5 Top Reasons to do Yoga
1. You will sleep better, starting tonight.
Yoga does more than just stretch your muscles. By focusing on your body and breath, you learn to train your brain to tune out all that chatter that keeps you up at night –the worries and what if’s and endless to-do lists. It also is both physically and mentally relaxing, and whether you practice in the morning or right before bed, the effects will help you nod off faster. Bonus: you’ll also sleep deeper and less restlessly.
2. You’ll have less pain everywhere.
When you’re just beginning your yoga practice, you’ll definitely feel it in the muscles you don’t use often, or in the muscles that are chronically tight (Hello, hamstrings!). This “pain” can be discouraging, but listen to your body: discomfort is completely normal. Pain, i.e. sharp, sudden, shooting, makes-you-catch-your-breath sensations, is a sign you’ve gone too far or that a pose isn’t right for your body. Over time, the discomfort of the stretch will lessen. This is a sign that your overly-tight, stressed muscles are learning to relax, and that you’re learning not to involuntarily tense up.
Stress, anxiety, and long-term pain can cause us to get in the habit of unconsciously tensing muscles all or almost all the time. Yoga allows you to consciously stretch and release those muscles, and you build muscle memory for that release. The more you practice, the less pain you’ll have. And you only have to practice once a week to start feeling the effects!
3. You’ll finally, effectively manage your stress.
It seems like every magazine has at least one article about how to reduce your stress. But have any of those things actually worked? Have you ever actually tried any of them? We all intuitively know that writing to-do lists, getting enough sleep, taking time to do fun or relaxing things, and limiting screen time will all help manage stress. But it’s hard to break those bad habits, especially when we feel like we just don’t have the time. But a regular yoga practice, even once a week, will go a long way as far as countering the stressful effects of everyday life. Yoga gives you time and space to focus on the present moment and on your own body. You give yourself permission to tune out the chatter. (It’ll be there when you’re done practicing.) Just a few minutes of focused introspection is enough to lower your cortisol levels. (Cortisol is the hormone your body produces and releases when you’re stressed. High levels of cortisol increase your risk for heart attack and stroke, among other serious issues.) Experts say practicing yoga just once a week for 6 weeks is enough to lower your blood cortisol levels by 50%.
4. You’ll enjoy sex more.
Now you’re paying attention, aren’t you? Yoga improves your sex life in a lot of ways. It helps improve self-image, especially in women. Yoga also helps you focus on the present moment, which makes it easier to achieve orgasm (you’re less likely to distract yourself with worries and to-do lists). Many yoga poses work the pelvic floor muscles, which get little use during everyday activities like sitting and walking. A stronger pelvic floor translates to greater arousal and more intense orgasms. Yoga also strengthens other muscles that rarely get a workout unless you’re having sex, like your adductors (inner thighs), deep abdominal muscles, and the muscles in the hips. Strengthening and stretching all these muscles during yoga means you’ll be more limber between the sheets. (Nothing kills the mood like a sudden leg cramp, right?)
5. You’ll be happier most of the time.
Yoga helps you cultivate awareness. This leads to you more easily identifying the little things in your life that you have to be grateful for, or that make you happy. That once-a-month girls’ night out, playing with your children, walking the dog, watching your garden grow, snuggling on the couch with your husband. Chances are, you’ve got it pretty good, you just don’t set aside time every day to remind yourself. Yoga helps you be more aware of all the great things in your life and teaches you to access the feelings of gratitude and contentment you experience when you “count your blessings”. This means that even when something doesn’t go right (late for work, didn’t bring an umbrella, kids are home with the flu) you’ll have a stable foundation of contentment that will help you keep your stress levels and your emotional responses under control.
So what are you waiting for? Go find a class at your nearest fitness center or yoga studio! Many places offer a first-class-for-free deal or serious discounts for new and prospective students, like “10 classes for $10” or “One month of unlimited classes for $20”.