A regular yoga practice can put you on the fast track to feeling better, both physically and mentally. That doesn’t mean you need to stop what you’re currently doing or cut out exercises you like. But if you can hit the mat once a week, or more, you can start enjoying all the benefits yoga has to offer.
Here are nine great things about a regular yoga practice — from its knack for improving flexibility to its use as a stress reliever:
IT MAKES YOU HAPPIER
Happiness encompasses a lot of variables, but yoga checks a lot of boxes. Beyond its physical benefits, yoga has been shown to improve mood, boost self-esteem and confidence and promote greater feelings of life satisfaction — all things that impact your overall happiness.
IT’S GREAT STRESS RELIEF …
You know how you always feel better after a good round of yoga? There’s a reason for that. In a study published in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers found yoga has an “effective role in reducing stress, anxiety and depression.” Those findings hold up, because in a national survey, 85% of U.S. adults who do yoga reported reduced stress as a result.
… AND PAIN RELIEF
According to Harvard Medical School, yoga can help relieve chronic pain from conditions like arthritis and fibromyalgia, as well as alleviate migraines and low-back pain. And, in many cases, a weekly yoga class was found to increase mobility among back pain sufferers more than standard medical care.
YOU’LL SLEEP BETTER
After a yoga class, it’s common to feel more relaxed and balanced than when you walked in. Turns out, those feelings can extend to your sleep, too. Because studies have shown long-term yoga practice is associated with better sleep quality and fewer sleep disturbances throughout the night.
IT IMPROVES FLEXIBILITY AND POSTURE
Better flexibility and mobility is one of the most noticeable benefits of yoga and something you might experience after just a few classes. Keep at it, and you’ll start to see positive changes in your body’s ability to move through space, whether it’s finally nailing a difficult pose or simply being able to touch your toes. Off the mat, the increased strength and flexibility you find in yoga can improve your posture while sitting, standing and walking.
IT BUILDS MUSCLE
To the uninitiated, yoga can seem like glorified stretching, but it can be a really serious workout. All that manipulating your body into various postures involves supporting your own body weight with your arms, legs and core. So yoga can effectively build muscle similar to other bodyweight exercises like lunges and pushups.
IT INCREASES ENERGY AND COGNITIVE FUNCTION
Research has long showed exercise — across nearly all disciplines, including yoga — can increase energy. But a University of Waterloo study found performing just 25 minutes of hatha yoga every day can boost energy levels and brain function. The latter was linked to better executive function, emotional responses and thinking patterns.
IT’S “YOU TIME”
Between work and other life obligations, it can be difficult to carve out time for yourself. But yoga is exactly that — a time to focus on your health and wellness. It may be 15 minutes on your mat at home, or an intense hour-long session at your favorite studio. Either way, it’s some quality you time.
IT BOOSTS YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM
New research published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine studied the effects of yoga on the immune system. Its findings suggest regular yoga can boost your immune system and decrease chronic inflammation in your body.