If you ask people practicing yoga what kind of benefits they feel, they will share with you the ones they are experiencing directly. There is an endless list of benefits that yoga can provide you with, and among those, every yogi has its favorites. However, with the regular yoga practice, more than just a few benefits of yoga reveal themselves to yogis, among which there are always the most desired ones.
Here are the top 5 benefits of yoga that will make you unroll your yoga mat on a regular basis:
- Yoga increases your oxygen intake
- Yoga enhances your mobility
- Yoga leads to better sleep
- Yoga improves your concentration
- Yoga builds your willpower
This article will explain in detail why these benefits are yogigo favorite, how they impact the body, and which easy yoga asanas you can do to benefit from this practice.
Yoga Increases Your Oxygen Intake
Most athletic movements lead to anaerobic respiration in the body, where the muscles work without sufficient oxygen. This anaerobic exercise often leads to muscular soreness and “bulking.” On the other hand, yoga is perhaps the only intense physical activity that doesn’t lead to anaerobic respiration.
As you’re aware, most yoga asanas emphasize proper breathing to allow oxygen into the body and make movements easier to perform. Yoga also focuses on various types of breathwork to increase oxygen levels in the body. Finally, it’s crucial to focus on your breath and inhale even while meditating.
Every aspect of yoga is related to the breath, focusing on deep inhalations and long, slow exhalations. Breathing this way helps eliminate carbon dioxide and increases oxygen levels in the blood.
Oxygen is the fuel our body utilizes when performing any activity. It powers every cell of our body. The rise in blood-oxygen levels is the reason you feel energized and refreshed after a yoga session, even when the session is physically intense.
Increased oxygen in the body correlates to higher energy levels, and it’s easier to get things done when you have a surplus of energy.
Yoga Enhances Your Mobility
Regular yoga practice is an effective way to combat the natural stiffness that often sets in. Unlike other intense physical activities that often shock your nervous system, yoga gently stirs up the nervous system, improving the mind-body connection.
A wholesome session with various asanas can help loosen up and mobilize the joints, allowing oxygen and energy to flow freely throughout the body. As such, a session puts you in touch with different segments of your body, allowing you to feel and be more aware of how your body operates in unison.
Yoga helps remove the initial resistance when you plan to perform a task by improving mobility. Often, we get lazy because our bodies aren’t ready to move and tackle the task at hand. We can effectively fight procrastination that sets in when we sit still for too long by mobilizing the joints.
Yoga Leads To Better Sleep
Sleep is nature’s answer to repairing cells in the body and brain, so we feel rejuvenated enough to apply ourselves fully the next day. And yoga can help improve sleep, even allowing us to enter deep sleep states where intense restoration happens.
Some studies have found that regular yoga sessions can improve sleep quality and reduce sleep disturbances, leading to deeper states of relaxation when we sleep. This deep sleep state allows us to wake up with more energy every day, making it harder to feel lazy.
Here are a few ways yoga helps improve sleep:
- Practicing yoga involves mindfulness, and mindfulness has been found to increase melatonin, a hormone that induces sleep.
- Yoga is an intense form of physical exercise, and vigorous exercise is essential for good sleep hygiene.
- Yogic breathing is known to align our body’s processes, leading to a state of internal harmony, which is essential for deep sleep.
- Mental practices like meditation and positive thinking banish anxiety, which can impede sleep and even cause insomnia when left unchecked.
- Yogic relaxation practices like savasana can help us sink into a state of deep sleep if we perform this technique before going to bed.
By allowing us to sleep better, yoga will enable us to recover effectively from a hard day’s work, repairing and refreshing our cells, so we have more energy the next day.
Yoga Improves Your Concentration
This remedy may surprise most people, but enhanced concentration is a sign of a healthy mind. An unfocused mind tends to wander as you cannot stay on a task for any period.
Most of us tend to shy away from seemingly challenging tasks without concentrating. Instead, we’d rather procrastinate than get started on something we aren’t committed to.
However, improving our concentration can reduce the anxiety or burden we feel when we begin a challenging task. And yoga can help significantly boost engagement, with your ability to focus gradually increasing as you deepen your practice.
Now let’s look at some of the components of yogic practice that help you stay focused:
Mindfulness meditation involves observing the thoughts that pass through your mind without becoming attached to them. It would be best if you focused on your breath, noticing the inhalation and exhalation while naturally allowing thoughts to pass through your mind.
As such, this mediation involves three things:
- Picking up on a thought that enters your mental space,
- Noticing when you’re getting too absorbed in the thought,
- Gently bringing your awareness back to your breathing.
While most people think of meditation as not having thoughts, the most crucial aspect of meditation is catching yourself when you drift off and returning to your breath. This practice strengthens your focus, allowing you to transfer this mindset to other activities in your life.
Asanas are yogic postures designed to target specific body areas while bringing your awareness to these areas. Each posture has its breathing pattern, and you should ideally hold each pose for five breaths.
The act of breathing and staying mindful while performing a particular pose improves focus as you can’t afford to pay attention to the constant dialogue in your mind.
Regular asana practice also greatly enhances willpower as sometimes you need to perform challenging postures that may be uncomfortable and even painful.
Sinking into any pose is challenging without the required focus, and by repeating the movements, you can build concentration.
Yoga believes that ‘breath is life,’ and the quality of breath determines the quality of life. As such, you’ll find several breathing exercises to help achieve specific desired effects. These are:
- Alternate Nostril Breathing, Nadi Shodhan Pranayama calms down the mind and balances energy between the brain’s right and left hemispheres.
- Bhramari pranayama, a Humming bee breathing technique, can be done anywhere due to its simplicity. It instantly releases the tension and mitigates headaches.
- Bhastrika Pranayama boosts the energy just in a few rounds of this practice. It brings back focus and concentration.
- The power of Surya Bhedana pranayama lies in boosting energy levels, stimulating the brain, and giving some extra heat to the body.
While each technique has a different effect, all breathwork in yoga requires a fundamental element – uninterrupted focus. Regular yogic breathwork helps build focus, making it challenging to experience laziness, especially when you’ve got to get something done.
Yoga Builds Your Willpower
Regular yogic practice helps to build self-discipline. Stepping onto the mat, performing asanas, meditating with your eyes closed, and regularly practicing specific breathing techniques helps to build discipline.
With discipline, it’s possible to do things when they’re supposed to be done and not put them off till later. As such, it’s impossible to find a disciplined.
Aside from building discipline, yoga enhances your willpower tremendously. Willpower is the ability to control one’s actions and urges.
Beginning a regular yoga practice isn’t as easy as you’d think. It takes some willpower to roll out the mat and step on it every day.
However, even one session where you go through a flow of asanas can help enhance your willingness to perform other essential activities, even if they’re unpleasant.
Additionally, yoga helps stir up the fire chakra – associated with willpower and resolve. Performing particular postures and breathing exercises can help build the fire element in your body, known to burn away old patterns, to break bad habits and instill new ones.
Easy Yoga Asanas To Begin a Yoga practice
Now that you’ve read how yoga can help, let’s look at some specific yoga asanas that are not complex but very effective, accessible to yogis of any level, even children.
Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation)
The Surya Namaskar, known as Sun Salutation, is one of the most popular flows in yoga. This flow has a couple of variations; thus, the yogi can choose the easiest one or more challenging (Sun Salutation sequence B from Ashtanga yoga practice), depending on the physical level. Even if you don’t have a regular yoga practice, going through a few repetitions of this flow can significantly improve your quality of life.
The (simple) sun salutation consists of 12 yoga postures. It is a gentle flow, and you can perform it as the first thing you do in the morning for the best results. The best part about this movement is how it awakens the spine, allowing energy to pass through the entire body.
A few repetitions will quickly mobilize the joints, improve blood flow, increase oxygen levels, and put you in a more focused state of mind, all of which can help increase the energy in the body.
To learn the Sun Salutation properly, follow the instructions on YouTube video from the Art of Living Foundation:
Vrikshasana (Tree Pose)
Vrikshasana is perhaps the most effective balancing posture to instantly bring you into a state of focus and banish that lie-around-doing-nothing mindset you may be experiencing.
It’s quite a simple pose to perform and can be done even by those without experience. Here are the steps:
- Stand on one leg.
- Raise your leg and fold it so your legs form a figure four.
- The sole of your raised leg should be resting either above or below your other knee.
- Join your hands and bring them above your head to complete the pose.
- Ensure you breathe while you’re in this pose.
- Repeat the same with your other leg.
When you perform vrikshasana, it’s best to choose a point of focus and keep your eyes there as you breathe in this posture. You also want to press into the ground with your supporting leg, and focusing on balance will help steady the mind and improve concentration.
Check this video with a comprehensive explanation of how to do Vrikshasana below:
Virabhadrasana (Warrior Pose)
The warrior pose looks pretty straightforward, but it can be pretty challenging to perform.
The warrior pose is especially effective in banishing lethargic feeling as it requires significant focus to sink into the posture. Additionally, the warrior pose warms up the body and helps to increase your fire element, improving willpower.
This yoga pose has many variations, but practicing Warrior 1 and Warrior 2 will be already sufficient. Run through Warrior 1 or both variations of this pose in the morning, and you’re less likely to feel distracted throughout the day.
The difference between Warrior One and Warrior Two is the placement of the hands, position of the body, even the head. Both asanas strengthen the muscles, encourage good circulation, and energize the body.
Check both videos below to see how to perform both poses correctly:
Virabhadrasana 1: The Warrior One:
Virabhadrasana 2: The Warrior Two:
Taking time for regular yoga practice, even if as little as once per week, will lead to noticeable results: better mobility, improved sleep and concentration, increased oxygen in the body. No need to perform challenging yoga asanas to reap the benefits of yoga. Simple yoga poses performed mindfully and with awareness will improve the quality of your life.