10 key benefits of yoga

paula lay forest yogaThere are so many benefits that you can gain from the practice of yoga, from strengthening the immune system, alleviating stress, to simply being able to experience more joy in your everyday life. The main way most of us experience yoga is through the practice of yoga asanas. Asanas create the perfect gateway to access your body and mind. The body can be seen as the canvas where we get the opportunity to experience ourselves just as we are and take the time to notice what is happening in our body, minds and hearts. Through stretching and opening the body we make space that is not only physical but mental and emotional as well. The practice of yoga aims to bring together the mind, body and spirit. As many of you might already know, the meaning of yoga is ‘union’ or to ‘yoke’, which is to bring together.

Here is a shortlist of the benefits of yoga, just to give you 10 more reasons to get on your mat today!

  1. Improves your flexibility

This is one of the key reasons most people are drawn to yoga in the first place – and is often mistaken as a reason for not doing yoga! I’m sure you have heard someone say ‘I’m not flexible enough to do yoga’. This is a common misconception about how ready one needs to be to start yoga. Yoga really is a practice for anyone, young, old, healthy or sick. And trust me, if you do stick with a regular, sustained yoga practice, you will eventually begin to feel the muscles in your body begin to let go, and you will feel increased freedom and space where once there may have been very tight hips or shoulders.

  1. Perfects your posture

As you work through your yoga poses there are often alignment clues that help you to understand the structure of the body. This will lead to a deeper understanding of how to find ease in the way you move throughout your everyday life. Grounding down through the feet and lengthening up and out of the crown of the head is a key cue that helps you to find that structural support to create length and stability through the spine.

  1. Calms the nervous system

Yoga actively works with the breath and because of this shifts the tendency to operate from the sympathetic nervous system (flight or fight response) to the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic system is calming and restorative as well as regulates breathing and helps to decrease the heart rate.

  1. Builds muscle strength

Dynamic yoga poses use the bodies own weight to challenge the muscles to work hard and through this muscle density is improved. This is fantastic for overall physical wellbeing especially as we get older. The beauty of yoga is that it balances the strength work with flexibility, creating length and strength simultaneously – double win!

  1. Protects cartilage and joints

As we age the joints and the cartilage will begin to wear away just from general use. Every time you practice yoga, you are mobilizing the joints through their full range of motion – literally oxygenating and lubricating the joints with synovial fluid.

  1. Increases spine health and mobility

They say a healthy spine is a healthy life (or something along these lines!) and it really is true. The spinal vertebrae compress over time, due to age and the effects of gravity, and the practice of yoga actively lengthen the spine to create more space for the spinal disks – the shock absorbers in between the bones. Super important for long-term health, as I’m sure anyone who has had back issues would agree with.

  1. Regulates your adrenal glands

Okay, this is a biggie. Modern day living has really increased the amount of stimulation that we are accustomed to and we spend the majority of our time being ‘plugged in’ and ‘switched on’, the problem being that we often don’t know how to switch off when we need to. Related to the effects of yoga on the parasympathetic nervous system, yoga actively lowers cortisol levels – the hormone that is related to the flight or fight response. If we are always in fight/flight mode then the body doesn’t have time to recuperate. Reducing cortisol reduces the risk for depression, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis to just name a few.

  1. Helps you sleep

Savasana and the practice of yoga nidra works by withdrawing the senses and this gives the body much needed respite. The practice of yoga primes the body for deep rest and this can translate in not only it being easier to get to sleep, but better quality sleep.

  1. Builds self awareness

The beauty of taking that time for yourself is that you also get to know yourself! Sounds obvious I know, but it’s true. Being encouraged to draw your attention inwards gives you the time and space to check-in and notice what’s going on.

  1. Connect with something bigger: be it spirit, consciousness, energy, god (however you see it!)

This is really my favorite. Being alive is a beautiful and mysterious experience. The practice of yoga cultivates our connection to all other beings and allows us to tap into this mystery and experience ourselves as part of this ever-unfolding life, with presence of body, mind and heart.

sunrise paula lay