If you’re new to yoga, or have never practiced before, you may be wondering: why the heck do people submit themselves to this crazy yoga practice? And if you’re a seasoned yogi, it’s always worth reminding yourself exactly why you step onto your mat each day.
Most people start practicing yoga hoping to gain a combination of flexibility, strength, and stress relief. But most yogis experience a change of heart regarding why they do yoga - most often pointing to self-compassion, spirituality, and community as the lasting benefits.
Let’s look at 10 different reasons why people do yoga, starting with the physical and moving into the deeper reasons.
1. Yoga provides better flexibility and mobility. Over time, even the stiffest muscles can stretch and lengthen. But one of yoga’s biggest strengths as an exercise form is the functional flexibility it offers to make it easier to complete everyday movements - such as kneeling, bending, or reaching.
2. It builds full-body strength. Yoga is a full-body workout. In any given class, you’ll touch on just about every muscle group in your body with both long, static holds, and fluid, dynamic movement. By supporting your own body weight and intentionally pulling each muscle up and in, you’re building functional strength right where you need it.
3. Yoga relieves stress. Yoga balances your body, mind, and nervous system, helping you relieve tension, ease your frantic mind, and steady your breath. Perhaps most importantly, it forces you into mindful awareness of the way you react to difficult situations, preparing you to respond more positively in the face of future stress. Read more about relieving anxiety through the power of the breath here: The Power of Yogic Breath to Relieve Anxiety
4. It detoxifies your body. Twisting poses and backward bends help give your body’s natural rhythms a boost. When you move in these poses, you squeeze your organs, pumping fresh blood throughout your body and removing waste from your cells.
5. Yoga reminds you to breathe. In class, you’re continually reminded to inhale deeply and exhale slowly, allowing you to notice when your breath is suffering - whether from physical exertion or emotional toil. I can’t tell you how many times this practice has helped me cool down off my mat - either by offering physical relief or preventing me from saying or doing something I would regret.
6. It helps increase concentration. I believe most of us today have concentration troubles, resulting from this digital age and the many tasks constantly tugging us in different directions. Yoga teaches you to continually observe your body, breath, and emotions. It focuses your mind on one pose at a time - often for much longer than you’d prefer! Over time, this practice can increase your ability to focus off the mat - boosting creativity and energy.
7. Yoga increases self confidence. Beginners and experts alike struggle, sweat, and fall over quite often in yoga class. But, guess what? No one is here to judge you on your performance. So, learn to laugh at yourself and keep showing up on your mat. Because, dedication to your practice will bring improvement - even if it’s not in the way you expected.
8. It helps you live in the present. If you spend much of your days planning, worrying, or regretting your actions, yoga can help you unplug and focus on what’s going on in your body and mind in this moment. Give it a try if for no other reason than setting technology aside for 75 minutes. Through breath work and experience, you’ll learn to live in the present off your mat too.
9. It encourages playfulness. How often as adults do we get to practice new things, like balancing on our head or flipping upside down? Yoga brings you back to that child-like mind, where you explored and approached new situations with curiosity and playfulness, rather than anger and ego.
10. Finally, yoga builds community and connection to an ancient lineage. When you practice yoga, you become part of a four thousand year old tradition. You’ll discover a multitude of tools for enriching your lives - from meditation to health tips, and much more. Yoga can provide an amazing opportunity to discover new friendships, teachers, and communities. I can tell you that I’m continually inspired by the teachers and students who walk through these doors.
The truth is that yoga is not about simply changing your brain or your body. It transcends those goals and helps you connect to what you already have - and who you already are.
So, why do you practice yoga? I’d love to hear some of the reasons you step onto your mat each day!