If you’ve never stepped onto a yoga mat, or only tried practicing yoga once or twice, here are a few good reasons to start a regular yoga practice now.
1. High anxiety or stress. Ever wonder why people tell you to “just breathe” when you’re feeling anxious or stressed? Because it works! Yoga is a mind-body practice that incorporates breath and mindfulness principles, which typically results in reduced levels of stress and anxiety. Certain poses (like forward bends and corpse pose) help soothe the nervous system, calming the mind and body. For me, spending time on the yoga mat is a respite from the world of being overworked and overstimulated.
2. You can’t touch your toes. I always hear from people, “I’m not flexible, I can’t do yoga.” But that is one reason you should! Yoga poses stretch your muscles and increase your joints’ range of motion. As we age, our joints get stiffer and we lose flexibility. Gaining flexibility happens over time with regular yoga practice. There are still some poses I am not able to get into, but as someone who is not naturally flexible, I’ve seen improvements with my flexibility through my own yoga practice.
3. Trouble sleeping. Yoga disciplines teach us to quiet the mind and release the chatter from within, also known as “monkey brain.” We practice this at the end of each yoga session with Savasana (corpse pose). From yoga practices, we learn how to release mind and body and enter a state of rest and relaxation.
4. You want to strengthen and tone your muscles. Moving in and out of yoga postures requires muscular strength, flexibility, and balance. Depending on the type of yoga practice you choose, it can actually be hard work! An article published in February 2015 by Harvard Health Publishing of Harvard Medical School stated, “researchers studied a small group of sedentary individuals who had not practiced yoga before. After eight weeks of practicing yoga at least twice a week for a total of 180 minutes, participants had greater muscle strength and endurance, flexibility and cardiorespiratory
5. Better sex, please. Engaging Mula Bandha (root lock) brings awareness to and strengthens the muscles of the pelvic floor, enhancing sensation during intercourse and orgasm. Some poses, like bound angle pose and bridge pose, increase libido. Practicing yoga also boosts self-esteem, increasing positive body image and awareness. It’s always fun to incorporate yoga poses in the bedroom!
6. Your health needs improvement. Studies have shown that practicing yoga boosts the amount of hemoglobin and red blood cells in the blood, which carry oxygen to your muscles and organs. Dr. Timothy McCall states, “when you contract and stretch muscles, move organs around, and come in and out of yoga postures, you increase the drainage of lymph (a viscous fluid rich in immune cells).
This helps the lymphatic system fight infection, destroy cancerous cells, and dispose of the toxic waste products of cellular functioning.” And an article issued through YogaJournal.com reported, “at the University of Wisconsin, Richard Davidson, Ph.D., found that the left prefrontal cortex showed heightened activity in meditators, a finding that has been correlated with greater levels of happiness and better immune function.”
7. Poor posture. A well-rounded yoga practice includes flexion, extension, and twisting of the spine, keeping the discs between your vertebrae supple and the supporting musculature strong. The muscles of the core are also strengthened during asana practice which support the spine, allowing you to stand up taller without slumping or slouching.
8. You have a hard time controlling or communicating your emotions. Yoga builds awareness of both the physical body and mental states. Pranayama, or breathing techniques, used during yoga practice help calm the mind and put you in tune with how you are feeling. Yoga teaches us to stay in the present moment, letting go of old thoughts and old habits that no longer serve us. I used to have very little patience before practicing yoga, now friends and family comment on how calm and more patient I’ve become.
9. You’re looking for a cross-training workout to supplement your current routine. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Yoga is a great way to balance that long distance run or keep the flexibility in your muscles after lifting heavy weights. Cyclists, golfers, tennis players, etc. turn to yoga to supplement the skills needed for their sport performance. I even incorporate plyometric and abdominal work into my own yoga practice on the mat.
10. You heard it was good for you, but _______ (fill in your excuse here). Now let that excuse go. It’s easy to find excuses, especially if fear of the unknow or “what ifs” are swirling around your head. Whether it’s starting a yoga practice, losing 10 pounds, or any other objective, make the conscious choice to just go for it. If a group class setting is intimidating, start with private one-on-one sessions. Human beings tend to have more ability than willpower, taking the first step is all we need. Stephanie Bogdan is a 200-hour RYT and has been teaching yoga for over five years. She is the author of Beyond
the Pose: How to Awaken Your Creativity and Design Your Own, Unique Yoga Sequences, which peppers her personal stories with yoga instruction. Stephanie’s easy to use formula guides you on how to create your own authentic yoga sequences and can be purchased at www.Amazon.com.