It’s a poorly kept secret that I have some health problems. I was born with a condition called dysautonomia, which means my autonomic nervous system doesn’t quite work right. This impacts my heart, my brain, my digestion, my energy levels, and my sleep patterns. For years I was a miserable wreck unable to do things normal people do.
But then I found yoga. Yoga has literally changed my life, and it is because of this transformation I do what I do.
I am convinced I am not the only person who can achieve such transformation through yoga. You don’t have to have some hard-to-spell health problem to see benefits from yoga.
Here are 10 ways yoga can change your life.
1. You’ll be calmer.
Yoga is known for its relaxing properties and soothing meditations. My favourite part of yoga is the meditation at the beginning and the end where I can connect with myself and my practice. I have never walked away from yoga saying, “Man, I’m angry.” I always leave the mat feeling calmer and more relaxed than when I went on the mat.
2. You will become more flexible.
There is a myth that yoga is for super-bendy skinny people. I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “I can’t do yoga. I’m not flexible enough.” You do yoga to become flexible. A regular yoga practice will increase your flexibility across the board. If you ever spent your childhood fantasizing about doing splits, start yoga, and you will work your way up to splits.
3. You will become stronger.
Another excuse I often hear is, “I’m not strong enough to do yoga.” Yoga poses require a certain amount of strength to start with, but that isn’t to say they’re impossible. You don’t have to be Superman to be able to do yoga. You don’t even have to have a regular strength-building gym routine. Yoga poses can be modified for your current strength level, and the more you do them, the stronger you become. You will slowly but surely work your way up from modified plank to full plank to holding chatarunga for 5 minutes.
4. You will find your inner strength.
Holding chatarunga for an impressively long amount of time isn’t the only strength you will cultivate. You will also cultivate inner strength. A regular yoga practice will teach you how to stick to a schedule; it will teach you self-discipline. You will learn how to do something even if you’re uninspired, and you will learn how to take those lessons you learned on the mat off the mat. You will find your strength off the mat too. There is power and confidence in knowing, “I just did crow for 10 seconds longer than ever before.”
5. You will become more energetic.
Studies indicate regular exercise boosts your energy levels. “Contrary to popular belief, exercising doesn’t make you tired — it literally creates energy in your body. Your body rises up to meet the challenge for more energy by becoming stronger,” nutritionist Samantha Heller told WebMD.
Moderate exercise, like a 45 minute vinyasa class, can increase your energy levels throughout the day. Make it a regular practice, and you’ll continually have more energy.
6. You will be more in tune with your body.
When you’re doing yoga, you should be focusing on your body, breath, alignment, and movement. This focus will influence your perception and awareness off the mat. You will become more aware of what’s going on with your body. You will know if the position you’re sitting in on the couch isn’t supportive. You will become more aware of the small, minute changes in your body. – Perhaps to an annoying degree. When I started doing yoga more regularly, I started noticing things in my body I didn’t notice before. A muscle twinge here or there. It’s enough to drive one to hypochondria if one isn’t careful.
7. You will start sleeping better.
Sleep deprivation is very common among Americans for a number of reasons. Bedtime procrastination, insomnia, too much stress, too many commitments, loud noises, light, and many other things can cause sleep disruption. Yoga can actually help you get your sleep back on track.
According to a study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information, yoga was proven to be a safe and effective way to improve sleep in older adults. While I have yet to find a study that researched the effects of yoga on sleep quality for young adults, I also have yet to find any studies that indicate yoga increases insomnia. Anecdotal evidence does suggest those who do yoga regularly sleep better than those who don’t.
8. You will improve your posture.
Part of listening to your body includes improving your posture. When you’re a regular yoga practitioner, your posture naturally improves because you start to notice when you’re slouching. Yoga focuses on alignment, and if your back isn’t properly aligned because you’re slumped over your TPS reports, you’ll notice.
You might not notice as soon as you start to slouch, but after a couple moments your body will notice it’s not aligned in a supportive way. When you’re slouching, it gets difficult to breath. A lightheaded sensation is usually the trigger for me that I’m not sitting in a supportive way.
I love having better posture. I feel more confident. I feel stronger, and I even feel like a princess. Who doesn’t want to feel like royalty?
9. You will learn how to breathe.
When we are kids we are taught we know how to breathe; breathing just comes naturally. After all, it’s part of our autonomic nervous system. When I first heard this, I didn’t believe it, and held my breath as long as possible, determined to prove breathing is unnecessary. (Turns out 7-year-old me was wrong) But just because breathing is something we do naturally doesn’t mean we can’t learn to do it better. Yoga teaches you to align movement to breath. Pranayama exercises teach you how to control your breath to lower your heart rate, relax your mind, or increase your energy. All are powerful skills to have.
10. You will boost your immunity.
Regular exercise is proven to boost your immunity, although researchers aren’t exactly sure why. There is a theory that posits exercise sends antibodies and white blood cells through the body at a faster rate due to an increase in circulation. The increased rate of circulating antibodies and blood cells might trigger the release of hormones that warn the immune cells of bacteria and viruses.
This could very well be part of the reason I haven’t gotten sick yet this winter. By January I am usually sick two or three times. Perhaps yoga has saved me from getting bronchitis.
These are just a few of the ways yoga can change your life. Are you a yogi? How has yoga changed your life? Let me know in the comments.