If you’ve never done yoga before you may be thinking, why should I do yoga? What is the purpose and how can it benefit me? Because there are so many types of yoga, there is a practice for virtually everyone.
Benefits of Practicing Yoga
Yoga is the world’s first system of physical fitness, but the benefits or practicing yoga go beyond that. From major health benefits like lowering blood pressure to keeping your mind and body young, there are many reasons to do yoga.
For each of the 4 reasons below, I list a handful of yoga poses that will help you reap the benefit. For some of them, you will find links to posts which include pictures and explanations of how to get into the pose as well as the specific benefits, modifications and variations.
As there are literally 1000’s of yoga asanas that exist, I am including a list of some of the most common ones here.
1. Relaxation and Mental Wellbeing
One of the benefits of practicing yoga is that it promotes mental well-being. It allows you to bring the breath under control, which makes it calm and slow. This type of breathing, called pranayama, helps relax the entire body and in turn, the mind. The mindfulness that yoga teaches allows you to be in control of your body and thoughts.
Here are some poses that encourage relaxation:
- Balasana (Child’s Pose).
- Matsyasana (Fish- supported).
- Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle, AKA Butterfly).
- Viparita Karani (Legs up the Wall).
- Halasana (Plough).
- Savasana (Corpse).
- Advasana (Reverse Corpse).
2. Physical Fitness
You probably already know that being physically active is important for good health. And there are many different ways to that end, but yoga is my favorite.
Vinyasa yoga is especially good for building physical fitness. The asanas done in a vinyasa class encourage strong muscles and the pace of the class raises the heart rate. The constant flow of the class also encourages cardiorespiratory fitness as well.
Other types of yoga also encourage strength through static holds. While in vinyasa, the movements are matched to the breath, in other types of yoga, you hold yourself in poses for an extended period of time (say 5-8 breaths, which can be well over a minute each!). It’ll give new meaning to “feeling the burn.”
Here are some poses that encourage fitness:
3. Increased Flexibility
Perhaps the most recognized benefit of practicing yoga is increased flexibility. Virtually all yoga asanas have some aspect of stretching. You would be hard pressed to find an asana that doesn’t stretch at least one muscle; in fact most involve stretching multiple muscles.
Here are some poses that increase flexibility:
- Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Fold)
- Uttanasana (Standing Forward Fold)
- Parsvottanasana (Pyramid)
- Utthita Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Runner’s Lunge)
- Hip Flexors
- Anjaneyasana (Cresent Moon)
- Hip Flexors.
- Parivrtta Janu Siransana (Revolved Head-to-Knee)
- Sides of the torso
- Bujungasana (Cobra)
4. Improved Balanced
The fourth of the benefits of practicing yoga is that it trains your balance. Balance training is so important, especially as you get older. Good balance control means good postural control. Without that, you’re more likely to injure yourself in everyday movements.
Yoga teaches you to ground down to rise. The skill of balance starts with the base of the pose, in some cases the feet; in some cases, the hands; and others that are a combination of the two.
Here are some poses that develop balance:
- Tadasana (Mountain).
- Vrkasana (Tree).
- Natarajasana (Dancer).
- Vasisthasana (Side Plank).
- Virabhadrasana III (Warrior 3).
- Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon).