There was a time where I didn’t really get the point of yoga. I had no idea about the amazing benefits it would later bring to my life. In my opinion, yoga was just stretching. From what I had remembered from high school sports, stretching is to be done before and after your real workout. In my mind, there was no way I would ever waste my time by going to a yoga class.
Fast forward to 2012, I was living in a new city and my apartment building at the time was offering free hot yoga classes at a local studio to current residents. I’m not one to turn down a free offer so I figured I would check it out even though I would probably be bored. I was in for a huge surprise.
My first yoga class ever was a hot yoga class and I could not keep up with basically everyone in the class. At this time, I was a consistent gym goer and in pretty good shape so the fact that I couldn’t keep up was shocking to me. What was even more shocking was how amazing I felt afterwards. Before this class I had felt the runner’s high and the endorphin rush of a good workout but I had no idea I could feel so good after a yoga class. I was hooked on yoga and trust me, you need to do more yoga
Benefits of Yoga
There is actually a lot of science to back up how good I felt after my first hot yoga class and how good I continue to feel after any yoga session. If you have had any hesitations about trying yoga or getting back into it, you should definitely read on. There are so many benefits to be had by doing yoga.
This one is probably an obvious one. However, what I didn’t know was the benefits that you can gain from increased flexibility. I have always had tight hamstrings and hips but didn’t think much of it. Tight hamstrings can actually cause back pain and tight hips can strain your knees. If you have been dealing with any body aches or pains, give yoga a try for a few weeks and see the difference it can make.
Before I tried my first yoga class, I had no idea about the strength required to hold some yoga poses. There are a ton of poses out there so almost every muscle can be targeted. One aspect I love is that you can see which poses you are naturally stronger at and which ones are strengthening weaker muscles. Even beginners find that some poses are easier off the bat, which can help you from being discouraged while building those other muscles.
Poor posture can cause issues with your back, neck, and joints. When you strengthen your muscles and improve flexibility through yoga, it also helps your posture. No one wants a hunched back when they are 70!
Protects your Bones
You can even reduce the risk of osteoporosis with yoga. Weight training exercises strengthens bones and many poses in yoga have you lifting your own body weight. Lifting your own body weight might not seem like much but next time you are at the gym, try lifting two 75-pound dumbbells. It will definitely give you some perspective.
Improving your balance on the mat can do more than make you look cool in Tree pose. Poor balance can cause knee issues and back pain. Being consistent with your yoga practice will help you avoid these issues.
Reduces Blood Pressure
In a study done by Debbie Cohen of the University of Pennsylvania doing yoga two to three times a week was associated with a in blood pressure readings. It was even a bigger drop than the group who was put on a special diet to drop their blood pressure. Considering how many people in the US and around the world are struggling with high blood pressure, the benefits of yoga should be made known everywhere.
Yoga helps to reduced stress and lowers cortisol levels. When you are doing each pose, you are supposed to move with your breath. This slowed, deep breathing tells your body that it can relax and that it is no longer in a fight-or-flight situation. Having dealt (and still dealing with) with Adrenal Fatigue, I have to say yoga has been a godsend for my stress levels.
It relaxes the mind while also improving focus. While doing yoga, you pay attention to how your body moves and how your muscles react to each move. Since there is a huge importance placed on breathing during each pose. You become more aware and in tune with your body.
Studies have shown that it improves happiness, increases confidence, and makes people feel more satisfied. Who wouldn’t want more of that?
Relieves Symptoms of Digestive Issues
Stress makes digestive issues worse so the relaxing benefits of yoga help in this respect. Also the twisting positions in yoga also help “move things along” in the digestive tract for a better functioning system.
I have IBS, aka I have stomach issues and doctors don’t know why so they label it Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Luckily, I have seen the benefits of yoga firsthand when it come to my tummy troubles.
Helps You Sleep Deeper
Getting quality sleep is one of the most important activities you can do for your body. The more restorative yoga practices and poses such as yoga nidra, savasana, and restorative asana can help you unwind and relax. I personally like to throw on a short night time guided yoga video to unwind at the end of a long day.
How to Get Started
What You’ll Need:
- A yoga mat; you can rent your first time but I’d recommend buying. They aren’t expensive and last a long time.
- For Women: Leggings or yoga pants and a semi loose tank top. You want your clothes to allow you to move freely without constricting you but not so loose that your shirt comes over your head in a downward dog
- For Men: Workout shorts and a fitted exercise t-shirt or tank top. You’re going for semi loose clothes for the same reasons that I mentioned for women.
- A bath towel and hand towel if trying out hot yoga. I don’t care who you are, sweat is going to get everywhere. The bath towel is to keep your mat from getting slippery. You will need the hand towel to wipe the sweat off of your face. I got sweat in my eyes a couple of times and it’s not fun.
- An open mind! You may be twisting in weird ways, chanting om, or lying in silence trying to meditate. Each class is different but you won’t what aspects you like until you try it out.
Where to Start
If you are completely new to yoga, I recommend checking out some local yoga studios in your area. I normally wouldn’t recommend paying for expensive memberships to places, but this is an exception. Most new yoga studios offer new member rates such as a free first class or unlimited classes for 2 weeks or a month at very reduced costs.
Having a teacher to guide you through correct positioning will also be invaluable. When you first start out, you won’t know the subtleties of how your body should be positioned or what you should be feeling in each pose. A teacher will re-position you if you are doing a position incorrectly (you can hurt yourself doing some positions wrong) and you’ll also be able to see what more experienced classmates look like in the positions. I even like to go to a class once in a while for the extra help from a professional. Once you’ve checked out some studios…
Do More Yoga Without Breaking the Bank
If you are familiar with yoga and want to get back into your yoga groove, I recommend doing yoga 3 to 4 days of the week to get all of the amazing benefits from the practice. Although I just wrote about how important reducing expenses are to achieving financial freedom, I swear you can afford to do more yoga. The great new is that you don’t need to pay anything!
There are so many virtual yoga classes that you can take for free. Some videos are as long as a normal in-person class, some are intense workouts, and some are short 10-minute stretching sessions. I love the flexibility of virtual yoga videos because they fit into my busy schedule. So far, this has been the only way that I’ve been able to fit yoga into my life while balancing life’s demands. My favorite yoga YouTuber right now is Yoga with Adrienne. She has a yoga video for almost anything but definitely look around and see who works best for you.
Ready to Get on the Mat?
You have the knowledge of how yoga can change your life so all you need to do is get out there. If you are new or rusty, you can take a class for support from a teacher or just jump right into it with a video in the comfort of your living room. They key to getting all these benefits is consistency. Now get out there and start feeling amazing.