Last week I shared some suggestions for folks who want to start doing yoga. That’s all well and good for those of you who are interested in yoga, but the rest of yall are probably wondering: “Why would anyone even want to do yoga in the first place?”
I get it.
That was my thought for years on end.
So today, I’ve got an answer for you.
Actually, make that five…
5 Reasons to Do Yoga
#5 Improved Mobility
Proper mobility is important because it has a significant impact on athletic performance and injury prevention. Sometimes you don’t realize how poor your mobility is until you test it. I may have a back that’s as bendy as Gumby, but I also have hips like the Tin Man. It’s easy (and unwise) to ignore weaknesses in your mobility when you’re focused on just gutting out the reps or moving the weights, as many folks do with traditional strength training. That doesn’t really fly when you’re doing yoga. Regular yoga practice will help you to find the limits of your mobility, and then to gradually expand those limits as your mobility improves. That improved mobility (not to mention better alignment throughout your body) will help you perform better, stay injury-free, and add to your overall quality of life.
#4 Better Body Image
Doing yoga means putting your body in some weird positions. Positions that sometimes highlight rolls or cellulite or any manner of decidedly-human qualities that we prefer to hide. In doing yoga, you learn to breathe deeply, let those anxieties go, and just roll with it…Pun intended. Doing yoga also means learning to do a new physical activity that can be surprisingly challenging. On the other side of the frustration learning curve is a feeling of accomplishment and pleasure in the delightful physical abilities of your delightfully-imperfect body. All this adds up to better body image. Be warned: A strong desire to wear as little clothing as possible, as often as possible, is very likely. For more risky tips on improving your body image, check out this post: 5 Ways to Improve Your Body Image Right Now
#3 Stress Management
I don’t know that doing yoga will actually remove any sources from stress from your life, but I’ve certainly found that it increases your ability to manage stress. Like most forms of fitness, it allows you to take a break from the hustle of everyday life for those 45 minutes you’re on the mat. Endorphins from a sweaty vinyasa flow are always good for the soul. I don’t know if it’s the rhythmic breathing, or the focus on connecting the body and the mind, or the feeling of confidence that comes from mastering an arm balance…maybe it’s a combination of all those factors and then some. Bottom line: regularly practicing yoga leaves you calmer and less apt to let stress get to you. (People talk about getting a “runner’s high,” but I say they just haven’t taken the right yoga class.)
#2 Find New Strength
Yoga can be great for building isometric strength. Isometric strength is that which requires a muscle contraction without moving the joint angle or muscle (think “holding”). This is often neglected in traditional strength training, but not so with yoga. A seemingly simple pose can turn into a real challenge when you are trying to maintain the integrity of that pose through 5-10 slow, deep breaths. Balance poses also offer a unique opportunity to strengthen the smaller muscles of the body which are often neglected in traditional workouts but which are crucial for keeping your balance in those beautiful (but difficult) asanas. There are different varieties of yoga – vinyasa, ashtanga, hatha, iyengar, bikram, yin – each with it’s own particular focus and method of practice. No matter what style/s of yoga you practice, it will be very different from traditional workouts, and you will find your body being challenged in ways that you may not have considered before…and with new challenges comes new strength.
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: The best kind of fitness is the kind you love. Life is too short to spend it forcing yourself to repeatedly do something you find miserable. When you love something, you want to do it again and again…and that kind of consistency is what leads to a long, active, and healthy life. Yoga has helped me to re-learn the joy of movement. There’s something uniquely exciting about challenging yourself with nothing but your own body, and yoga does exactly that. (Same goes for calisthenics and other bodyweight training.) If you give it a chance and take the time to find the right style of yoga, you might just find that yoga is one of the workouts you look forward to the most.
If you practice yoga regularly, what style?
What benefits have you experienced from yoga?
What workout do you look forward to most?