19 Reasons You Need Yoga in Your Life

By , SparkPeople Blogger

When I tell people that I practice and teach yoga, I hear one of two responses from those who've never tried it:

  1. "I always wanted to try yoga."

  2. "I could never do yoga because I can't (insert physical limitation here)."

My answer is always the same: "You should do yoga!"

It doesn't matter if you can't touch your toes. (I know many a yogi who have never touched their toes). It doesn't matter if you're not flexible, if you're not strong, not patient, not able to sit still. Everyone starts somewhere. Most people who have a regular yoga practice started right where you will--from the beginning. They're not dancers, not gymnasts, and not "yogis." They're just people who wanted to give yoga a try. They wanted to control their breathing, move their bodies, and find even a few moments of peace in this crazy life.

You should try yoga. You (yes, you!) should do yoga. You (I'm still talking to you!) should practice yoga. And I'm about to tell you why.
The yoga I practice is hard, mentally and physically. Ashtanga yoga combines strength, cardio, and flexibility, and most practices last 75 to 90 minutes. By the end, I've given everything I have. My muscles are exhausted, my mind pushed to the limit, and my body drenched in sweat. "Each morning, this practice rips me to pieces and rebuilds me stronger than ever," I told a friend last week.

When I started this practice five years ago, I was anxious. I was unhappy. I was flexible but not strong. I had never run a mile and certainly never imagined I would run half-marathons. I had never turned upside down. And I certainly couldn't hold up my own body weight using my upper body. I couldn't even do a single "chaturanga" (yoga/triceps pushup). Back then, my anxiety was so severe that I often couldn't make it through an entire class. I had to excuse myself to the bathroom to catch my breath and calm down. (But wait--wasn't yoga supposed to calm me down? Not to worry--it did, but not immediately.) Today I'm stronger than ever inside and out. If I can do it, so can you.

You don't have to do yoga my way. You don't have to practice daily, and if you do, you don't have to stay on your mat for a prescribed amount of time. All you have to do is show up and breathe. That's all. Movement is optional.

No matter your age, your physical capabilities, your current weight or your fitness goals, you should be doing yoga. (Talk to your health-care provider, especially if you suffer from any medical condition. I'm just a yoga teacher not a doctor.)

One of my teachers, Lewis Rothlein, says at the end of each class that "you can't do this enough. You can't do this too much." Whether you're taking one yoga class a week, spending five minutes mindfully stretching each morning, or doing something more, your body and mind will thank you.

Let's talk about why you (yes, you!) should do yoga*--as little or as much as you want.

  • Less anxiety and a better mood. A 2010 study found that practicing yoga just three times a week increased levels of chemicals in the brain that help combat anxiety and depression.

  • Less stress. An Ohio State University study found that long-term yoga might help you recover from stressful events more quickly.

  • Better control over medical conditions affected by stress. Researchers earlier this year theorized that yoga may be effective in treating patients with stress-related psychological and medical conditions such as depression, anxiety, high blood pressure and cardiac disease.

  • Better management of rheumatoid arthritis. Patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis reported significant improvements in their quality of life after starting a gentle yoga practice.

  • Better balance. The American Heart Association journal Stroke reported that post-stroke yoga may be able to improve balance, decrease fear of falling, and improve quality of. 

  • Less back pain. Back pain affects 31 million Americans (myself included), and it's recommended by the National Institutes of Health as a way to ease pain and stretch muscles. A study funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)  found that after six months of yoga, those suffering from low back pain had significantly less pain, disability, and depression. And another study found that just 12 weeks of yoga had a greater effect than standard medical care in those who suffered chronic or recurring back pain.

Whatever ails you, yoga can help. Other studies have linked yoga with improvements in the symptoms of Parkinson's disease, carpal tunnel syndrome, multiple sclerosis, migraines, and more.
Yoga has also been linked to:

  • Lower blood pressure

  • Mental calmness

  • Reduced stress

  • Increased strength  

  • Greater flexibility

  • Pain relief and prevention 

  • Better breath control

  • Less post-workout pain

  • More confidence

Whether you work out with a DVD, seek out a class in your area, or give it a go on your own, yoga can help you! Just remember what really matters in your yoga practice! Even Coach Nicole, who once confessed to being a yoga dropout now practices weekly!

See you on the mat. Why do you practice yoga? If you've not yet tried yoga, how could it benefit you?
If you're new to yoga, you might like to read:

*Will you experience any or all of these health benefits? There's only one way to find out! Give yoga a try--after talking to your health-care provider.

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Bear in mind, SAGEGALLAGHER, the unintended effects of using Sadie Nardini's YouTube videos. After seeing a couple of Sadie Nardini videos on YouTube I'd immediately become the nut in the back of yoga class doing donkey kicks with my raised leg while in a lengthily-held down-dog split. It gave me and still gives me now, MUCH more energy than doing full wheel pose in yoga, which took me the longest time to be able to do; and which, now at my advanced age of 58 years old, cannot do anymore ... & that's for starters, I needn't tell you anything more except for the fact that I checked out Sadie Nardini's background that she will not attest to, and it includes The Himalayan Masters school of yoga, which includes Kundalini energetics, which can be a lot like doing pilates (Yes, I had messaged Sadie personally, asking if she ever studied pilates. The answer was "never") I've taken Himalayan tradition classes and wondered where they had been all my yoga life at that time.

Sadie Nardini's agenda may be non spiritual (spiritual or non-spiritual makes little to no difference to me), but it is off-the-wall ... but I lift the knowledge I need and leave the rest. Report
I love yoga too and am training to be an intructor. To those who won't try it for religious reasons, please find a teacher that is your same religion or doesn't focus on the spiritual aspect. Sadie Nardini is straight-forward in her approach. I am Christian and there are Christian teachers out there too. I prefer teachers like saide who focus on how yoga improves our bodies and shares her knowledge ofanatomy. She has free videos on youtube. Think I'll go do some yoga now! Report
A few months ago, while undergoing physical therapy for back problems, my massage therapist recommended yin yoga. What a difference that has made! I finally have a way to decrease my pain- and the depression that goes along with being in such pain. I was always one of those who wanted to try yoga, but my inflexibility- I thought- made it impossible (I thought). Now I'm looking to explore a more active form (yang) yoga. Report
Yoga has been a way of life for me since my early 20s. I can't even begin to list the benefits there are so many!! Report
I love yoga!! Report
No yoga for me. Report
I do not wish to do something with spirituality that conflicts with my own personal beliefs. Therefore I will not try yoga. Report
@KELLIEBEAN, I had tried--and learned volumes from, I admit that now--about 120 yoga classes - (except for 4 classes, they were asana (postures) classes) over a three year period. I don't have a lot of money, but I am willing to pay for what suits me and what I can learn (and have breakthroughs every time) from. Right now, it is a pilates mat class. Hour for hour, it costs roughly the same as a yoga class. No, these pilates classes don't help me sleep better; but, the synergy of the thing is, my own home practice is about 35% pilates ...

I've been over a year without any live yoga instructor--class, private, workshop, retreat--Nothing! Not particularly proud of that. Really: this may sound like verbal backatcha jiu-jitsu--but really, it is by dint of non-attachment.

Of course, necessity plays a part in that, too. But I would never tell that to a yoga instructor. Report
I agree whole-heartedly with this article! I never thought I could do this either but it's been ten months since I started going to a free class once a week at my library. I LOVE the chaturang. My triceps are getting stronger. My body really but I'm amazed at how my upper body strength has improved!

I sleep best the night I have yoga, I can calm myself down easier and I am more energized and focused at work the next day.

If you tried a yoga class and it wasn't for you, try another or another. I think it is worth it. Report
I did try yoga and perhaps it was the wrong style for me or the wrong instructor, but I felt like I was "wasting" an hour plus when I could have been doing something. I think for me it's a preference for being in motion versus getting the muscle work from staying as still as possible. I don't particularly care for planks either. Report
I really appreciated the suggested DVDs. I keep thinking I'll start out with a class and then follow it at home but that doesn't seem to be happening :) I should just start where I am and build from there. Report
Here's my excuse: how do I keep my mind clear and focused? There is always something going on in my head. I always have a jingle or music in my brain moving me along. I feel like it's a Buddist thing in a way to clear your mind. But mine is always moving.

I don't have a problem with the exercises, it's the calming thoughts! Report
I am not really comfortable with the spiritual aspect of yoga, so pilates is more my style. Report
I have just recently come to Yoga. I was looking for alternative options to aid in controlling arthritic pain. I have been able to lesson my pain considerbly and have gained such a sense of calm from just a couple of months of yoga. I too get very disappointed when I am unable to get to a yoga class. It has been a pleasantly surprising beneficial addition to my life. Report
Great Article. I keep saying I am going to begin; this article convinced me that I need to begin, for several reasons! Report
Great article. Report
I always had an excuse to not do yoga. I even signed up for a class for college credit this semester and became frustrated with it and hated going. But after opening up my mind and heart to how it can benefit me, I grew to love it. Now I get sad if I have to miss a class and now I am a faithful reader of Yoga Journal!!! Report
Priscilla Patrick who is 69 has great help on her web site www.yogaone(dot)com and the DVDs by Rodney Yee are some of the best since he is a instructor for BKS IYENGAR. Report
I've been doing yoga for a few years now and plan on continuing well into my grand old age. I started doing it because I felt I wasn't very flexible. Little did I know that the benefits of yoga go far beyond becoming more flexible. I feel it has helped me reduce my overall stress. It's also made me more mindful of things I do in my daily life. The breathing exercises are certainly worth their weight in gold. And it's definitely helped increase my strength and stamina too.

Now, one side benefit, I think I'm a bit more graceful in my movements. I love the way my yoga instructors move. they have very fluid, graceful movements. I'm not there yet, but I'm seeing improvement.

I took my last anti-depressant medication almost a week ago. I have been practicing a form of yoga known as Adamantine.... a ritualized breath meditation built around the matrix of 14 sun salutations and 20 yoga postures. Adamantine Yoga offers a comprehensive path for the purpose of self transformation by exploring the full potential of the physical body. The goal of Admantine Yoga is to provide the individual with a simple but empowering personalized practice that offers the means for True Self realization.
My practice takes about 45 - 50 minutes followed by about 5 minutes of savasana and 10 min. of meditation. No matter how I am feeling, at the end my practice I am calm, serene, centered. Report
Few people need yoga more than I do. As, I may have stated elsewhere, I live in overcrowded, noisy and physically unstable conditions. I walk a fine line with my self-sequenced yoga practice, etc. A lot of it is cross-training to be sure, because it's a fusion of yoga with pilates. I have to continually reassess my sequence to make sure my yoga practice never generates too much "prana "(actually it couldn't–I'm not athletic enough for that), and instead engages my parasympathetic nervous system, such as it can (a very tough call, as doing aerobics too close to bedtime used to be an issue for me)--being postmenopausal does not help in the sleep department, even under ideal conditions. Noise from neighbors and vibrations and rattling from machinery within the building I live in, need me to sleep the sleep of the dead, as much as possible at night. I'm serious! When it works, I could arise before my alarm sounds, even in winter; and all other things being equal, feel relatively rested upon awakening. Report
My goal for this month is to do my favorite yoga video every day when I get home from work *instead* of grabbing a glass of wine to unwind. I figure that it will save a bunch of calories (both from the wine and extra food that the wine encourages) and will be at least as effective, if not more so.

The workout video I do is called Stress-Relief Yoga for Beginners (led by Suzanne Deason) and is just 17 minutes long, available on Amazon.com. I can't quite stretch to match all the poses, but the instructions say to honor your resistance and adapt the stretches to do just what you can.

It's just the 2nd of the month, so I'm just getting started. I really look forward to seeing how well this new habit builds. Report
my excuse is, classes at a studio are far too expensive, I don't have enough room in my house and I get distracted when I try to do yoga at home. Report