How Practicing Yoga Daily Improves Your Health
Yoga is a traditional and spiritual practice thought to originate in Northern India around 4000 years ago. It is a part of Vedic philosophy which promotes calming the conscious mind through breath control. As a form of exercise now popular around the world, practising Yoga has been found to improve both physical and mental health, strengthening both our muscles and self-discipline. If you’re looking for reasons to establish a habit of daily yoga workouts, this article has plenty that can spur you on.
Benefits of Daily Yoga Practice
Making time to practice 10 minutes of yoga a day benefits both your mental health and your body. It’s not a competitive or high-intensity workout, so you can just bring yourself to it with a calm and thoughtful attitude. Even yoga for beginners can be beneficial, with many people noticing improvements in mood, pain reduction and sleep after just a few sessions.
Yoga Improves Mood
Like many forms of exercise, yoga workouts and positions trigger the release of endorphins such as dopamine and oxytocin, creating feelings of happiness and calm. The deep breathing that is such an important part of yoga can also calm stress and worry by oxygenating your blood and making you slow down and focus.
Doing yoga regularly limbers up your tendons in muscle groups you may not usually use, giving you increased range and strengthening the muscles around your joints.
Yoga Builds Strength
Repetition and holding different asanas increase your strength in the muscles challenged. Many asanas are used as bodyweight exercises, such as the plank position or the crow position, as you are supporting your own weight.
Learn more about using yoga to build strength.
By focusing on your position and breathing, you train your brain to remain focused on the task at hand. This has spillover benefits into work and the rest of your life as you can call on this skill to help concentrate even when something is boring.
Yoga Increases Your Energy
Yoga has been shown to affect your nervous, metabolic and circulatory systems. By moving the whole body and stretching each part, you increase the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients through the body, helping your cells access materials for proper energy production or metabolisation.
Anxiety, stress and worry are causing increasing mental health problems for people of all ages. Yoga is not a cure for chronic mental illness, but it has been shown to improve symptoms of anxiety, as it encourages a focus on the present moment and deep breathing, which slow your heart rate and help slow erratic thinking.
Poses that help with anxiety include:
- Hero Pose
- Tree Pose
- Triangle Pose
- Child’s Pose
Yoga Helps With Posture and Balance
Many asanas, such as tree pose, encourage upright posture and good balance. Many poses strengthen your core and back muscles, which are vital for good balance. Yoga helps you get used to aligning your spine, hips and shoulders, making good posture easier to access and maintain.
Helps You Sleep
Rather than tiring you out with intensive exercise, yoga is highly relaxing. It encourages you to let go of the stresses of the day and helps your circulatory system carry neurotransmitters around your body. When practised in the evening, this means melatonin, the sleep hormone, is able to reach more parts of the nervous system, helping you feel tired and ready to sleep.
This is particularly effective when using the Ujjayi Breath or Victorious Breath, which involves breathing in deeply through your nose, and exhaling through your nose while constricting the throat as though saying ‘ha’.
Using a Yoga Ball
Yoga balls are some of the most popular gym equipment for home. While they’re commonly known as yoga balls, gym balls, Swiss balls and more, these inflated spheres really have very little to do with the practice itself. However, there are plenty of exercises you can do with a yoga ball that will have similar benefits. An exercise ball forces your muscles to keep you balanced and upright, making them fantastic for mildly strengthening your core and back.
Beginner yoga ball exercises include:
- Ball Circles: sit upright on the ball and slowly roll your hips in small circles, getting gradually larger (don’t fall off!). After 20 circles, change direction.
- Ball Marches: sit upright on the ball and raise one foot off the ground. The other leg needs to hold your body steady. Lower the foot and repeat on the other side. Repeat as though marching while seated.
- Ball Leg Press: with your feet on the floor, bend your legs until you are at an incline, with your back against the ball. Straighten your legs, allowing the ball to roll under your back as your hips come away from the floor.
- Hip Lifts: Lie on the floor with your heels on top of the ball. Tighten your abs and slowly lift your hips off the floor. Keep your shoulders on the ground as you hold for a few seconds, then lower to complete one rep.
Learn about the other types of yoga equipment and how to choose them.
Making Daily Yoga a Habit
Daily exercise can be a challenge, especially when so many of life’s pressures take up most of our time. But the benefits of stretching and moving our bodies every day, even when we don’t feel like it, are undeniable. Here are a few tips for making yoga exercise a daily habit.
- Choose the Time: Find a time in the day when you know you can fit in 10 minutes of yoga. For some people, it’s the morning, as soon as they wake up. Others benefit from practising before bed. You might find you enjoy the practice as a break in your lunch hour. Doing yoga at the same time every day helps us form the habit as part of our circadian rhythms.
- Place visual cues: Spread out your yoga mat or put it somewhere you can see it before your chosen time arrives. For example, if you want to practice in the morning, spread it by your bed before you go to sleep. Then when you wake up, you’ll be reminded of the intention you set.
- Reflect on your intentions: While the first few days might be easy, habits are difficult to create. Hardwire your habit by spending some time each day thinking about why you want to create this habit, and what you will gain from daily practice. If it helps, keep this blog handy as a reminder of the many benefits of yoga.
Find the right yoga mat to cement your daily habit.
Yoga Practice as Spiritual Exercise
Most classes will end with meditation and reflection. This helps ground the positive feelings you gain from exercise into a more meaningful and rounded experience. Meditation, like yoga, has many benefits, particularly for mental health, anxiety and concentration. It is also common to consciously practice gratitude for the opportunity to connect your body, breath and mind. When you make time for yoga practice, make sure you thank yourself.