Yoga has tremendous benefits for the body, mind and spirit. Adding even one yoga class per week to your life adds noticeable benefits if you stay committed. The best results though, are seen when practiced at least 3 times per week for 30-60 minutes. Here’s what you can expect:
There’s no surprise here! Flexibility is one of the most common reasons why people try yoga and also one of the most common reasons they shy away from it. The truth is, you don’t need to be flexible to practice yoga. That’s like saying you need to be strong to lift weights. But just as you’ll get stronger by lifting weights, you will become more flexible by practicing yoga.
In yoga we move our joints through their full range of motion and our muscles are stretched and lengthened. With regular practice, you will start to notice your range of motion increasing and more space and openness within your body to go deeper into a posture.
You will get stronger. A typical yoga class includes:
- A warm up
- Standing strength poses that are held for 3 to 5 breaths or roughly 30 to 60 seconds
- Balancing poses
- Seated/floor poses that are held for 5-10 breaths or roughly 1-2 minutes
- Depending on the class, it can include inversions and arm balances as well
- Meditation/breathing exercise
In yoga, strength is built through bearing body weight and many postures are similar to classic fitness exercises like plank, tricep pushups, glute bridges — to name few! There is a lot of isometric contraction used to hold our poses and a big emphasis on core stability — the core is engaged in practically every pose.
Standing strength poses focus a lot on working the muscles of the lower body. Balancing postures help us work on stability and also activate muscles we don’t normally use day to day. Inversions and arm balances build tons of strength in the arms, upper body and core as you are upside down or balancing on just the hands. Even floor poses, though mostly working on flexibility, still contract muscles and use body weight to build strength.
Relaxed and Clear Mind
Yoga is a moving meditation. We breathe deeply, we move rhythmically with the breath; we’re silent, we’re away from our phones, and for those 60 minutes or however long the class is, we have put a pause on our daily life.
After yoga, we feel a clearer mind and the rush of those feel-good, post-exercise brain chemicals the same way we do after many forms of physical activity like running, swimming, dance etc…
The nice thing about yoga is that you release a lot of tension and tightness in the body through deep stretching, through gently moving our spine, through opening up joints such as the hips and shoulders; and all of this also clears “energetic blocks” in the body.
There’s a saying that our issues are held in our tissues, and that our body holds on to all of our experiences and emotions, good and bad. Stress or traumas stored in the body can manifest as aches and pains or tightness. So naturally, a regular yoga practice can help with feeling energetically lighter and more free.
Which leads us to the next point…
The physical practice of yoga was traditionally used to prepare the body for long periods of sitting — in meditation. The Asana (poses) practice is a moving meditation that prepares you for a classical stillness meditation.
This is why the last 5-10 minutes of every yoga class is meditation. The final pose in each class is called Shivasana, or Corpse pose (as you are lying down) and essentially this is the meditation portion of the class. With the relaxed and clear mind that has been generated as a result of the movement part of the class, we are now ready to be still and go even further within.
There is tons of scientific evidence on the benefits of meditation and its relation to stress management & reduction. Another important aspect of yoga is Pranayama or breathing exercises. There’s so much research on the benefits of breath work on the human body and mind, and most yoga classes include at least one breathing exercise.
We know that Yoga means Union, and that this union (connection) can be many things for many people.
It can be a greater connection you feel to your own body by being more present and aware of your breathing and what you’re feeling and having that ability to listen to your body.
It can be a deep connection you feel to the Universe at large and all beings, a common outcome experienced through meditation.
It can be a Divine connection you feel to God (make this your own based on your Faith/Belief), also as a result of a meditative experience and by having a greater connection with your own spirit.
At the very least, it can even be a connection you feel with the community of fellow yogis wherever you practice (including online communities), or with your teacher(s).
Benefits for the Body, Mind and Spirit
Yoga has benefits on a holistic scale for the body, mind and spirit. These are just 5 of the innumerable benefits that come with a yoga practice! I hope this information serves you and inspires you wherever you may be on your yoga journey.
If you’ve just started, may this inspire you for what’s to come. If you’re going strong, may this allow you to celebrate how far you’ve come and to take things to the next level. If you’ve fallen off, may this inspire you to re-commit.
May peace be with you.