Being healthy not only means lifting and getting fit, but also taking care of your mind and your mental health in the process. There’s a very effective way to help you support both, and that’s adding yoga to your daily routine!
Yoga is an ancient oriental practice that has gained more popularity over recent years thanks to social media, which has led to everyone around the world practice it. Whether it’s attending yoga classes, getting with friends to do it together, or following a guided video on your tv, there are many ways to make it a part of your daily life and reap all the benefits that yoga has to offer.
Aside from the amazing mental and spiritual benefits, the physical benefits of yoga can greatly change and improve the way that you work out and lift weights. We’ll talk about flexibility, balance, strength, and all the key aspects of yoga that translate to a more effective fitness life, so keep reading to find out about these benefits and how to get started with yoga!
Benefits of doing yoga
You might be interested in yoga because you’ve seen other people doing it, or you have heard everyone talk about how great it is. And they’re completely right! There are countless benefits of doing yoga, so here are a few of the best ones that can help support your fitness life as well as other important aspects of your life:
Builds your body strength
One of the main benefits of doing yoga is what it does for your muscles and overall body strength. After all, yoga is a strength-based practice in which you use your body weight to get into specific poses, known as asanas, and stay still, keeping your breathing under control. This is why you might notice that many of the people that practice yoga are lean with a defined body! Yoga is a full-body workout that’s considered functional fitness, which means that the movements that you perform and the muscles and joints used during your routine can improve your everyday life and activities, including your strength-training workouts! Keeping your body in movement and under constant tension helps grow and strengthen your muscles, helping you perform better in your daily workouts and make the most out of your weight training. The more basic yoga poses might not be as effective for muscle strength, but the more you practice, the more complex poses you’ll be able to do, such as the ones that require lifting your whole body weight with just your arms!
Improves your balance
In the yoga world and the fitness world in general, there’s a term called proprioception, which refers to the ability to sense your movement and position in space. In other words, it’s the awareness of how your body is moving, and even the speed at which it’s going. This is what helps us maintain our balance and coordination, and in yoga, this practice is excelled by getting into a specific pose and maintaining your balance for a few seconds without moving or changing positions. Regular yoga practice will help you improve your stability and coordination greatly, allowing you to perform better at this practice as well as in your workouts and your everyday life in general. As we previously mentioned, yoga can also build strength, and there’s a variety of yoga poses that focus on your back and core strength, which are the main muscles involved in keeping your balance during different movements! An improved balance also translates to improved and heightened reflexes, helping you avoid falling or tumbling while you change positions.
Helps release tension and stress
The main factor that makes yoga so popular is that it helps you release all the built-up tension and stress in your body, whether it’s because of emotional burdens, responsibilities, or even physical tension that’s left in your body after a demanding workout. When it comes to physical benefits, the slow and peaceful practice of yoga can help relieve the tension from your limbs, relaxing the body and mind to a point where you feel lighter after finishing your routine. On an emotional level, yoga has been thoroughly researched in recent studies due to its antidepressant effects and ability to improve your mood and relieve stress. In a study published by the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, patients with depression experienced a decrease in cortisol levels (known as the stress hormone) due to yoga practice, providing stress relief and directly influencing and improving their mood.  Elevated stress levels have been linked to many health conditions, such as heart health problems like high blood pressure, and even digestive issues, so practicing yoga may help you with stress management so you can live a longer and healthier life.
Improves your posture
Yoga helps you loosen up and be more aware of your body and how it moves, so it plays a big role in improving your posture. The movements and poses that you make while doing yoga help massage the skeletal system and let go of the stiffness that might come from sitting in front of the computer all day, or working in a fixed position for hours at a time. Not taking a break every once in a while to walk the tension off and unwind can harm your posture, which in time can result in severe neck pain as well as upper and lower back pain that can affect your daily life. Doing yoga can help you relax your body and adopt a healthier posture naturally by supporting your bone, muscle, and joint health, allowing you to have an easier time keeping your back upright instead of struggling to keep your head up, which can be greatly beneficial for your workouts since you need to be able to maintain proper form when lifting heavy weights.
Helps you get better sleep
Yoga is a relaxing practice that helps your body and mind to be at ease, which is why doing it before going to bed can help you get better and deeper sleep. Daily life can be very hectic and your good night’s sleep might be negatively impacted by this, preventing you from getting enough rest. The practice of yoga and mindful breathing helps you wind down after a long day and let your body relax before getting into bed. A national survey published on the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) website shows that over 55% of the people who claimed to practice yoga regularly reported improved sleep.  The stress and tension that your body releases after yoga also contributes to better rest at night, so it’s a whole relaxation package that can greatly improve your quality of life and workout performance!
Improves your flexibility
Advanced yoga poses are complex and require you to develop and work on your flexibility, but even the most basic poses require some degree of flexibility too. By doing yoga regularly, you’ll slowly be able to reach places that you initially thought you might never reach, such as touching your head with your feet. Yoga helps with all kinds of flexibility, from your arms and legs to your hips, back, and even neck! With time, you’ll feel more loosened up and able to practice more advanced poses, as well as perform more efficiently in your regular workout routine. Flexibility helps avoid the pain and discomfort that usually comes with exercise, particularly in strength training where you train with heavy weights, as well as decrease post-workout soreness and stiffness.
Increases your self-esteem
There’s nothing better than feeling good and powerful, and this is exactly what yoga does for you! The benefits of yoga are both physical and spiritual, helping you grow into a better and more confident version of yourself over time. Strength, balance, and flexibility are all aspects that will make you feel better in your day-to-day life and will help you excel in your workouts, as well as allow you to take on daily challenges with ease. On the other hand, yoga is also a spiritual practice that can help you be more at peace with yourself and your surroundings through a process of self-examination and awareness that goes hand in hand with physical fitness, so it’s definitely an all-in-one! Pairing this with the mental health benefits of strength training will take you very far both in your fitness and your personal journey towards success and well-being.
How to get started with yoga
Now that you know the amazing benefits of doing yoga, you can start practicing it for a better and healthier lifestyle. There are many styles of yoga that you can choose from depending on what you want, but before you set everything up in your living room and play that hour-long yoga routine video that you saved, here are some tips on how to get started with it so you can get the most out of yoga in the best way possible:
- Start slow and learn basic poses first
As with any other kind of physical activity, if you’ve never done yoga before, you need to start small first. Even if you’re an active person or an avid gym-goer, yoga can be very different from regular exercise because it requires proper breathing technique, flexibility, and balance, so don’t think you can master the more advanced poses from the get-go! Practice and master the basic poses for beginners first, like the downward-facing dog and the tree pose, so you can start building confidence in your form and develop enough balance and coordination to move onto more complex poses. Start by doing yoga for 10 to 15 minutes at first, so you can get comfortable being in the same positions for a while, and learn how to relax your body and mind while doing it if you want to get far in your yoga journey!
- Get comfortable
In yoga, you’ll get into a variety of different positions, bending and twisting your body into all kinds of poses, so you’ll want to make sure you wear adequate attire for it. You don’t need to buy any special clothing for yoga, just find your favorite shirt and pair of leggings, spandex shorts, or even some comfortable underwear if you’re going to be doing yoga in the comfort of your own home, because what’s important is that you’re comfortable and can perform the movements without restrictions. Yoga is done barefoot (or with grippy socks if you prefer), so you won’t need special shoes either!
- Be aware of your breathing
Yoga is all about breathing and being aware of how you breathe. This practice is known as pranayama, from the Sanskrit prana which means “life energy” and yama which means “control”. The specific inhale-exhale technique may vary between different types of yoga, but the important part is awareness and learning to control your breathing to fully experience relaxation and self-consciousness through your movements. Being aware of your breathing can instantly help you to feel less stressed and more at peace with yourself, which is why breathing exercises such as taking deep breaths are often used to manage anxiety.
- Find a guided class
Whether it’s online or in-person, finding a guided yoga program will help you get started in the best way possible. Of course, you can always find written guides online and see pictures of how your pose is supposed to look, but by having someone guiding you through the process you’ll be able to better experience yoga as a relaxing practice. Attending a yoga class can be beneficial because you’ll have a yoga instructor telling you what to do and correcting your form whenever you might need it, but that could be too stressful for some, which is why online classes are also an option for those who prefer to stay home or don’t have time to attend class. Guided yoga videos are also a great idea because you can take your time with them, and pause whenever you need to, without the pressure of an actual yoga teacher being there.
- Use what you have at hand
You don’t need much to get started with yoga, just a mat where you can do your poses. Fortunately, if you don’t have one and can’t get one soon, or just don’t want to spend money just yet because you’re just starting, you can use any soft surface that you find at home! You can use a beach towel, a soft rug, or even that big sweater that you have at the back of your closet. You just need something to get started, and then if you decide that you want to keep going you can buy a nice yoga mat!
And that’s it! Yoga can be a wonderful self-care practice when done correctly, you just need to put both your body and mind into it, and you’ll be reaping the health benefits of yoga in no time. It can be an amazing compliment to your strength training, so try to add yoga to your daily routine at any time of the day, whether it’s early in the morning to start the day relaxed and with more energy or before going to bed for a great night’s sleep - your choice!