Yoga is the only exercise, alongside swimming, that I genuinely enjoy and look forward to. I don’t just do for the health benefits or because I feel I should. Since taking up yoga, I feel better both physically and mentally. It allows me to relax, unwind and take time for myself.
The health benefits are obvious. I’ve definitely gained more strength, flexibility and balance since starting yoga. My posture has also improved leaps and bounds, I don’t feel so tight in my body, my breathing is fuller and I generally feel more positive about myself.
Yoga is great for people of all fitness levels and ages. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be flexible to do yoga. There are plenty of modified poses available and as you become more flexible over time, more options open up to you. However, the main goal is to show up on the mat and take time for yourself.
There are many different types of yoga, such as Vinyasa, Bikram, Hatha and Iyengar. You can try the different styles out and see which ones work for you. I’m personally a fan of Vinyasa but would love to check out Bikram yoga in the future.
In this post, I’m sharing my top 6 reasons why yoga is so awesome and I hope that it inspires you to try it out too.
1. It’s a workout
When I first started doing yoga, I honestly thought it would be a breeze. At the time I started, I was going to the gym four times a week and was probably the fittest I’d ever been. Someone mentioned to me that I should try yoga and I thought to myself ha, this will be a piece of cake.
My first time trying out yoga was an hour session at my gym. I turned up and took a glance around the room and saw a mixture of ages and genders. I foolishly thought that if people a lot older than me could do it, then I’d come out of the session a pro.
Even more wrong.
Even a few minutes in, I was finding it tough. The focus on balance, strength, flexibility and getting your posture right turned out to be much harder than I’d expected.
Some of the poses people in the class would get into baffled me. I couldn’t even get half as deep into the stretch as them or didn’t have enough strength to hold a position. I couldn’t even attempt crow pose.
By the end, I felt knackered. I’d stretched parts of my body that I didn’t know existed. When we laid down in Shavasana for the final 5 minutes, I was relieved. Finally, it was over.
The next day though, genuinely, I’d never ached like that all over. Even after weight training or conditioning, I did not ache in the same way that I did after that yoga class. I burned. It seriously was an effective workout! It isn’t intense in the same way that a spin class or BodyPump is, but it pushes your body to its limits and stretches places that need it the most.
2. You can do it from home
You don’t need to spend lots on a yoga class if you don’t want to. It’s so easy to do from home. All you need is a yoga mat and some space to move around in and you’re good to go.
My favourite YouTube channel to follow at home is Yoga with Adriene. She does a whole host of videos and playlists that you can follow for free. She’s very easy to follow, explains the moves and their benefits, and offers a great range of videos for all levels to help people get into yoga.
My personal favourites are her 30-day playlists, where you do a yoga practice every day for 30 days to build strength and integrity. She does a variety of these such as ’30 Days of Yoga,’ ‘Yoga Camp,’ and ‘TRUE.’
The difference I felt from the first day to the last day was phenomenal and very unanticipated. Adriene does these 30-day series in a way where you build up different parts of your practice every day so by the last day, it has all very neatly tied in together and you can see the progress you’ve made.
I would thoroughly recommend her channel to anyone looking to get into yoga. She has so many videos, so you can choose what appeals to you and what you feel will benefit you the most.
3. Time for yourself
So many of us lead chaotic, busy and full lives. A lot of us find it hard to hit the off button and unwind.
As yoga is a meditative practice, it forces you to take time for yourself and escape to-do lists or chores. The moves on the mat relieve tight places and help you let go of any stress you’re holding on to.
It’s a great way to unwind after a busy day at work. I look forward to it because I know it’s a time where I listen to my mind and body, and don’t try to pre-occupy myself with lots of other tasks.
It’s really important to take a step back from everything, even for an hour a day, just to have a bit of ‘me’ time.
4. It connects the physical self with the mental self
Before starting yoga, that whole concept of connecting the mind and the body seemed alien to me. I couldn’t grasp how my mind and body could feel more connected than they already did. To be honest, I’d even say it sounded lame.
However, because the movements in yoga are so closely entwined with your breathing, it means you have to think about doing movements as one fluid part, rather than trying to force them out because you’re told to. This focus on breathing and fluidity forces me to concentrate on how my mind and body feel like one.
This focus on how we move between positions stops us from rushing through each pose and makes us more mindful. It’s a very soothing process, which I’ve found very enlightening.
5. There are a surplus of health benefits
Flexibility and balance are perhaps the two most common answers people jump to when asked about the benefits of yoga.
Yoga definitely assists with flexibility because a lot of the poses are very deep stretches that you hold for a long time. This repeated stretching leads to greater flexibility over time. And I wouldn’t even say a long time either.
Balance is another important component of yoga because some of the poses require you to stay in, sometimes very challenging, positions for long periods of time.
For instance, poses such as ‘tree pose’ and ‘king of the dance’ require you to find balance, put your centre of gravity in a certain position, draw strength from a certain area and find length in different parts of your body to enable you to hold that pose.
But there are also other benefits. My strength has definitely improved a lot since starting yoga, particularly my core strength. When I’ve had to do poses like ‘yogi plank,’ ‘side plank’ or ‘warrior one,’ I’ve really had to cultivate strength from within to allow me to hold those poses.
In the beginning, I found some of these poses near impossible. However, over time, my strength has improved to enable me to hold more of these poses more easily.
Yoga has also massively helped my posture. As I focus on my posture on the mat, it transfers off the mat. This means less slouching and hunched shoulders!
Since starting yoga, I feel like I can inhale and exhale for much longer now because of the emphasis on synchronising movement with breath. When I do other types of exercise, I’m able to take fuller breaths, which leads to a more effective workout.
6. You can make it your own
In exercise classes I’ve attended before, I’ve felt like I’m not very good at it, it’s too hard, I’m not fit enough or have other negative thoughts that put me off wanting to go. Especially when other people are really good, it can feel pretty intimidating.
However, with yoga, you can make the practice your own. Can’t stretch as deeply as somebody else? That’s fine. You can modify the practice to suit your abilities, rather than feeling you have to do it because everyone else is.
For instance, I really struggle with my hamstring flexibility, so the ‘forward fold’ can be really tough for me. Yet some people can get their body flat to their legs which just seems impossible for me. However, rather than feeling defeated, I pull my body as close to my legs as possible.
On the flip side, my hips are very open and flexible so I find the ‘lizard pose’ pretty easy. In contrast, some people can’t get anywhere near as deep into that stretch as I can.
You can play yoga to your strengths and weaknesses and no set way is ‘right.’ You can push yourself as much as you need to and build on that, rather than some preconceived standard of where your body needs to be at.
That’s why I think yoga is popular across a range of ages and levels because you can make the practice your own.
To summarise, yoga is incredible.
I truly believe yoga is a great exercise and think everyone can and should get involved. Maybe it won’t be for you, but it’s definitely worth a shot.
For me, it’s an effective workout, allows you to take time for yourself, is accessible at all levels, you can do it from home, it connects the mind and body, and there are plenty of health benefits from doing it.
What’s not to love?