Yoga is one of my favourite hobbies, but apart from being a relaxing activity/way to get out of making dinner/excuse to buy new exercise gear I believe it’s also something that promotes physical and mental well being and makes me feel happier on a daily basis. I’ve met people who are wary of trying out yoga, though, because they are worried it will be too difficult, that they’re not flexible enough, or because they feel intimidated by some of the eye popping poses they’ve seen in photographs or in magazines. Well just to reassure you, the yoga I do isn’t difficult (it’s actually more like stretching), I’m not particularly flexible (although I realised recently I can still touch my toes, hurrah!), and I can’t do any of those eye popping poses either (maybe one day). No, for me, yoga is all about the benefits, and giving up 20 minutes of my day to practise it reaps rewards that make taking that little bit of time to myself seem like the ultimate no-brainer. So today I thought I’d list some of the benefits I’ve noticed since starting yoga a couple of years ago, as well as some tips for getting started. I’d love it these gave you some inspiration to try out yoga for yourself!
- It Makes You Feel Good
Put simply, yoga makes you feel good, and during some post-dinner ‘research’ lately, some friends and I concluded that that it gives you that warm fuzzy sensation rather akin to partaking in a nice glass of red vino. Whether you’ve had a long day at work or a busy day at home, yoga is a lovely way to wind down (or wind up depending on when you choose to do it). Think of the feeling of a nice warm bath or an evening cosied up with your favourite book and you’re getting close.
- It Could Help You Sleep Better
A couple of years ago, I started having difficulty getting off to sleep at night and would lie in bed thinking about all the things that suddenly took on life threatening importance as soon as I tried to get some shut-eye. After starting yoga, this problem started to reduce, and these days, I find that doing yoga really helps me sleep better and more deeply. I’m not really aware of doing anything differently but just the practice of doing yoga seems to have helped me learn to switch my busy brain off. Why not give it a try if you’re also having problems dropping off?
- It Helps to Combat Stress
Various research studies have shown that yoga can help combat stress and anxiety, and in fact, the yoga that I do, a 20 minute session from Nadia Narain’s ‘Everyday Yoga for Stress Release’ DVD, is specifically designed to help release the tensions that so many of us experience in our busy daily lives. As a naturally anxious person I find the practice of doing yoga really helps to calm me, and I always feel lighter and brighter after my regular yoga session. When I’m doing yoga often I find my mood is much better and my stress levels are reduced. If you find yourself getting stressed out or anxious regularly, you might find that yoga is just the thing to help.
- It Helps Your Balance and Posture
As a pretty clumsy individual I find that doing yoga has helped improve my balance, made me feel stronger, and generally encouraged me to improve my overall posture. These skills might have helped me a few years ago when I broke my toe after tripping and hitting my foot into a door, or that time I randomly fell into a pile of nettles when I was a little kid. And whilst improving balance and posture might not seem like a big deal to you right now, there is evidence to suggest that doing yoga can help reduce the risk of falls and associated injury as we age. So why not think of it as a little insurance policy towards your future health and wellbeing (because let’s face it, folks, none of us are getting any younger).
- It Helps You Focus on Your Breathing
A lot of the yoga practice I do is centred around focusing on your breathing, and I find that just that simple exercise reaps benefits you can tap into at any time regardless of what you’re doing. Despite breathing every minute of our lives, most of the time we aren’t even aware we’re doing it, but just focusing on taking a few deep breaths can really help to lift you out of whatever situation you find yourself in (think running late for the school run, preparing for that difficult meeting, or getting ready to do that all important presentation). One of the biggest benefits I’ve gained from yoga is just learning to step back and take a moment to breathe a little more often. And I’m quite sure that most people would benefit from doing exactly the same thing.
- And Helps You Be More Mindful
The practice of focusing on your breathing doesn’t just have to be about negating stressful situations, and I’ve found that doing yoga has helped me focus better on the present moment – one of the key principles of ‘mindfulness’, a practice that has grown in popularity in recent years. Just taking a few moments to breathe in the fresh air and properly take in the scenery on a walk with my dog, watch my children playing, or appreciate a bit of bird spotting in my garden – yoga has helped me enjoy all these things without my busy mind taking over. I recently read an article that suggested that meditation could be as simple as just focusing on your breath for a few minutes of each day. Why not give it a try and see if it helps you?
- It Can Help to Reduce Pain
I find that yoga really helps with aching muscles, and if I have a stomach ache or PMS, a few yoga stretches are almost guaranteed to help to relieve me. Obviously, if you have any pain issues you should initially consult your GP (as you should before starting any new exercise regimen), but for day-to-day pain management, you may well find that trying some gentle yoga could really bring relief.
- It Doesn’t Need to Take a Lot of Time
The yoga DVD I do takes 20 minutes daily – not much more than it takes to make and drink a cup of coffee. Personally I find that I benefit most when doing it regularly, and most of the time it’s possible to find that elusive 20 minutes even on the busiest of days. You can of course also attend classes with qualified instructors, and this is how I started off enjoying yoga initially. These days I find it easier to fit around my own schedule, but whatever your own availability and experience, it’s likely you can find an option that suits you too.
- It Doesn’t Require Fancy Equipment
There’s very little you need to get started with yoga, and all I really use for my yoga practice is a yoga mat and the DVD I mentioned earlier. It doesn’t require fancy machines, or even trainers for that matter – making it a very inexpensive hobby considering the rewards.
- But it is an Excuse to Buy Some Nice Exercise Gear
Of course, it’s by no means necessary to buy exercise gear to do yoga in (especially if no one is even there to see you doing it). But if you do fancy treating yourself there is some lovely yoga wear on the market – have a look in stores like Sweaty Betty for some ideas. I do have some pretty yoga wear which is probably nicer than my normal clothes if I’m being honest. I’m tempted to start wearing it on the school run as an alternative to wellies! Downward facing dog, anyone?
I hope this article has given you some ideas on how yoga could benefit you, and some tips for getting started. What do you think, are you a yoga fan already or do you prefer other forms of exercise? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
I totally agree with all of this, I started a yoga class about 18 months ago, I’d lost quite a bit of weight and was saying to a friend I don’t really like gyms or exercise classes but I fancied doing something so she took me along to her class, I fell in love with it. I think you’re right a lot of people are wary at first, I know I was but the instructor was so good. It was more about the breathing and stretching than hitting any crazy poses. I’m like you and I try to do it at home now but I’ve had a big spell were it fell away. I use Yoga with Adrienne on YouTube and I’m trying to do some of her short 10 minute ones each day to get back into it, I feel so much better when I do it regularly. I would love to get back to the class one day or maybe even a yoga retreat, sounds like bliss! This is such a great round up for someone looking to give it a go xx
I just started using the same YouTube channel! The only difference is I’m just trying out yoga for the first time. I actually just wrote a blog post how I am trying one of her 30 day challenges. I hope it’s been going well for you!
Aww, thanks so much Hayley, I’m glad you liked it! Yes, I’ve also fallen out of the way of yoga from time to time but always end up coming back to it as I know I’m better when I’m doing it. I don’t enjoy high impact exercise so I find things like walking, yoga and swimming are ideal. Yes, I’m with you in thinking it would be lovely to go to a retreat one day:) It certainly sounds like a wonderful way to relax! x
This is a great post for someone thinking about trying it. I started yoga (same teacher as Hayley actually!) in January 14, because I started feeling twinges in my back which I’d never had before and I thought yoga might help me to strengthen my back. What I was not expecting one bit was losing around two stones in weight in around 6-8 months, and getting into what I believe was the best shape of my life. I didnt know i had two stones to lose! I only went to a one hour class a week but something just clicked mentally. The teacher is very good and always stresses that you do the postures to your own level. I loved the feeling of achievement when I felt I got a new posture right. But I think the biggest thing I took from it was a deep subconscious mindfulness about my body, which I think is why I lost the weight. Instead of eating whenever I wanted, I was conscious of a split second when my body seemed to ask my mind “do you reeeally want to eat that?”. Its also been great for my stress levels and I feel like a much calmer person. It’s great that yoga does different things for different people. I don’t get to class regularly now and I’m rubbish at doing it at home but I know it’s a skill I can always use when I need it xx
Hi Katy, oh it sounds like doing yoga has been fantastic for you. And as you say it’s always something you can get back into if you need it. I drift off from yoga every now and again but I always end up back at it because I feel the difference when I’m not doing it. Thanks so much for reading and saying hi x
I’ve been wanting to get into yoga for the longest time. You just gave me the boost I needed to start. Great writeup, do you feature your writing with any other sites at all?
Hi Mike, glad you like the article, and thankyou! And yes my writing has featured on a couple of other websites in the past:) Good luck with trying out yoga, hope you enjoy:)