7 reasons you should start yoga
As the colder months approach, chances are you’re looking for a form of exercise you can easily take indoors that still provides a host of physical and mental benefits. Enter yoga. ‘When people talk about yoga, I often hear them refer to it as something that’s used to relax, but isn’t particularly physically demanding,’ reveals author and yoga teacher Smita Joshi. ‘It can indeed aid relaxation, but often not before you’ve engaged in elements of challenging activity.
But surely it can’t match the type of cardio burn you’d get from a summer run in the park? ‘The forms of yoga I practice – Ashtanga and Vinyasa Flow centric – are physically demanding and vigorous and have you sweating in minutes!’ Joshi says. ‘I’ve lost over two stone (11kg) and my fat content has reduced substantially. But the whole process felt natural and exhilarating.’ And, yoga can also help transform you at a deeper level: ‘My muscles are more toned, as yoga helps to strengthen them, making them lean and long,’ explains Joshi. ‘It also elongates the ligaments in and around the joints, brings suppleness and fluidity to the spine.’
Sounds good to us. But yoga’s plus points don’t just stop at raising your heart rate or helping you achieve that figure you dream of – here, Joshi shares seven more fantastic benefits she’s experienced, as well as some tips for all you beginners.
1 It’s boosted my confidence
I used to think I was not gifted for physical activity, but proved myself wrong. I’m absolutely made for the more rigorous, dynamic and challenging forms of yoga, as well as exercise, and experiencing their incredible life enhancing, rejuvenating and anti-ageing benefits.
2 I concentrate better
My focus has become sharper as my practise has gone on, and I can now concentrate for longer periods with ease. This helped me to write my Karma & Diamonds trilogy of books in just two years.
3 Stress is less overwhelming
One of the most challenging aspects of each day is learning to dissolve stress. I’ve found that the physical side of yoga and its philosophies serve to provide a complete, holistic means of dealing effectively and powerfully with the fast and stressful pace of modern life.
4 I have a more positive attitude to my body
I used to focus on losing weight and diets, but now I listen to my body’s needs. I eat what I want, but keep it varied and balanced, as well as sticking to portion sizes that leave my body and mind feeling great, rather than bloated and overwhelmed.
5 I eat more mindfully
I’m a vegetarian and always considered myself ‘health-aware’, but I eat even more consciously now. I appreciate the detoxing effect yoga stimulates, and work hard to keep my body as clean as possible from within.
6 It’s aided my digestion
I can digest foods much better than before. For example, I used to avoid nuts because they caused bloating, but now they’ve become a staple source of protein for me.
7 My overall physical ability has improved
As I developed more strength and stamina, my endurance increased. In yoga, importance is placed on developing and using core strength – having started with almost none, I can now do arm balances and inversions that require me to lift my own body weight.
Smith’s tips for yoga beginners
Want to start enjoying some of these positive mind and body factors for yourself? Read on for Joshi’s five key points to remember:
- Try different forms of yoga and find one or two that you like.
- A good teacher will affect your experience, so look around for a teacher with solid training and someone whose teaching style will resonate with you.
- Follow your own yoga journey and learn to be satisfied with exactly where you are. This will encourage your body and mind to relax and bring you faster results than if you invalidate yourself for not already being a yoga master.
- I often hear people say that yoga is not for them because they have little flexibility – but that is a misnomer. Not only do most people not have much flexibility to begin with, but yoga is also about developing strength and stamina. With regular practice, all three will come.
- Patience is a virtue. It may take a little while to start seeing the benefits of yoga, so give it the time it deserves and it will definitely deliver.
Smita Joshi is the author of the Karma & Diamonds trilogy, a gripping journey of self-discovery across continents and lifetimes. For more information, visit karma-and-diamonds.com.
How has practising yoga benefited your mind and body? Let us know by tweeting us @healthymag – we love hearing from you!