Image by LorgaStudio/Pixabay.com
Two weeks ago, I started going to yoga again after a decade long break. I am trying really hard to love yoga! I am a runner! I like to be physically active and get a good sweat on in the process. Why in the world would I want to take time out of my day to practice yoga?
Well, I was quickly reminded after my first class how good it makes me feel. I am a very strong runner but over the years have lost much of the flexibility I used to have as a teenager. My first class was an eye opener to how stiff my body is. More importantly, yoga reminds me of the importance of breathing. I mean the really deep breathing that calms the body and mind. I am your classic type A personality who rarely takes a moment out of the day to rest and catch my breath. (I am sure some of you can relate!) I am on the go physically and mentally until my head hits the pillow at night. Of course, I know this lifestyle is not necessarily healthy, so now I am trying to bring a sense of calm and peace into my life.
Yoga has numerous benefits that can have positive impacts on both our physical and mental health (1-3).
Some of the many benefits of practicing yoga includes:
Increased muscle strength and tone
Improved respiration, energy and vitality
Maintaining a balanced metabolism
Cardio and circulatory health
Improved athletic performance
Protection from injury
Lessen chronic pain, such as lower back pain, arthritis, headaches and carpal tunnel syndrome
Developing coping skills and having a more positive outlook on life
Mental clarity and calmness
Increases body awareness
Relaxes the mind
Sharpens the mind
People have been practicing yoga for over 3,000 years and the National Institutes of Health states that yoga is a form of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) (4).
Yoga is a form of exercise that connects the mind and the body and involves a “combination of muscular activity and an internally directed mindful focus on awareness of the self, the breath, and energy” (4).
There are four main principles that make up the practice of yoga's healing system and includes:
The body is a holistic entity made up of interrelated systems
Individuals and their needs are unique
Yoga is self-empowering and engages the yogi in the healing process
The quality and state of an individual’s mind is crucial to healing
There are also numerous apps out there if you don’t want or can’t join a class. If going out and taking a class is a barrier for you, try an app or online program. (For example, FitOn provides many classes for free as does Yoga with Adriene!) They are very beneficial in giving you the instruction needed to flow through the various positions and with reminding you to breath. You may need to try several options or instructors before finding a program that feels good to you. The same is also true of in person classes. I have finally found a class that feels right for me. The teacher, the location, and the actual room speak to my soul.
To date, I have taken five classes. Yes, the downward facing dog is still a challenge for me, but I am determined to stick with yoga for the benefits that I know will come. I am looking forward to gaining more flexibility and to learning how to breath deeply again!
Get Outside, Breathe Deeply, and LOVE LIFE!
About the Author: Leanne DiMaio earned her Master’s degree in Applied Clinical Nutrition from New York Chiropractic College and a Doctor of Clinical Nutrition degree at Maryland University of Integrative Health. Leanne is passionate about helping others achieve their optimal state of health and wellness.
Last reviewed/updated November 14, 2023
1. The Benefits of Yoga. American Osteopathic Association. 2019. Accessed May 2, 2019 https://osteopathic.org/what-is-osteopathic-medicine/benefits-of-yoga/
2. Saeed SA, Cunningham K, Bloch RM. Depression and Anxiety Disorders: Benefits of Exercise, Yoga, and Meditation. Am Fam Physician. 2019;99(10):620-627.
3. Govindaraj R, Karmani S, Varambally S, Gangadhar BN. Yoga and physical exercise - a review and comparison. Int Rev Psychiatry. 2016;28(3):242-253. doi:10.3109/09540261.2016.1160878
4. Woodyard C. Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life. Int J Yoga. 2011;4(2):49–54. doi:10.4103/0973-6131.85485