Many people think of yoga as something for young and fit twenty-somethings. After all, there are countless photos on social media of young, beautiful people in various poses on various beaches at sunrise and sunset.
To some people, yoga is just another fitness fad. Some might even say that it’s just a fleeting trend.
But the truth is, yoga has been around for centuries. In fact, it’s been around for millennia. Yoga is an ancient practice that dates back to 2700 B.C.
And one reason that it’s lasted the test of time is that yoga has a lot of health benefits.
Ready to learn what they are? Here are five of the biggest health benefits of yoga.
1. Lower Stress Levels and Reduce Anxiety
Yoga helps you to focus, find a sense of peace, and be present in the moment. And those are great ways to lessen your stress and reduce anxiety.
All types of physical activity and exercise increase endorphins in the brain that make us feel happier.
But yoga does something different. It actually promotes relaxation by decreasing cortisol, which is the hormone that causes stress.
Yoga also involves breathing techniques where you take long, deep breaths. Deep-breathing techniques are also proven to help reduce stress, calm the mind, and make us feel more at peace within ourselves.
Yoga and meditation overlap in several ways. If you practice both at the same time, you can really bring your anxiety levels to an all-time low.
2. Increase Flexibility and Balance
We’ve all seen people do those yoga poses that require you to balance on one leg or stand on your head or elbows. And while it takes some people years to master the more difficult poses, even the basic poses can help the body have a greater range of motion.
Different yoga poses target different muscles in the body, including the back, shoulders, hamstrings, and hips. If your muscles are tight, doing yoga on a regular basis can help you enjoy much greater flexibility and better range of movement.
Yoga also helps with balance, as many of the poses require you to position your body in ways that you wouldn’t normally do.
Because you begin with easy, basic poses and work your way up to more advanced positions, yoga is a great option for older adults looking to become more mobile.
Flexibility won’t happen overnight. But with consistent yoga practice, you will see a difference in how your body can bend and move.
The downward-facing dog, the pyramid pose, and the half-moon pose are excellent ways to make the body more flexible and balanced.
3. Build Muscle Strength
Every yoga pose has a different purpose and requires you to shift your weight to different areas of the body. This makes it a great fitness routine for people looking to build strength in specific muscles.
Yoga is a great workout for the entire body, as it causes you to use a wide range of muscles. It’s particularly useful for building strength in the arms, which many people don’t focus on exercising.
Yoga is not like circuit training, which is designed to build muscle mass quickly. However, it will help you get stronger over time. As you get stronger, you’ll start to build muscle tone and see definition.
Yoga is a low-impact fitness routine in comparison to high-intensity interval training or cardio. But it's still a good way to increase stamina. Why? Because it forces you to focus on matching your breath with your movements, and that alone can help you to build stamina over time.
The tree pose, warrior pose, and boat pose are great ways to build muscle and work different parts of the body.
4. Lose Weight
Yoga is all about mindfulness and being present in the moment. Its purpose is to force you to become more aware of both your mind and your body, and that type of awareness has powerful effects.
Many students of yoga agree that the way you feel in the yoga studio carries over into other areas of your life, including the way you eat.
Mindfulness can make it easier to develop healthier eating habits, and healthy eating habits can lead to weight loss.
The physical practice of yoga won’t help you shed pounds the way running or cardio workouts will. But the mindfulness it creates helps to promote a healthier lifestyle and encourages many people to pay more attention to what they eat.
5. Reduce Back Pain
If you’ve ever suffered from back pain, it’s time to start doing yoga now.
People that suffer from chronic back pain often turn to yoga for relief. Because it increases flexibility, yoga can reduce the pain felt in tight areas of the body, particularly the back.
The cat pose and bridge pose are great examples of how yoga can relieve back pain. These two poses force you to stretch your back, helping to loosen tight muscles and create more flexibility for a better range of motion.
The shoulder stand, the tiger pose, and the seated twist are also great for the back. Not only do they improve flexibility, but they also help to create better posture, which is key to maintaining a healthy neck and spine.
There’s no question about it — yoga offers lots of health benefits. With consistent yoga practice, you can:
Lower your stress levels and reduce anxiety
Increase flexibility and improve balance
Build muscle strength
Lose weight by developing healthier eating habits
Reduce back pain by improving posture and increasing flexibility
So grab a mat, find a local class to attend, or join an online community where you can do yoga from the comfort of home. With focus and practice, you will see significant health improvements over time.
And when you get really good at it and want to start posting your poses on Instagram, go for it. You just might inspire someone else to get in on this nearly 5,000-year-old trend.
Adam Marshall is a freelance writer specializing in all things apartment organization, real estate, and college advice. He currently works with The Lofts at Brentwood to help them with their online marketing.