20 Reasons to try yoga in 2020...
1. It makes you stronger
Yoga targets all the muscles of the body, building functional strength.
Incorporating both static holds and dynamic movement, using your own bodyweight; this is strength with purpose and a full-body workout.
2. Makes for a better nights sleep
When we are less stressed we sleep better, and when we sleep better we stress less.
Physical activity and mental relaxation fuel this delicious cycle.
3. Helps manage weight
Yoga classes are exercise. Different styles of class offer different levels of physical intensity. Find one that feels right for you and your energy levels. Some movement is always better than none, it all counts.
4. Increases your flexibility and mobility
Yoga helps us achieve ease of movement.
Flexibility is the ability of a muscle to stretch passively, whereas mobility is the ability of that muscle to move the body through an active range of motion. It's the functional version of flexibility that helps you make everyday movements like sitting, bending and reaching for things. Very useful.
5. Helps you focus and concentrate
Yoga asks us to focus on all sorts.
A combination of breathing, movement, alignment, balance and all sorts of other things can require your attention in a yoga class. This act of focussing on these things helps train the brain to focus in other areas too. Just like any activity, the more we practice it, the easier and more natural it becomes, not just in your yoga practice, but in the rest of life too.
6. Speeds up recovery times after physical exercise and activity
A physically demanding yoga class isn't really recovery time. Yoga does however stretch and strengthen us, leaving our muscles in a better condition which makes for a quicker recovery when they do work, or become injured or the like.
7. Calms busy minds
Yoga classes calm us, even when they're physically challenging.
Slower, deeper breathing encourages a state of physical relaxation. Where your body goes, your brain follows, so your mind calms too. One perpetuates the other, it's magical.
8. All sorts of breathing goodness
Yoga encourages a deeper breath and gets us into the habit of using more of our lung space. As well as the calming side effects, this helps saturate the blood with oxygen which feeds and fuels the body, helping it perform better in general.
A deep breath is also often the thing that gives you a moment of clarity when you most need it, or prevents you from saying the thing you might regret.
9. It sneaks a mindfulness/meditation practice into your life
A physical yoga practice encourages us to practice mindfulness/meditation, often without us really noticing. Focussing on the component parts of a yoga class leaves your mind little opportunity to wander. Before you know it, you're concentrating just on the here and now of your practice. Meditation, just like that. It's often simpler than it seems.
10. It helps to cultivate a sense of inner calm
Yoga chitta vrtti nirodha.
A bit of a byproduct of this sneaky mindfulness practice above, a regular yoga practice helps us to still the business of the brain, quieten the 'monkey mind' and approach stuff, life, breakfast or anything else in a calmer, clearer fashion.
11. Improves posture
Yoga helps us comfortably stand tall.
Easing tense muscles in the back and shoulders, opening up tight areas on the chest, strengthening the core and postural muscles that hold us up and move us around.
12. Improves the health of your bones
It's pretty well documented that weight bearing exercises help to increase the strength of our bones and ward off osteoporosis. Postures that ask the arms, wrists and hands to support our body weight are thought to be particularly helpful in guarding against fractures in these places.
13. Prevents cartilage and joint breakdown
Use it or lose it.
Moving your body through its full range of motion can help maintain areas of cartilage that don't get used so much in everyday life. Cartilage is a little like a sponge, we squeeze out the residing fluid ready to soak in new nutrients with these movements. A bit like a regular oil change.
14. Looks after the health of connective tissue
Aka fascia, this silvery substance surrounds and penetrates every muscle, nerve ending, organ, vein, joint etc. Science is increasingly coming to the conclusion that it provides protection, structure and lines of communication throughout the body amongst other things. Our slower, restorative styles of yoga practice helps to eliminate the toxins and increase the hydration of this substance, keeping it healthier in general.
15. Improves your balance
Regular yoga increases proprioception (the ability to feel what your body is doing and where it is in space) and improves balance by fine tuning and coordinating the subtle work of your muscles. Less wobbly feelings both on and off the mat.
16. Encourages a healthy lifestyle and self care
Yoga is a lot about paying attention, it encourages us to become more self aware. We begin to notice what makes us feel good and what doesn't. Each time we do something, connections are made in the brain that make that action easier to perform again, creating habits. With practice, we can cultivate the habits we want and override the habits that make us feel rubbish.
Just coming on to your yoga mat is an act of self care, a bit of time for your self. Repeat and you're building good habits.
17. Yoga makes you happier
The physical movements and deep breaths raise serotonin, oxytocin, GABA and endorphin levels in your body, cultivating a 'happy' chemical reaction, raising your mood and general sense of wellbeing.
On a slightly different note, the practice of awareness that we've referred to previously also encourages us to notice other stuff that makes us feel good. For example, do you feel better when you pay someone a compliment or when you put someone down? Does it feel nicer to be generous or to be greedy. It's not about judgement or right and wrong, but noticing how this stuff makes you feel directly.
18. Anyone and everyone can do it
You don't need lots of expensive equipment, specific clothing or an induction to have a go. Get some basic guidance from a teacher, add a book or video to get you started. This is one practice where it truly doesn't matter if you're 'good' at it or not. It's for all body types and experience levels. It's a non competitive activity, we're not trying to out perform each other, it's not a race. It's about doing something good, just for yourself.
19. You'll become more playful
As adults, many of us rarely attempt new things, like balancing on our hands or our head. Taking on physical, mental and emotional challenges as part of a ‘practice' (rather than setting out to perform something) helps us cultivate an essence of a more childlike mind. We're less goal-oriented and more willing to just have a go and play in the present moment.
20. It's social
Joining a class, a workshop or heading out on a retreat will bring a host of other like minded people into the room with you, takes you to new places or maybe both. You might grab a coffee with someone new afterwards, you might meet a lifelong friend.
You've probably noticed a good deal of overlap above. That's not because we ran out of ideas but because all these things are intensely interwoven. If you change your posture, the way you breathe changes. Change your breathing, and you change your nervous system. This is one of the big things in yoga; everything is linked; your foot to your head, your physical health to your mental health, you to your community, your community to the world. This holistic system simultaneously taps into many channels and creates a synergy in us and amongst us.
Everything is connected.
A bit of a footnote... All of the above is written based on our personal experiences and stuff we've learnt over the years of practicing and teaching yoga. There's loads of science and other people's personal experiences to support the stuff we've written above and we're not claiming to be authorities on any of it, merely sharing what we've experienced from our perspective and research. Each point is just a condensed snippet of a potentially huge topic to avoid this blog turning into war and peace. We'd encourage you to come chat to us or research the stuff that interests you, or even better, experience it all yourself.