If you’ve been on the fence about starting yoga or sticking to it, I’ve got 5 GREAT reasons why you need to start doing yoga NOW! Let’s be honest here, none of us are getting any younger and we never know what tomorrow brings. We all deserve to feel our best every day, so, let’s set aside our to-do lists. Take a moment for ourselves to look at 5 awesome reasons to start doing yoga today!
Ultimate Stress Reliever
Hans Selye coined the definition of stress in 1936. While stress is key to our survival, too much stress can be detrimental to our health. Long term stress can lower your overall immunity. It can cause high blood pressure, fatigue, depression, mood swings, and even cardiac issues. Cortisol, the stress hormone, sends our bodies into the “fight or flight” mode. While this is a natural necessary response, keeping your body in the fight or flight mode for extended periods of time can be harmful. Our body cannot determine when we’re truly facing danger or not. So, if you’re panicking before a big public speaking engagement your body reads it the same way it would if you saw a snake while walking in the park. Cortisol is known to impair learning and memory functions, increase chances of weight gain, and cause cardiac issues. This includes high blood pressure and cholesterol along with so much more when in excess in our bodies.
The practice of yoga has many stress management techniques. It reminds us as adults to self-sooth in moments of extreme stress and anxiety, very similar to how we train babies and young children to self-soothe when they are upset. The following are the 3 main components of how doing yoga can serve as an excellent tool to help us cope with stress:
- Yoga poses or asana, comprise the physical practice of yoga where we move, turn, and twist our bodies into different shapes repeatedly. This helps us to eliminate any of the stress toxins we have stored up in our bodies from day-to-day life. Every cell in our body has memory which tends to bottle up our emotions, fears, and frustrations. Yoga poses facilitate a release of emotion. Therefore, practicing regularly allows us to feel calmer, freer, and more liberated after a yoga practice. It doesn’t matter what you do or how long you do it for so long as you are able to get out of your head and into your body. This is key in stress management.
- Breathing or pranayama is much more than just inhaling and exhaling. Pranayama is an ancient but structured system of working with our breath in a mindful and systematic manner. This practice often starts with simply sitting and learning to train our restless, distracted mind to focus on the breath and to connect deeply with it. When our bodies are stressed, we tend to breathe shallow using only the upper portion of our lungs. In pranayama and yoga poses, we learn how to breathe properly. This breath is deep and controlled which develops steadiness to anchor the mind. This breathing technique alone has a tremendous positive effect on our bodies and helps to combat stress skillfully.
- Mindful, guided relaxation is the final component of the three. If you’ve ever taken a yoga class, you know that class always ends with shavasana or some form of a seated silence or meditation. While you may be tempted to skip this or feel it is unnecessary, this is the icing on the cake of your yoga practice. This is where your body processes and absorbs all the effects of your sequence which is great for your Parasympathetic Nervous System. Just by lying down and allowing yourself to be guided through a simple 5-minute full body relaxation session can alter your response to stress drastically.
I love doing yoga for many reasons. If I had to choose just one, it would be this. Yoga helps you to age well. Where I come from, almost everyone I know who are as old as my parents or grandparents have always seen old age as a burden. It is seen as a fearful, dreaded phase of life where the body breaks down and carrying on with day to day tasks become very difficult. This has always been a motivation for me to do my best to take care of my body. I want to move around safely without injuries or ailments and thrive in my older years so as not be dependent on anyone. Of course, some diseases and life events are unavoidable. Starting yoga earlier in life is an investment in your older years, though.
Enhances Clarity and Mental Focus
In a physical yoga practice, you’re often called to focus on your breath, rhythmically moving your body in coordination with your breath by expanding and contracting as you breathe in and out. This increases your ability to be mindful and aware of yourself in any given moment whether it’s during the demand of standing on your head in shirshasana (headstand) or learning to do downward dog (adhomukha swanasana) skillfully.
There is a specific group of yoga poses called inversions that are extremely useful to enhance clarity and focus. These poses help to bring blood flow back to the heart and brain. By turning our body upside down, we gain the ability to flip our perspective about many things. This leaves us refreshed and revitalized giving us a newfound clarity and focus to deal with the stress that we previously did not have. Yoga will not eliminate stress but it enhances our ability to deal with it which is a huge benefit to start doing yoga now.
How often do you check in with yourself and how you are truly feeling? A lot of us spend most of our days not being our best selves. The smallest thing can throw us off and then we carry this with us for the rest of the day or even longer. When we start doing yoga, we put ourselves in a better mood each time. Backward bending poses open up the chest and increase respiration. These are used a lot when working with people with emotional issues or depression. They make us feel free and successful. Next time you’re feeling down or stressed, before seeking medication or downing another cup of coffee, try doing a backward bending yoga sequence and notice how your mood elevates for the rest of the day. Just oxygenating your body while moving creates a tremendous effect on our mood.
Strong and Flexible
There is no doubt that yoga makes you strong and flexible. Often, this aspect of the practice scares many people away who think this is a prerequisite to start doing yoga now. The truth is with a consistent yoga practice, the strength and flexibility will come naturally. Your muscles will get toned, your joints will have better movement and range, and you’ll stay away from injuries. Being physically strong and flexible makes you mentally strong and flexible. The practice doesn’t have to start like this but with time, consistency and dedication, you’ll find yourself reaping the benefits.
Have I convinced you to start doing yoga yet?? If you already practice yoga, what is your favorite part of the practice? Leave your answers in the comments below!