A big group of us from YogaOutlet.com attended one of the most popular yoga festivals in the country last month, Wanderlust Yoga Festival in Squaw Valley, CA. It was a blast! We had the chance to take several classes a day, try meditation, go for hikes, and some of us even attempted paddleboard yoga.
Being surrounded by the mountains of Lake Tahoe, and coming together as a community with some of the most brilliant yoga instructors was awe-inspiring, to say the least. It reconnected us to the roots of our practice. In just a couple of days at this immersive yoga festival, we could all feel and see the tangible effects practicing yoga has on the entire body and mind body. Here are some of those standout benefits.
1. Yoga reduces stress Connecting deep, relaxing breaths with movement and physical challenges counterbalances the body’s reaction to pain and positively affects the regions of our brain responsible for anxiety and tension.
2. Yoga improves sleep patterns Studies show those who exercise regularly, sleep better. Sleep is a function of the parasympathetic nervous system, a system that is responsible for rest and digestion. Things like high blood pressure, obesity, and mental tension can decrease the function of the parasympathetic system, causing disruption in sleep patterns. Yoga’s focus on relaxation and mindful movement helps restore the parasympathetic function and improves your quality of sleep.
3. Yoga boosts oxygen flow The deep breathing practiced in yoga shifts the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in your body. It rids the body of excess carbon dioxide, which encourages oxygen to flow more freely. Increased oxygen reduces the acidity in your blood, helping to alkalize your body’s pH and making you feel more energetic.
4. Yoga can ease chronic pain Yoga improves mental awareness of the body, and teaches you how to use your breath to help cope with pain. For those who have symptoms, such as back pain, tight muscles, tendinitis, or other conditions, yoga can help positively affect pain receptors and improve how our body responds to pain. Of course, you should always check in with your doctor for major aches and pains.
5. Yoga increases range of motion, flexibility, and balance Yoga postures, called asanas, promote long, lean movement that focus on elongating muscles and the tissues that bind the muscles together. When you practice yoga, you not only stretch your muscle fiber, but also the connective tissues that bind the muscle fibers together. Even if your muscles are generally tight, yoga can improve your flexibility both physically and mentally.
6. Yoga can balance your emotions In high school, I was pretty moody. (Like, really moody.) Upbeat one minute, angry and irritated the next. I really had no intention of correcting this with yoga—in fact, the only reason I started practicing regularly was because I heard it could give you a nice butt. (Which, by the way, it can!) I went to a power yoga class—I loved the sweat, the high energy, and the totally detoxed feeling I had at the end of class. And while working on my body shape, unknowingly my moods became more stable. I started smiling more. I was happy and patient, instead of cranky and irritable. Today, I attribute much of my mood stability to yoga. I’ve practiced and taught yoga now for 15 years, and in that time I have often heard people refer to yoga as their “happy place.”
Have you noticed any of these health benefits from your yoga practice? Share you thoughts in the comments below!
Photo: Ali Kaukas/Wanderlust