It’s no secret that the ancient practice of yoga, meditation and mindfulness has many benefits for physical, mental and emotional health. Benefits of yoga range from better sleep and bodily detoxification to deep spiritual awakenings. However, there are many more less common, but not less effective benefits of yoga practice.
1. Creating dream community that supports your growth
Have you ever asked yourself, why all the yogis are so happy? It’s not only because they practice asana, chant mantras and meditate. It is also because yoga creates community, and is seen as a welcoming, open and non-judgmental community. No matter the level or body type, everyone can practice yoga. Have you ever been to a yoga class where you felt extra welcomed and connected with the other students through the practice? Another great way to connect through the art and practice of yoga is by participating in more in-depth workshops or visiting a yoga retreat. Settings like these invite for getting to know each other on a deeper, heartfelt level.
2. Enhance self-love and get to know your true self
If you are a regular yoga practitioner, you know that the benefits of yoga practices reach far beyond the physical ones and far beyond the mat. If you use yoga as a practice of inner reflection and not just as a workout with some stretching, after a while you will sense some subtle but powerful changes within yourself. You will start realizing that you too are part of the divine and that there is a beautiful and immense power within you. Feelings of gratitude, empathy, love for yourself and others and forgiveness will become stronger.
On another note, through close self examination you also get to know your shadow side better, realizing where these parts of you come from. Accepting these sides of you and giving them love is important, as they are just as much part of your human experience as your positive sides.
3. Increased clarity and focus leads to productivity in your every day life
Yoga focuses on balancing the mind and the body by the means of asana (physical postures), meditation and pranayama (breathing exercises). When we focus completely on holding balance in a pose our minds sharpen and other thoughts are being temporarily removed. The same happens in meditation, where we aim for staying in the present and seeing things as they are. In pranayama we use our breath to guide us into our bodies and away from our mind chatter to increase focus. A boost in clarity and focus leads to better problem solving skills, as we are able to look at solutions from an undistracted mind.
4. Less stress, more happiness
Various medical studies demonstrate that yoga has a beneficial effect on stress reduction, as it is proven to lower cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone produced by our adrenal glands. Normally, cortisol is only distributed in the body in the event of an acute crisis that triggers our fight-or-flight-response, bringing us into our sympathetic nervous system. However, since we do not normally encounter life-threatening events in our everyday life anymore, smaller incidents can trigger the release of cortisol in our bodies. Yoga balances us back to our parasympathetic nervous system, the relaxed and normal state of our bodies.
5. Giving without expectations leads to abundance
One of the four paths of yoga is karma yoga, also called the “yoga of action“. Karma yoga draws on spiritual enlightenment and a sense of purpose in life through the act of selfless service. For karma yogis, every action serves as an offering of the divine without any desired outcome.
While the benefits might not be as obvious as in the previous arguments, giving without expecting anything in return liberates your mind, enhances unconditional love and therefore also gives you peace of mind, happiness and acceptance of life.
6. More happiness, gratitude and pleasure
While yoga not only reduces cortisol levels, it also leads to a significant increase in serotonin levels at the same time. Serotonin is our happiness hormone, known to decrease depression and boost mood. A study conducted at the University of Wisconsin found that in regular meditators, the activity of the left prefrontal cortex was heightened. This is correlated with greater levels of happiness and better immune function.
7. Taking the practice beyond the mat
Possibly one of the biggest benefits of yoga practice is that it doesn’t end at the yoga class. Have you ever heard your yoga teacher saying to take the practice beyond the mat and wondered what this spiritual sounding phrase means? Well, essentially it means creating mindfulness in your everyday life. Feeling gratitude for the little things in life, returning to the present moment more often with practice, pausing before reacting and becoming aware of yourself.
8. Dare to travel and transform yourself
Another rather unexpected benefit of yoga is travel. Dedicated yogis and those who wish to explore the roots of the ancient practices are encouraged to visit India at least once in their lifetime to experience the art of yoga in its birthplace. But also apart from India, a passion for yoga is a great ‘excuse’ to travel to exotic and undiscovered places. Yoga retreats offer you a great way to deepen your practice, meet new people, detoxify from everyday stress and connect to yourself and nature.
Written by Clara Malzer