10 benefits of a daily yoga practice
Just 15 minutes of yoga a day can change the chemistry of your brain and improve your mood. This alone is enough to motivate us to incorporate a daily yoga practice in our lives. However, as we tend to want the best available information, we are going to mention some of the particular health benefits that yoga can offer us. This is a fascinating topic and we invite you to join us in learning more about it. Whenever you are feeling a bit down, the immediate temptation is to eat some chocolate, have a glass of wine or buy a new pair of shoes….
However, it is worth remembering that just 15 minutes of yoga can transform your mood (and health) in more ways than you might imagine. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, it should be easy to find those 15 minutes every day for your practice.
Don’t allow yourself to make excuses. We all have that much time available. We often spend much longer looking at our phones, checking social media, having irrelevant conversations via WhatsApp…. Just think for a moment: you do have time to practice yoga. You just have to decide which activity to take the time from. Here is a short list of reasons why you need to find that time.
1. Improve your flexibility, strength and posture
A daily yoga practice will help you to stretch and tone all the muscles in your body. Popular postures such as Chaturanga (the Staff Pose) work simultaneously on arms, legs, shoulders and abdomen. You don’t need to be very flexible to practice yoga, the beauty of yoga is that anyone can practice it. It is for everyone. Including you!
A few minutes each day practising postures (asanas) such as the Warrior or Downward Facing Dog will soon make a difference to your flexibility, whatever your level of fitness. Daily yoga helps to improve your posture, making you walk taller and sit straighter at your desk at work. As you become more committed to your practice, you will notice that aches and pains caused by bad posture (such as back pain, typical of modern daily life) will start to recede.
2. Improve your general physical health
When we think about improving physical health, most of us think about getting some fresh air or going to the gym. But lifting weights isn’t the only way to exercise. Yoga offers you all the benefits of a gym session, but in a less aggressive, more peaceful, holistic and safe way. Yoga is a fabulous combination that mixes cardio, calisthenics and strength training all in one activity. Better still, you can do it at your own rhythm and in the comfort of your own home.
3. Weight loss
A gentle daily yoga practice will activate your metabolism and help you to burn fat more efficiently, which will in turn help to balance your body mass with less fat and more lean tissue. Of course, to achieve this you must also follow a healthy, balanced diet.
Daily yoga can also help restore the hormonal balance of the body, which can also affect weight.
A gentle daily yoga practice will activate your metabolism and help sculpt your body shape, reducing fatty tissue and stimulating muscle development.
The levels of cortisol (he hormone that is secreted in times of stress and low blood sugar) will reduce, leading us to eat less. Daily yoga also strengthens the mind/body connection and helps us deal more effectively with negative emotions instead of reaching for comfort food to suppress such feelings.
4. Increase energy levels
Just a few minutes of yoga each day will provide us with the necessary injection of energy to keep us going in our busy lives. This will keep us alert for longer and we will feel less tired. Yoga establishes a unique synergy with body and breathing, which is just what you need when your energy reserves are failing due to work and other commitments.
The daily practice of yoga awakens the principal energy centres (‘chakras’) in our bodies. The main postures for obtaining additional energy are those that stretch the spine, such as the Tree Posture, as that allows energy to circulate all round the body, and any postures that open the chest, such as the Cobra Posture, which slows down breathing.
5. Reduce stress levels
Many workplaces now offer yoga sessions in the lunch hour as it has been proven to be a great stress buster. Any yoga practice, even a few minutes each day, should include 3 elements: postures (asanas), breathing and meditation. Studies have shown that people who regularly practice these three elements can regulate their heart rate more efficiently. This generally means that the heart rate will be lower, which allows the body to respond to stress in a more flexible way.
Relaxing yoga postures can calm your body and mind.
Does stress keep you awake at night? Many studies have shown that a daily yoga practice can reduce or even completely prevent insomnia. When you suffer from sleep disturbances, try relaxing postures such as uttanasana, or lie down with your feet up against the wall. These can calm your body and mind.
6. A little yoga helps you breathe better!
Deep, calm breathing is an essential part of yoga practice. Yogic breathing techniques (known as pranayama) focus on slowing breathing and breathing more efficiently, from the top of the stomach and up through to the top of the lungs.
These methods will help us feel more relaxed and balanced and more able to face the day calmly. They also have important secondary benefits, such as a greater lung capacity. If you learn these techniques you can use them whenever necessary. They will help to calm you in extreme situations, allowing you to think clearly under stress and reduce pain.
7. Increase your happiness through daily yoga practice
Adding some yoga postures to your daily routine can make you emotionally stronger and happier. A recent study showed that regular yoga and meditation increases serotonin levels (the “happiness hormone”). The same study showed that over a long period of time, yoga practitioners have larger areas of the brain associated with satisfaction. Another study has shown that the brain’s gamma aminobutyric acid levels (GABA) are higher after practising yoga. Higher GABA levels are associated with lower levels of depression and anxiety. What all this shows is that just a few minutes of yoga a day can change the chemistry of your brain and improve your mood.
8. Be more conscious
Yoga and awareness go hand in hand. When you practice yoga, your consciousness will change according to the feelings, thoughts and emotions that go with any particular posture. That consciousness will bring your mind back to the present moment, which is the main aim of mindfulness: to be fully aware, focused and happy in the present moment. The practice of total consciousness has physical and physiological benefits which complement the yoga practice. You will feel calmer and more relaxed; less stressed or anxious. You will experience higher levels of energy and enthusiasm as well as more self-confidence and self-acceptance.
9. Higher concentration and improved thought processes
In order to correctly carry out yoga postures and meditation, the breathing technique is key. The process of observing your breathing helps to calm and relax your mind. The result of this is greater mental stability and an improved capacity to remember and retain information. Meditating for just a few minutes each morning can improve your concentration throughout the day. Try it!
When we reduce mental stress and physical tension, our memory is more efficient and we are able to think more clearly as we have eliminated two enormous distractions from our mind. Better cognitive function occurs only when we are able to clear and refresh our mind and thought process. Once calm and in a peaceful state, we can use our mental capacities more efficiently.
We know that a daily yoga practice helps improve physical health, regulates cardiac function, reduces stress and increases serotonin levels. All of these elements can add years to your life. We also know that yoga reduces the risk of suffering from heart conditions as well as slowing our breathing, which are two more elements known to increase longevity. Recent studies have also shown that regular yoga and meditation can help slow down the ageing process by protecting and even lengthening our telomeres, which are the protective caps at the end of our DNA chromosomes.
As you can see, there is no excuse not to practice yoga. It is not physically demanding and it requires little time and no special equipment. It does however offer a great many varied and important benefits for your physical, mental and emotional health. So what are you waiting for…?