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I'm sure it's no news to you that in the recent years practicing Yoga has become a bit of a trend. And I must admit that I'm quite happy about it. Yes, of course, there are darker sides to it- doing it mindlessly just for that "perfect" Instagram photo or spending a ton of money on expensive activewear and props. But in general, I love that it's a trend that actually does a lot of people good. I like that thanks to its recent spike in popularity it's reached many people who otherwise might not have been exposed to it at all. And many of them, even if initially they start practicing for no particular reason other than following a trend, actually get into it enough to experience some of its wonderful benefits.

Answering the question of what one stands to gain from a Yoga practice is such a wide topic it deserves a book if not a whole book series, (and there are already plenty out there for you to read if you want to get deeper into it), but let me try to just briefly outline some of the well-known (and for all of you skeptics out there, by now scientifically proven) benefits of a regular yoga practice. Just to give you an idea, in case you need some convincing.

The range, (from physical, through psychological all the way to spiritual), and volume of the benefits of a regular Yoga practice are quite incredible for something that doesn't need to cost you much more than a little bit of your time each day, perhaps a comfortable mat and, at least at the beginning, your internet bill that, let's face it, you'd be paying for anyway. You may of course want to also join a Yoga class, which for some is a better option than practicing alone. But since most of our schedules don't allow for daily gym visits, plus since we're in the time of the global pandemic right now (summer 2020), I do recommend opting for online classes. (Here are some of the Yoga YouTube channels I can recommend, and here's a post on how to do Yoga safely to make sure you don't get injured- please read that, especially if you're just starting out).

There are a lot of different branches of the tree of Yoga, but the one that we most commonly talk about in the Western world is Yoga Asana, meaning the physical practice, a sequence of movements performed on a mat, and Pranayama, consisting of various breathing exercises. But even doing just that, practicing for the so-called work-out, granted that you do it correctly (more on that here), will also positively impact your mind and, with time, your spiritual life as well.

I feel that I need to interject here for just a second and explain that you can do yoga and experience its positive effects on your spirituality no matter what your religion is. I have seen many people, especially Catholics, being misinformed about Yoga and often rejecting and resenting it on the basis that it's against their religion. And while becoming Buddhist definitely does not go hand in hand with being a Catholic, you absolutely don't need to become anything, change your faith or have any fear about it being questioned, offended or attacked. If you are in any way afraid, just think of Yoga as a set of ancient, (and by now also scientifically-proven), techniques that simply improve your overall well-being.

Yoga can, but doesn't have to have anything to do with religion. It does have to do with spirituality, but it's entirely up to your whether that will be something that you'd like to pursue, or whether you practice it simply for the mind and the body, and not as much for the soul.

However, if you happen to be a Catholic and still have some doubts, just google for instance Father Joe Pereira, an Indian Roman Catholic priest who is a student of one of the foremost Yoga teachers and the founder of Iyengar Yoga style- B. K. S. Iyengar himself. I've actually had the pleasure of meeting Father Pereira and hearing firsthand about the ways he implements Yoga into the AA 12-Step Program and the benefits it yields.

Just as there are many different styles of yoga and you will find that there are many different yoga classes available online. They differ in length, from a simple 5 minute session to an hour-long ones. They differ based on what they focus on, for example targeting a specific are of your body, for insistence your shoulders, or intending to help you with a specific psychological problem such as anxiety or stress. There are practices designed to wake you up first thing in the morning, help you focus or help you wind down for the night. There are some that provide you with a decent workout and help you tone your muscles and others that focus more on cultivating inner peace and practicing stillness.

The benefits of a regular Yoga practice are really endless, steaming from the physical, through the psychological and the spiritual areas, so there really is something for everyone out there and thanks to the wonders of internet and the creativity of some great yoga teachers it's all available literally right at your fingertips.

I can assure you that even if you decided to practice it only for the body, it will end up having a positive effect on your mind as well and vice versa, because it's all interconnected. I might share my own Yoga journey another time but for me it definitely started as a strict physical practice that with time became a practice for the mind and the soul.

Below you'll find a list of most well-known benefits of yoga. A regular practice is generally what it takes to achieve them, especially in the long-term, (for instance reducing overall anxiety or getting fit) but in many cases even a one-off session will have you feeling better and perhaps even experiencing some of the more immediate benefits right away, (for example, alleviate a headache, aiding digestion or leave you feeling more relaxed).

The more I learn about and practice yoga (and meditation too, actually) the harder it is for me to distinguish between the so called physical and mental benefits. It's because, just as we've known from the world's most ancient cultures for thousands of years and as the modern science is proving with every new research on this topic- it's all interconnected and interdependent. You "fix" one part of you and the others fall into play. But just the same if you let one part of you to get out of balance and if you don't bring it back soon, others will fall out of balance as well.

But if we were to divide it all into the independent from one another benefits that we often talk about nowadays they look something like this list below.

A regular yoga practice can improve your overall physical and psychological well-being by:

  • increasing flexibility of the muscles and joints

  • and therefore protecting you from potential injuries

  • increasing muscle strength

  • toning your muscles

  • alleviating headaches and migraines

  • aiding digestion

  • improving your metabolism

  • easing and alleviating physical pain and tension in various areas of your body

  • helping with weight loss

  • perfecting your posture

  • strengthening and protecting your spine

  • improving your cardiovascular health and circulation

  • improving your lung function

  • helping with sinus drainage

  • alleviating stress by helping your body relax and return to homeostasis

  • helping you manage stress better

  • helping relieve chronic stress

  • improving your focus and concentration

  • increasing mental clarity

  • improving the quality of your sleep

  • helping you feel more energized

  • helping you be more mindful and therefore less reactive

  • helping you become more "bodyful" (increasing body-awareness and feeling more connected to your body)

  • enhancing your parasympathetic nervous system

  • helping with managing and reducing various mental disorders, such as anxiety and depression, but also with recovering from traumas and even addictions

  • helping you feel more grounded and less scattered

  • helping you feel more present

  • increasing your awareness

  • having the capacity to change your brain plasticity

  • reducing fatigue

  • helping you see things from a broader perspective

  • giving you clarity of mind

  • increasing your psychological (and physiological) resilience

  • helping you take some pressure off (literally in a physical way, like a massage would, but psychologically speaking too)

  • improving your immunity and lymphatic system

  • regulating your blood pressure

  • helping your conscious mind control some of your subconscious programs detrimental to your well-being

  • helping you balance your hormones

  • changing your gene expression

  • improving your mood

  • and so much more...

Not to mention that a combination of many of those benefits is bound to make you feel better not only when you're on the mat, but also once you're off the mat. Other than better health, they may translate to improving your overall well-being, making you feel better on a daily basis, being more productive at work, having better relationships with the people you care about and, if not most importantly actually, a better relationship with yourself.

So trust me on this- now, (no matter when it is that you're reading this), is the perfect time to start cultivating your home yoga practice.

But before you get on your mat, please take a minute to read this: How to do yoga online and make sure you DO NOT get injured?

If you're interested, you might also want to check out this short, 20-min-long video that briefly explains what we know so far about the benefits of yoga from the point of view of modern (Western) science. The video is originally 25min long, you can watch the whole thing when you log in (for free) over here, or you can just watch the first 20min on YouTube right away:


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