You probably have a friend who does yoga. Odds are, they’ve probably subjected you to hour-long rants on how wonderful the classes are and how great they feel after contorting themselves into a pretzel But you’re not so sure. After all, isn’t yoga just glorified stretching? Wouldn’t you be better off hitting the gym or doing just one more lap around the track?

Well, while those fitnesses choices are valid and good for you, I wouldn’t advise dismissing yoga before you’ve joined your friend for a few classes. When practiced regularly, yoga can provide a whole host of long-term physical and mental benefits that other avenues of exercise simply can’t match. Join your friend for a few classes and try it out! Who knows – after a session or two, you might be the one giving the pro-yoga speech.

 

Improved Physical Health

Taking up yoga is a fantastic way to boost your physical health. When practiced regularly, it can hone your muscle tone, boost your cardiovascular health, improve your flexibility, and increase your respiratory capacity. However, many people flock to yoga because of its positive reinforcement it provides the body as it ages. Normally, our bodies stiffen as we age; we become less flexible, weaker, and slower than we used to be. However, some studies have found that the movement and weight-bearing exercises yoga demands actually retains flexibility and keeps our bones healthier for longer.  

 

Weight Loss

Regular practice could help you lose weight – but not for the reasons you might think! Yoga boosts a practitioner’s sense of attunement to their own bodies. Thus, they are better able to separate cravings from actual hunger and can more easily regulate their eating habits. Researchers for one study even found that after practicing yoga once every week for years, practitioners are less likely to gain weight than their non-yogi peers.

 

Pain Management

Yoga could serve as another pain management strategy for those suffering from chronic pain. According to an article published by the Osteopathic Association, “Yoga can help people with arthritis, fibromyalgia, migraine, low back pain, and many other chronic […] conditions.” Some research further indicates that a weekly practice could increase patient mobility and lessen pain as or more effectively than standard medical care.

 

Stress Relief

Yoga is famous for its capacity as a stress-reliever. For many, a yoga class offers the chance to ease out of an otherwise fast-paced working life and take a deep breath. The breathing exercises and mindful activities taught in yoga can help people develop effective coping skills and ultimately resolve some of the problems caused by stress, including: back pain, sleeping problems, headaches, and concentration difficulties.