Squeezing just 15 minutes of yoga into your day can make a huge difference to your health and wellbeing.
1. Improve your flexibility
It may be a cliche but yoga is for every body not just the super-bendy. Practise some of the more well-known poses you've learnt in class and you will start to find that you become more flexible. Try Virabhadrasana (Warrior) I and II or downward dog. Yoga helps you stand taller and alleviates the aches and pains which may build up due to poor posture. This is also a wonderful benefit if some of your muscles are tight from doing other exercise. If you're a runner the chances are your hamstrings might be tight and so poses like Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (One legged king pigeon) can be brilliant, if a little challenging to start with.
2. Feel happier
Just 15 minutes day can start to change your brain chemistry. According to Yoga Journal, a new study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary medicine reports that yoga triggers the release of the brain chemical gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, a chemical in the brain that helps to regulate nerve activity. The findings establish a new link between yoga, higher levels of GABA, and improved mood.
3. Help with weight loss
This might seem a ridiculous claim for a practice that is perhaps less energetic than many of the alternatives out there. Yet the evidence is there. Yoga does help you lose weight but not in the way you'd expect. Over time tuning into the breath can increase mindfulness and the way you relate to your body. So, you might find that you will become more aware of what you are eating and make better food choices. This is certainly true for me. And, as for actually burning calories within your practice, have you ever noticed the heat generated from a Warrior sequence? In my classes we certainly have!
4. Reduce stress
The obvious one- and the reason why many people turn to yoga in the first place. Yoga trains your parasympathetic nervous system and, in time, your chronic daytime stress levels can drop. If you have a fitness tracker you'll notice that your resting heartbeat starts to fall which means your heart rate variability (hrv) has increased. When you're stressed your heart rate goes higher and stays higher. Again, tuning into your breath is key to connecting with your body to find calm, whatever is happening in your life. Relaxing asana like forward folds (Uttanasana) or legs up the wall (Viparta Kirani) are perfect to calm you down and you can feel their effects almost immediately.
5. Find more energy
So yoga can calm us down but the wonderful thing about it is it can also stop you feeling sluggish. If you've ever done Surya Namaskar (sun salutations) in your class you'll know how energised you feel. It makes you feel alive! This might be because it increases the oxygen flow in the body, giving your skin a glow and improving the capacity of the lungs. I used to be classed as an asthmatic and take a preventative inhaler every day. I don't do that anymore. Poses like cobra in this sequence open the chest and encourage the intake of more breath.
6. Improve your circulation
Yoga gets your blood flowing! Your cells will function better as a result of the increased oxygen flow, twisting brings fresh oxygenated blood to organs, and inversions reverse blood flow from the lower body to the brain and heart. Not only this, but yoga also increases haemoglobin levels in red blood cells, helping prevent blood clots, heart attacks, and strokes.
7. Boost your Balance
Do you dread Eagle (Garudasana) when your teacher announces it? Feel the sudden need to visit the loo when it's time to try Warrior (Virabhadrasana) III? Resist that feeling. Regularly practising yoga increases proprioception (the ability to feel what your body is doing and where it is in space) and improves balance. Better balance could mean fewer falls. For the elderly this could mean the difference between independence and a nursing home. Definitely worth the effort.
Just 7 reasons to do yoga on a regular basis- there are many, many more.