June 21st is International Yoga Day. On this day and all year long you can use yoga to connect your mind and body and discover a more holistic approach to your overall health and self-discovery.

Yoga has been around for several thousand years. It’s a combination of controlled, deep breathing, a series (or flow) of stretches and postures, and the practice of mindfulness.

While there are many different types of yoga practices, they all share a common goal — to achieve mind and body alignment and overall well-being. Those who have practiced yoga for many years can speak to the calmness or sense of having a weight lifted off their shoulders after each session.

Finding time for daily practice is especially impactful, but this doesn’t mean you have to set aside a huge chunk of time to accomplish this. Even 15-20 minutes a day will yield positive results.

This month, take some time to discover the many physical and mental benefits of doing yoga. Whether you’re new to building a practice or a lifetime yogi, you’ll appreciate the boost of positive thoughts, improved physical well-being, and long-term effects of yoga.

1. Yoga Improves Your Flexibility and Strength

Improved flexibility is one of the health benefits of yoga that’s the first and most obvious.

When you first start doing yoga, you may not be able to touch your toes, never mind do a backbend. But over time, you’ll notice your muscles gradually loosen, and even the most difficult of poses will become possible.

You’ll also feel relief from aches and pains. Tight muscles can lead to strains throughout your body — a tight hamstring can impact your lumbar spine while tight hips can strain your knee joints.

As you’re improving your flexibility, you’re also strengthening your muscles, which does more than just make you look good. When you build up your muscle strength you protect yourself from conditions like arthritis, bone loss, and back pain.

Yoga helps strike a balance between flexibility and strength — if you only went to the gym and lifted weights, you’d potentially build muscle strength at the expense of flexibility.

2. Yoga Helps You Manage Stress

More than 75% of American adults have reported feeling symptoms of stress. While short-lived moments of stress can lead to productivity, long-term effects can negatively impact your body and mind.

There are a number of mental health benefits of yoga, but the most prominent is its ability to help reduce stress. Yoga encourages mental and physical relaxation which relieves tension and alleviates negative emotions.

Yoga also promotes the release of mood-boosting endorphins, the feel-good hormones that can positively affect your ability to handle stress. Endorphins also help manage physical pain, which can lower your stress levels.

Focusing on the present moment during your yoga practice also centers your mind and enhances your awareness. You may find it easier to let go of negative thoughts and cultivate more positive feelings.

Remember, the physical practice is just one aspect of yoga. Meditation, breathwork, and auditory rituals can also help significantly reduce stress.

3. Yoga Boosts Your Immunity

Yoga is so important for stress management because stress affects every part of your body, including your immune system.

When you’re stressed your immune system’s ability to fight off illness is reduced. Stress lowers the number of lymphocytes (white blood cells that fight off infection), making you more susceptible to viruses.

When you stretch out your muscles, move your organs around through different poses, and come in and out of postures, you increase the drainage of lymphatic fluid. Lymph fluid helps absorb fats from the digestive tract, remove waste, destroy foreign invaders, and promote healthy cellular functioning.

Because the lymphatic system depends on gravity and tissues contracting to squeeze fluid through your vessels, yoga poses that involve twists and inversions are best for boosting your lymph flow and immunity.

4. Yoga Helps Decrease Feelings of Depression

Another important mental health benefit of doing yoga is its effectiveness in reducing depression. Traditional treatment for depression usually involves a combination of therapy and medication, but not everyone responds well to these types of treatments.

Yoga helps with depression because of its gentle, calming, and fluid nature.

Studies show that yoga can be just as effective as antidepressants and exercise in reducing symptoms of depression. Yoga can provide immediate relief and decrease the severity of depressive symptoms in the long term.

Yoga is a natural way to boost feel-good chemicals like GABA, serotonin, and dopamine, which are responsible for feelings of relaxation and contentedness. These neurotransmitters help stabilize your mood, make your mind sharper, and help you remain calm in moments of stress.

If you’re experiencing feelings of depression, be sure to still check in with a doctor to see what treatment plan is best for you. At the very least, yoga is an excellent supplementary option.

5. Yoga Can Improve Your Posture

Believe it or not, the average human head weighs around 11 pounds. That’s about the standard weight of a bowling ball.

It’s a significant amount of weight for your neck, shoulders, and back muscles to support all day. But when your head’s balanced directly over your straight spine, it takes much less work to hold it up.

Poor posture doesn’t just affect your neck, shoulder, and back muscles — as you slump your body may compensate by adjusting the natural curves of your spine. This can cause inflammation, pain, and arthritis.

Thanks to improved flexibility and strength, another significant physical benefit of yoga is better posture. As you practice, you learn to maintain the optimal curves in your spine. Standing and sitting poses are ideal for your spine health, as well as some inversions (like headstands).

Daily yoga also helps your sense of body awareness. This can help you notice more quickly when you’re slouching or slumping so you can readjust your posture.

6. Yoga Can Help You Sleep Better

Losing sleep doesn’t just make you want to reach for an extra cup of coffee, it can affect your thinking, mental health, and physical well-being.

Yoga benefits practitioners of all ages and abilities. Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, pregnant women, and the elderly are among subpopulations who reportedly benefit from a daily yoga practice.

Doing a few stretches before you call it a day can help you relax before you try to fall asleep. The breathwork involved in yoga stimulates your vagus nerve, which affects your parasympathetic nervous system. This controls your body’s rest function.

Practicing yoga before bed can also lower your heart rate, making it easier for you to drift off. And thanks to its focus on mindfulness, yoga can boost your levels of melatonin, the hormone that helps you sleep.

If you have a goal of using yoga to achieve a better night’s sleep, consider making a schedule of when to practice. This will help build a strong routine and train your body to go into ‘rest’ mode more easily.

Other Potential Health Benefits:

  • Maintains your metabolism
  • Weight loss
  • Improves cardio and circulatory health
  • Improves concentration
  • Back pain relief
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Increases blood flow
  • Helps ease pain
  • Improves self-esteem
  • Encourages self-care

If you’re just starting out with your yoga practice or want to add some new moves to your daily routine, here are some yoga sequences to try at home. You can also find endless videos on YouTube that fit your fitness level and specific needs.

Work Meditation Into Your Daily Routine

You don’t have to be able to stand on your head to get the health benefits of a yoga practice. Even simple stretches throughout the day or before bedtime can help you get more sleep, feel energized during the day, and take some stress out of your daily grind.

Don’t forget that a key element of yoga is breathwork and meditation, which you can add to your practice to elevate the benefits of yoga and your health even more!

The best part is: you can easily do this at home every day.

Pair your yoga practice with meditation for even more healing and relaxation >


This article is not intended as medical advice. Always check with your doctor before embarking on a health and wellness plan.

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