Yoga and Ayurveda are two branches of the same tree — both related to improving balance in life, promoting mindfulness, and helping you reach your full potential.
Practicing yoga improves more than just flexibility or balance, but when I first started making yoga a major part of my life many years ago, I never guessed that it would turn my life around in so many different ways.
Here are some of the cooler positive side effects of practicing yoga, and some suggestions of how you can best take advantage of them.
1. It helps you eat better
Since doing yoga regularly helps you be more mindful of your body and your needs, it also helps you make more conscious food choices.
Before I started doing yoga, I loved cheeseburgers and French fries. Once I started, I lost my taste for them and other fatty foods - a little later, I stopped eating all meat altogether and discovered surprising variety in healthier, vegetarian cuisine.
Want to eat better? Try making yoga a part of your everyday life. A recent study conducted by scholars at the University of Minnesota found that daily yoga supports healthy eating and helps to curb unhealthy food cravings.
2. It relieves stress
So many reputable studies have shown that yoga reduces stress and anxiety very effectively. Regular practice helps reduce overall tension, relax the body and mind, and release negative energy. With my busy life, yoga has been a serious lifesaver for my mental health.
Pranayama is especially key in reducing stress, with really immediate results. Next time you’re feeling stressed (and don’t have the good fortune of being located on your yoga mat), try focusing in on your breath and doing some simple breathing exercises. Once on your mat, a few sun salutations along with ujjayi breath will calm you down and help you get your focus back. Don't forget to give yourself plenty of time in savasana at the end of each practice.
3. It supports joint health
Yoga involves low-impact movement, allowing you to move and strengthen your joints without injuring them. When done regularly and correctly, yoga also helps strengthen the muscles around your joints so they don’t have to work as hard.
If you prefer to practice yoga in the comfort of your home, consider still going into the studio from time to time. Though yoga does help strengthen your joints, having improper form can sometimes do more harm than good - your instructor will help you adjust your positioning when necessary.
4. It’s good for your heart
Yoga can reduce high blood pressure, cholesterol, and stress, all of which can be major factors for heart disease. It also lowers your resting heart rate and increases endurance, both of which I’ve definitely noticed.
Though all yoga is great for cardiovascular health, try going to a Power or Vinyasa class at your preferred studio if you want to get your heart rate up.
5. It makes you more confident
Like Ayurveda, doing yoga helps strengthen your mind-body connection, giving you a better awareness for and acceptance of your own body. Practicing yoga is all about accepting where you presently are, without judgment. Yoga has helped me feel more comfortable in my own skin and feel connected to something bigger than just myself. That’s truly how we all deserve to feel.
6. It strengthens your immune system
New research conducted this year has found that regular, consistent yoga practice can be a helpful way to boost your immune system. That means that simply by doing yoga, you’ll be better protected from disease-causing microbes and get sick less often.
Restorative yoga is great for the immune system. To promote relaxation and fend off the flu this season, try incorporating a relaxing restorative yoga practice into your usual routine. Some recommend doing so at least once a week.
7. It improves your posture
Better posture prevents muscle fatigue and back and muscular pain. It promotes better balance and form while exercising, leading to fewer injuries and greater gains. Plus, it makes you look better and more confident. Since yoga has made me so much more aware of my body, it’s made me more mindful of my posture as well.
Mountain Pose is perfect posture - focus on it often to get your body used to how it should be carrying itself. Tree Pose and Cat Cow Pose can also help.
8. It helps you sleep better
Yoga has been shown to help you sleep better, especially if you experience insomnia. Over 55% of yoga users surveyed found that practicing yoga improved their sleep, and those results have been reflected in empirical studies as well.
Next time you can't fall asleep, try doing a few basic restorative yoga poses, such as Child's Pose or Happy Baby.
Yoga promotes physical, emotional and mental well-being in so many ways. Get those asanas going to find your balance — both on your yoga mat and in your life.