The Top 6 Health Benefits Of Doing Yoga Daily
This meditative, holistic practice shifts our body into self-awareness. Through yoga we learn how to slow down, simplify, and live from the inside out. What better way to practice self-care than by tuning in to your body’s needs? Let me share with you my self-care-through-yoga journey.
1. Boost Mood And Confidence
If you’re looking for a self-care habit that simultaneously increases your confidence, then you’ve come to the right place. You know that incredible, super-hero feeling you feel after a particularly well-flowed yoga session? Well, if you don’t, you’re missing out. The psychological factors of yoga are linked to an increase in overall positive feelings as well as self-compassion.
For me this boost in self-confidence is mainly due to the fact that I’m able to see progress so quickly. If I really push myself on a certain pose for just a few minutes every day, after two weeks I’m able to see major improvements. This gives me the confidence I need to start my day on the right foot. By feeling empowered on the mat, I feel empowered off the mat. I leave my flow with a clear mind and increased levels of GABA – the chemical that boosts our mood. Isn’t that what self-care is all about?
Certain yoga practices and active meditations such as breathwork with movement and varying combinations of postures have the ability to affect the region of the brain associated with self-control. This act of self-care helps you stick to your plans and resist certain urges. Just the commitment to a daily practice has the potential to build your self-control awareness. Overtime this can lead to a variety of small-but-significant improvements, from eating one less donut to resisting the urge to press the snooze button.
I noticed for myself that when I started committing to my daily yoga practice, I was more content with myself. I felt strong-willed in my decisions throughout the day. On the days that I start my day off with a yoga flow I feel more inclined to eat clean and treat not only my body with respect but also my inner-self.
3. Yoga For Stress
One of the touted benefits of yoga is its stress-relieving power. Yoga is essentially a meditative method to train our bodies to deal with stress. Stretching ‘stresses’ the body which results in a rise in cortisol levels (the hormone related to stress). As we relax our bodies into a particular pose and breath into it these levels return to normal. This trains our nervous system so that the next time that our stress hormones are up, our body is more easily able to intuitively bring them back down. These reduced stress levels have benefits of their own. A reduction in stress can lead to lower blood pressure and improved brain functioning.
On a personal level, the ability to cope with stress is tangibly a result of my morning yoga practice. It trains my breathing and helps relax my muscles. I’m able to start the morning in a serene state which sets the tone for the rest of the day.
4. Let Go
This might sound like a contradiction to benefit #2 (increase in self-control) but bear with me. In each stretch and pose, there is a limit to how far we can go; how far we can reach. Just because I can visualize myself touching my toes with my forehead flat on my knees, doesn’t necessarily mean that my body will let me get there. While we should be pushing ourselves as far as we can, we also need to know when to let go and relax our bodies. The reality is that the next time I do this stretch I’ll be able to get further than I did last time.
Letting go has almost an elastic band quality to it. It reminds me of Eckhart Tolle’s famous words, “sometimes letting things go is an act of far greater power than defending and hanging on”. We can’t always be in control of things around us, and if I’ve learnt one thing from yoga it’s that while you need to exert effort, you also need to know when to let go, breath, and just feel. If that’s not self-care I don’t know what is.
5. Improve Brain Health
As we’ve seen so far, yoga provides more than just the physical benefits. In fact, most of the benefits are psychological. Yoga has the unique ability to boost BDNF levels. This protein, Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor, helps the growth and overall survival of our neurons. This helps our bodies to potentially fight various illnesses from depression to even Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s. This isn’t surprising as it basically just proves the fact that yoga is associated with the preservation of brain tissue later in life. That’s a pretty strong correlation between BDNF, yoga, and overall brain function.
The truth is, that I see these improvements in my brain health on a small scale pretty regularly through yoga. Let me clarify: when I don’t do my daily yoga practice my brain moves sluggishly. Whether that’s by being more forgetful than my Zen-yoga self or just not being able to focus properly, I can feel a noticeable cognitive difference when I skip my daily practice.
6. Listen To Your Body
Movement on the mat has a way of helping us to understand our bodies. You’re able to figure out exactly where your body holds tension and how to release it on any given day. This mind-body connection is then taken off the mat too. We’re able to listen to our body’s needs and experience a strong connection with it because of the affects of our yoga practice. Overall, this means that we’re more in tune with our body’s needs on a regular basis. One of the most beneficial ramifications of this is that we know exactly when to practice self-care.
The moment that I came to realize this most was when I was on the mat, flowing away, completely Zenned-out, when I felt a sharp pain in my back. I was so in tune with the stretch that I didn’t realize that I was pushing my body too hard. It was then that I realized how important it was to connect with my body and understand it on a physical and psychological level. In respecting my body’s limitations, I was better able to practice self-care.
I try to start every day with a yoga flow, but the truth is that it’s equally beneficial to end your day with some poses to de-stress from the day’s events. Whenever you decide to practice, the benefits above are just a few that speak to me daily but there are many more! If you need somewhere to start on your self-care journey and a bubble bath just won’t cut it, then yoga is the place to start. They call it ‘flow’ for a reason, try it for yourself and see!
“Yoga is not about touching your toes, it’s about what you learn on the way down” Judith Hanson Lasater