming yourself through yoga, you may find that you have fewer cravings overall anyway.
6. Increased Strength
This one may not come as a surprise, but for those of you who have never done yoga and think it’s easy or all about flexibility and balance, know that you can get incredibly strong from practicing yoga, too. (Also, it’s not exactly easy, per se, but anyone can do it—you can start anywhere and work your way up to challenges that require lots of strength, flexibility, and balance!)
7. Removal of Toxins
Yoga stimulates the lymphatic system, which helps to flush the toxins out. Be sure to drink plenty of water before and after your practice to ensure that those toxins that start moving get pushed all the way out of your body. Along with your regiment of digestive probiotics, your body will always feel lean and clean.
8. Pain Management
Yoga has been successfully used as a component of treatment for lower back pain. That may not come as a shock, since so much of yoga puts at least some attention on back strength and flexibility. However, yoga has also been used—with significant results—in other areas of pain management, like carpal tunnel syndrome, hand osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, and joint pain in breast cancer survivors. In many cases, the yoga routines used in these studies were designed for the particular issue at hand, but often worked as a holistic approach anyway, alleviating much more than pain. For example, participants noticed a better grip (those with hand osteoporosis, in particular), better mood, less fatigue, a feeling of acceptance, and increased energy.
9. Protected Bone Density
You can do yoga for strong bones! Running and lifting weights at the gym aren’t the only way to avoid losing bone density as you age. Strength-bearing poses in yoga have the same effect in premenopausal women. Doing yoga now reduces the risk for osteoporosis later in life.
10. Improved Cardiovascular Health
Mindfulness-based stress reduction combines yoga and meditation and has been shown to lower stress, anxiety, depression, blood pressure, and BMI in patients with coronary heart disease.
You may also be surprised to know that you can actually get in a good cardiovascular workout. Yoga isn’t all about sitting still and taking deep breaths, or even holding poses for a long time while taking deep breaths. Some routines are pretty fast-paced and can get your heart rate up! And while you’re working on that, muscles all over your body are getting stronger, too, as you shift from one pose to the next.
11. Better Mood (Lowered Depression Risk)
As the breast cancer study mentioned above, yoga has the ability to alleviate depression and anxiety, boosting the quality of life for those who practice it. In addition, yoga could be recommended as a portion of the treatment for those suffering from depression. In a prison setting study, a 10-week yoga course decreased levels of depression and anxiety in inmates and workers. There was also a boost in their cognitive-behavioral performance.
Yoga has also been shown to help with the mood swings and other things that go along with menopause!
12. Improvement in Asthma
Yoga can actually benefit those who suffer from asthma. Deep-breathing exercises could increase the stamina of the lungs and allow people to get a better awareness of how they should be breathing, so when something goes awry, they notice earlier and can take care of it before the attack becomes dangerous.
13. Better Digestion
All those twists are good for more than flexibility! They stimulate your digestive tract, too, and make elimination easier. I recommend doing a few twists when you wake up in the morning just to rev everything up and ensure that you can start your day feeling lighter, not weighed down.
A Holistic Approach with Ongoing Benefits
You may have noticed that a lot of the surprising benefits of yoga came with a few extra positives attached, and several of the benefits listed here are interlinked. Yoga is a fantastic holistic approach to improving your mental, emotional, and physical health. A lot of the benefits you find on the mat also extend well beyond your session or even the hour or so after you’re done with your practice. When you practice yoga regularly, for example, you don’t get stressed out as easily and your perspective in general shifts to give you a happier, more positive outlook on life.
Want to learn how to do a yoga handstand? I can teach you!
Photos by: Ylva Erevall
Great ideas regarding Yoga that I never even realized!
Thank you for sharing!
I would like to get started with yoga but I’m not sure how to start. What do you suggest? I enjoy reading all of your articles. I am 63 but am in great shape and try to work out on a regular basis. I like to keep busy and active. I am working on losing some weight now to get in better shape. Thanks for your help.
Hi Kimberly……I would love to know your suggestions of some free videos online for beginning yoga. I travel ALOT and would love to be able to practice yoga more, especially when there is not a gym at my hotel.
Thanks in advance for any advice.
Thank you for the great information. I want to get into yoga and there are so many variations out there. Is there a type of yoga that you would suggest, especially for a beginner.
Can you recommend some good Yoga DVD’s for beginners?
Do you have any yoga video recommendations? Going to a studio is not an option for me, but I would like to practice at home.
Another amazing inspirational article, thank you!
I’m just curious how long have you been practicing yoga??
I use to like yourself train for running in numerous races however found it wasn’t doing me many benefits! Your system is working wonders for me so far I tend to walk everywhere anyways so the thought of going to the gym hasn’t even crossed my mind! However I do think yoga would fit in perfectly as its something that as long as you have a mat can be done more or less anywhere which is great…
So yeah I’m interested in starting I have already lined up a few classes in my area to train… do you have any hints, tips or any general advise for beginners starting yoga??
Hi Kimberley, I wanna join your glowing lean system. Would it help me get rid of my IBS?
how many times a week do you need to do yoga to reap the benefits?
I have often been concerned with yoga because there is a lot of attention given to meditation and have even read articles that state that in yoga you are posing as a god. That has bothered me because while I do meditate on deep spiritual matters and clear my head, I draw the line where allowing other spirit forces enter my mind. I also see a problem with posing as a god when I know that I am a human not a god. I only worship one god, our creator.
So my question to you is how is yoga not a form of worship and spiritism? In general it seems like it has wonderful benefits to aid in all our body’s systems (e.i., digestive, cardio, skeletal, lymphatic, etc.), but why does it have to be surrounded in so much pagan god worship? I don’t mean any disrespect to you at all, but I have to ask you this question. Thank you.
Is yoga the only exercise you do? You look so lean and toned, and I know that is difficult to achieve with yoga alone. I’d love to find out more about your exercise philosophy.
Thanks Kimberly for putting down what I know to be true into words.
…again so useful informations thanks- also for those amazing, beautiful pictures- wow
Wow! It is really a very nice article. Yoga is so much beneficial for our body. It helps our body to great extent if done regularly. It was simply amazing to read its benefits.
Holy **** that last picture is an astonishing display of strength and flexibility. As a guy who is just getting into Yoga (and Pilates) to address serious flexibility issues, especially in the hip flexors, that pose is quite inspiring. Not that I ever expect to get there, my goal is far more pedestrian; be able to sit down with my legs extended or cross-legged w/o supporting myself on my hands. Somehow I manage to get through boxing workouts always being told my form is great and fluid and I have no idea how, if they only knew I can’t touch my toes or even touch my hands together behind my back. I’m imaging Yoga will add great gains to my boxing too. In any event thanks for an inspiring article and.. wow again on that last picture.
My mom is often stressed about life and I am looking for a way to relieve her of her worries. I am so happy to learn that yoga can decrease the likelihood of you getting stressed out in the first place. This sounds like a great solution for my mom. Thank you.
Hi Jade…let me know how it goes for you and your mom. It would be great to hear some feedback. Yoga definitely helps me to stay grounded and be present, rather than worrying myself sick over things we can’t control. Sending lots of love to you both! 😉