The benefits of yoga appear in many forms. A-listers swear by them in glossy articles. Your eccentric, but well-intentioned friend won’t stop rattling off how they “changed her life” (and, by the way, won’t you check out her bohemian handcrafted jewelry from her Etsy store she just opened?). Meanwhile, you’re left wondering how something that’s been around for more than 5,000 years receives the same treatment as half-eaten plates at brunch and Starbucks cups scrawled with sharpie on your Instagram feed. You’re not alone — yoga has taken on a life of its own here in the States, with more than 20 million Americans practicing. And, you might be surprised to find that it’s much more than a trendy fitness regimen practiced with overpriced spandex shorts.
Let’s take a step back in time when yoga made its first appearance in Northern India: cuneiform tablets were the “Good Morning America” of the Bronze Age, the chariot was Mesopotamia’s Uber and JC wouldn’t be the face of Christmas for another 3,000 years. It served as a spiritual discipline to unite oneself with a higher consciousness. And, as it continued to stretch in popularity, Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism religions added to the metaphysical flame. In fact, yoga was practiced entirely by men until Indra Devi, now considered the mother of Western yoga, made its formal introduction in a tiny Los Angeles studio in 1948. Today the yoga you might associate with Jennifer Aniston’s rockin’ bod is otherwise known as Hatha Yoga, which combines physical yoga with mindful breathing and meditation. Chances are, you’ve already taken up Hatha Yoga if you’ve ever had a class with Ashtanga, Vinyasa, lyengar or Power in the name.
Medical breakthroughs have revealed the medicinal effects of yoga therapy, leading many schools, prisons, and homeless shelters to adopt it. The believed medicinal effects of yoga include alleviating pain associated with terminal illnesses, reducing the intensity of emotional disorders for veterans, and helping individuals achieve their weight loss goals. If you needed any more convincing to begin your journey with yoga today, below you’ll find a short list of five millenia’s worth of research-backed benefits.
Physical Benefits of Yoga:
• Increases flexibility by supporting connective tissues
• Releases pent-up muscle tension
• Improves strength and balance
• Enhances immune system performance
• Corrects back posture while reducing back pain
• Regulates cholesterol production
Mental Benefits of Yoga:
• Improves focus
• Calms brain activity to improve sleep patterns
• Reduces severity of anxiety and depression
• Stimulates important brain functioning for improved critical thinking skills
Spiritual Benefits of Yoga:
• Encourages meditation and reflection
• Strengthens sense of self-awareness
• Builds appreciation for the people and experiences around you
It’s never too late to to start your journey to a higher self through yoga. Not sure where to begin? Try our 30-day Yoga Pose Challenge for Beginners!