Just as you should brush your teeth and get adequate rest every day, practicing yoga should be a non-negotiable element of your daily life. Even if you only step onto your mat for 10 minutes and perform a few poses, the magic of yoga truly starts to unfold when you commit to a daily practice. There are so many styles and ways to practice yoga, when you put them all together for a daily practice you will truly begin to see some drastic changes in your physical health, mental health, spiritual development, and social wellbeing. Additionally, having a daily yoga practice can help you strengthen your muscles in focus and discipline; which comes in very handy in a world full of scatter-brained technology and advertisements. The following 15 benefits will come alive in your life once you commit to a daily yoga practice.
Increase Your Flexibility For Better Mobility & Fewer Injuries
One of the obvious benefits of practicing yoga in general is increased flexibility. Just think about how much your flexibility improves when practicing one or two times per week, and then think about what the results would be if you began stretching every single day. When you practice yoga every day, you actually have the time to stretch more deeply and target areas specifically. If you’re only practicing a few days per week, you might need to focus on more general full-body sequences. The reasoning is really simple, the more you practice yoga, the more flexible you will become over time. Keep in mind flexibility is for a lot more than just showing off too – when you’re more flexible, your muscles and joints become more fluid. According to this article from Livestrong, a daily yoga practice may also prevent and reverse bone loss due to osteoporosis.
Improve Strength With Repetition
The key to building strength with your yoga practice is repetition. Whether you practice yoga at home or in a studio, you likely know that yoga is not an easy workout! Even simple Sun Salutations can build strength in your core, arms, back muscles, and leg muscles. Additionally, yoga offers special benefits because it lengthens and strengthens your muscles at the same time, providing you with long, lean muscles. And unless you’re using props, yoga requires minimal equipment to build strength; all you need is your own bodyweight! This type of strength building is known as isometric conditioning and it tones the entire body rather than targeting one muscle group at a time.
Immune System & Anti-Inflammatory
If you’re one of the many people that hates getting sick in the winter, take extra care to spend time on your yoga mat every day! Nothing boosts your immune system quite like a daily yoga session, no matter the length. In fact, according to this article from Yoga Journal, “Yoga helps lower stress hormones that compromise the immune system, while also conditioning the lungs and respiratory tract, stimulating the lymphatic system to oust toxins from the body, and bringing oxygenated blood to the various organs to ensure their optimal function.” And bonus points if you conclude your daily yoga practice with a meditation. The same article states that just 20 minutes of meditation can dramatically reduce the incidence of getting ill by lowering cortisol levels, increasing endorphins, and fostering a healthy state of mind. Who knew avoiding the sniffles could be that easy?
Benefits To Your Mental Health
If the above reasons aren’t enough to convince you to adopt a daily yoga practice, consider the mental health benefits. Conditions like depression, anxiety, and chronic stress are some of the most common reasons why people adopt a yoga practice in the first place. Yoga is one of the few forms of exercise that is deeply rooted in ancient philosophy, and there’s no denying practicing yoga can help you get in touch with your mental wellbeing. Scientifically speaking, a daily yoga practice moves you from the sympathetic nervous system (fight-or-flight) to the parasympathetic nervous system (rest-and-digest). The combination of movement and breath work can do wonders for those that suffer from anxiety, and it’s not uncommon for a yoga practice to trigger an emotional release. As stated by yoga teacher and writer Donna Farhi, “Yoga does not remove us from the reality or responsibilities of everyday life but rather places our feet firmly and resolutely in the practical ground of experience. We don’t transcend our lives; we return to the life we left behind in the hopes of something better.”
Moving Into A State Of Mindfulness
Have you ever left a yoga class and felt like you were floating on a cloud? If you’ve been in that post-yoga glow state before, just imagine feeling that way for just a few minutes every day. That sense of calmness and non-judgmental observation is known as mindfulness, and it gets easier to achieve every time you practice yoga. As described by mindfulness teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, “Mindfulness helps you go home to the present. And every time you go there and recognize a condition of happiness that you have, happiness comes.” In other words, think of your yoga practice as a daily reminder of your happy place. The more often you step on your mat and visit that place, the more happiness and joy you will experience in your life.
Spinal Health & Improves Posture
One undeniable benefit of daily yoga practice is how it improves your posture and spinal health in general. Your spinal column isn’t just a straight stack of bones. There are fluids and nerves that flow along your spine to and from your brain, and many muscles surrounding the spine that help support your body. Every time you practice yoga you increase the flow of your spinal fluids and strengthen the muscles surrounding your spine; this has been scientifically proven to prevent or greatly reduce pain from back injuries. In terms of posture, consistency is key. If you want to create lasting changes in your posture, you have to commit to practicing yoga every day so that your body adapts to a new way of sitting, standing, and moving.
Increases Lung Capacity
While you can go days without food or water, no one can survive more than a few minutes without breath. Breath is literally life! Practicing yoga every days means reconnecting with your breath every day. Have you ever caught yourself breathing shallow through the day? Many people do not consciously breathe, but daily yoga can help that tremendously. The more often you breathe deep, full breaths, the better your circulation and brain health will be. This translates to all kinds of benefits, such as better immunity and decreased toxins in the body. Practicing different pranayama techniques every day can also help you alkalize your body and increase your lung capacity, which means you will be healthier and be able to breath deeper even when you’re not on the mat!
Improves Your Balance
Whether you’re concerned about getting older or enjoy having an active lifestyle, balance is key when preventing injuries. Practicing yoga every day can help strengthen little muscles in your hands, wrists, feet, and those surrounding your joints. This leads to greater balance and resiliency in the body, and also improves your ability to focus. If you’ve ever practiced a simple balancing posture like Tree Pose or Half Moon Pose you likely know – the moment you start thinking about your grocery list or work deliverables you will fall over! With a daily emphasis on balancing poses, you’ll notice how much easier it will be to flow into the pose and experience the sense of serene that comes from combining strength and attention.
Puts You In Touch With Your Higher Self
In addition to improving all aspects of your physical wellbeing, practicing yoga every day will put you in deeper connection with your spiritual side. One side-effect of practicing yoga is a sense of union with other beings as well as yourself. As you care for your body and release what burdens you, you become a blank slate for allowing elements of the divine in. Few yoga teachers speak on this more eloquently than the founder of Yoga Journal and Rest & Renew Restorative Yoga Judith Hanson Lasater. In general encouragement of a daily yoga practice, she states, “Follow your nature. The practice is really about uncovering your own pose; we have great respect for our teachers, but unless we can uncover our own pose in the moment, it’s not practice — it’s mimicry. Rest deeply in Savasana every day. Always enter that pratyahara (withdrawn state) every day. And just enjoy yourself. For many years I mistook discipline as ambition. Now I believe it to be more about consistency. Do get on the mat. Practice and life are not that different.”
Helps Prevent Foot Injuries
If you’ve ever experienced foot pain from a common injury like plantar fasciitis, keep reading! A daily yoga practice is definitely one of the best ways to prevent painful foot strain and injuries. Your feet are such an important foundation of your body; when your feet are in pain, it’s pretty hard to do much of anything. Just the act of being barefoot while doing yoga will bring a great sense of strength and health to your feet. According to this article in Yoga Journal, podiatrist Robert Kornfeld recommends all of his patients practice yoga. He states, “When you treat foot problems with yoga, you end up treating back pain, hip pain, all kinds of structural problems. Not only does it stretch out the muscles and lead to a greater range of motion, but it helps heal the root issue of inflammation as well.”
Encourages Loving Kindness & Offers A Safe Space
No matter how much yoga you do, it can be challenging to live in the modern world. With so much sensory input and interaction at work and with family, it’s easy to get caught up in the daily dramas we present for one another. However, a daily yoga practice does offer reprieve and a quick escape route out. As stated by famous yoga teacher B.K.S. Iyengar, “Yoga is a light which once lit will never dim, the better your practice the brighter your flame.” Sometimes the benefits of yoga are not huge and miraculous, but very small – just having a few quite moments of peace can dramatically improve your quality of life.
Improves Quality of Sleep
While many people are tempted to end their night with a cocktail, they just might be better off doing a few yoga poses instead. According to the Harvard Health Blog, a national survey found 55% of people got a better night’s sleep on days when they did yoga. If you’re practicing yoga to wind down and de-stress at night, consider more cooling poses rather than invigorating ones. You might enjoy using more props for a restorative yoga session that focus’ on relaxing rather than deep stretching. Some suggested poses are Legs Up The Wall and Reclined Bound Angle Pose.
Don’t listen to those who say doing yoga won’t help you lose weight! Yoga is one of the best ways to lose weight as it addresses your body holistically. And don’t think you have to slave away in a sweat-inducing Vinyasa yoga class either (although, if you like that kind of yoga, go for it!). Recent studies have found that people who practice gentle yoga experience greater weight loss when they combine the practice with regular, simple exercise and diet. The studies looked at two groups of people on the exact same diet and exercise regiment, and one group did gentle yoga while the other did not. The group that did the yoga dropped more weight and loss significantly more inches around their midsection due to the decrease of cortisol in their body.
Builds A Healthy Community
In addition to helping you improve your mental and physical health, practicing yoga can help you surround yourself with more mindful and healthy people. Many people in yoga studios are very open and friendly, and it can be a great place to meet people or make new friends. If you’re in the studio nearly every day, you’re bound to make friends at some point, even if it’s with the teacher! The teachings embedded in yoga can also help you become more conscious when you’re speaking and help you build your confidence. Practicing those skills every day will simply allow you to become a better communicator in general. Spiritual teacher and activist Peace Pilgrim puts it best, “When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others.”
Increases Awareness of Anatomy
As you practice yoga daily, you might notice how much more in touch you become with the natural curves of your spine and body. Most yoga teachers and guidebooks provide in-depth descriptions of your body’s anatomy as a way to help you with your alignment in your poses. As you become more familiar with your alignment in the poses, the anatomy knowledge will really come second nature. Before long, you might just find yourself correcting your alignment while standing in line at the grocery store!
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Having been a teacher’s assistant at over 50 yoga teacher trainings worldwide, Rebecca Rebecca has a firm grasp on the fine art of yoga and meditation. In her work, she carefully reflects on a vast expanse of knowledge to help others find peace in both body and mind.