If you follow me on any sort of social media, you’ve probably picked up that I like yoga quite a bit.
I was skeptical of yoga at first though. The idea of stretching and weird breathing exercises didn’t appeal to me at all. I thought I’d be bored.
But I had some friends who absolutely raved about the hot yoga class at a local studio. So after a few weeks of hearing about this yoga class, I decided to go check it out (great way to spend my Valentine’s Day 😂).
I was hooked.
It was a fun way to work out (that I actually enjoyed), and it helped me chill out. As someone who was addicted to being busy, yoga taught me how to relax. I used to be able to sit for hours upon hours and devour books (LOTR and Sherlock Holmes for the win) as a kid. But as I got older, somehow I lost the ability to relax — I always had to be doing something.
After my first yoga experience was so positive, I decided to stick with it. Eventually I started practicing at home and fell deeper in love with the practice. So much so that I decided to become a yoga instructor!
But enough of that. Relaxation wasn’t the only benefit I’ve gleaned from my yoga practice. Here’s what I’ve gained so far in my two years of practicing yoga.
13 Benefits of Yoga (That I’ve Experienced So Far)
Okay, so I figured I’d start with the obvious first. Before I started yoga, I couldn’t really touch my toes (at least not on a consistent basis). Now, I can walk my palms underneath my feet no problem. Flexibility doesn’t always come quickly, but if you practice yoga consistently, you’ll start to see improvements. And not being flexible is NOT a reason to avoid yoga. In fact, that’s probably a bigger reason you should be practicing 😉
Along with increased flexibility, I noticed I started to become stronger, and my muscles became more toned. Depending on the type of yoga you are practicing, this will vary. But whether you are doing vinyasa or ashtanga yoga where you are constantly flowing or if you are doing hatha yoga where you are holding poses longer, you might find you start to strengthen muscles you don’t normally use (or didn’t even realize you had!).
I definitely sit up straighter since I started practicing yoga! Focusing on your body for an hour or so in a yoga class taught me to be more mindful of my posture off the mat as well as on it. I have no where near perfect posture, but it has gotten remarkably better.
My balance has improved due to practicing yoga. I always had okay balance growing up (I’d just be chilling in tree pose for fun as a kid, not realize it was technically a yoga pose 😂), but trying to balance in some of the poses my teachers took the class through seemed impossible at first (half moon, anyone?). Now, a few years later, I’m working on closing my eyes in some of these balancing poses (like tree) for an added challenge.
I didn’t really expect learning how to be still to be a benefit I personally got from yoga, but I have definitely grown in this area due to my practice. At the beginning and end of most yoga classes, you have time that you need to just be still. And I wasn’t used to that. Being forced to not do anything was a challenge at first (and still is many days), but yoga and focusing on my breath has taught me to be okay in the quiet.
Similarly to stillness, yoga has taught me to be more mindful. It’s so easy to go about my day without really noticing what’s going on around me. Being in yoga practices where I was encouraged to notice the subtle changes in my body and mind taught me to pay more attention. It’s made me more appreciative of the little things going on that are often over looked.
As I mentioned earlier, I used to have a big issue when I had to “relax.” I couldn’t do it. My mind was always going, and I would get super antsy. But being forced away from my phone and to rest in savasana at the end of class help retrain my mind how to chill out (now I love to slow down).
Yes, I breathe better now that I practice yoga. I’ve learned to use my breath to take me deeper into poses or to help me to balance longer than I would have been able to before. Breath is an important part of yoga that I definitely overlooked during my first few weeks/months of practicing yoga. But once I learned to tap into it, it has dramatically altered my practice in a positive way.
If you need patience, yoga can help. Each day is a different practice. That pose you were able to do yesterday, you might not be able to do today. Your body is different each day. And that’s okay. I learned (*am learning) to be patient with where I am at and to not force progress that isn’t meant to be forced (or you might injure yourself, like this chic 🙋🏻)).
Practicing yoga can open up a whole new world of community. It can be an instant connection with someone (like a woman who came up and introduced herself after seeing me practice yoga in the airport) or a cultivated relationship like with your fellow students or teachers. You can also try acroyoga or partner yoga where you are forced to trust in someone else to get into (or deeper into) poses.
There is always something new to learn or practice in yoga — no one ever truly “masters” yoga, in my opinion. You can always go deeper, hold longer, and learn new poses. I love that I constantly have goals (even if they are loose goals) that I can work towards, like handstands or certain backbends.
There were many times after yoga class, I was so pumped up that I was ready to go for a run! This will depend on the type of yoga you practice and your own personal energy levels, but I had never felt so refreshed as I had after my first hot yoga class. Sure, I was sore and sweaty, but I felt ready to take on the world.
I started to have little “wins” in yoga when I saw progress — I was able to straighten my front knee in triangle pose or I was finally able to hold crow pose for a breath or two. Seeing progress in my body and practice was energizing. Soon I was finding my way into poses I never would have dreamed were possible for my body. And the confidence I gained from those wins translated into the rest of my life.
So those are the biggest benefits I’ve gained from my yoga practice so far — with many more in the works or surely to come. What benefits have you reaped from your yoga practice? I’d love for you to share in the comments below!