The 20 Benefits of a Regular Yoga Practice
Updated: Apr 8
Table of Contents:
Sitting at my desk thinking about this blog post I want to write and share about the benefits of yoga, I find myself lost in my thoughts and questions… The benefits of yoga, there are so many of them, where should I start? And all of a sudden, I saw a flashback of myself reliving that same exact moment of confusion a few years earlier while writing my yoga essay/thesis for my first yoga teacher training in 2013…
We are now in 2021 and I therefore decided to reopen the doors of the past by going in search of this essay.
As I re-read these lines, I realized without surprise that the basic benefits felt and described back then were the same as my students and I were still experiencing today. Thus, I made the decision to share an extract of my words and feelings with you from 9 years ago (time flies!), thinking this could resonate with you.
If this is not something you want to read, I invite you to scroll further down to find the bullet points that sum it up..
“[…] 1/ The global benefits:
Yoga strikes me as a holistic discipline with both physical and psychological effects, but in general, since I started practicing, I have felt a strong sense of well-being. This feeling tends directly to oppose the fatigue and stress I felt on a daily basis before I started practicing yoga two years ago. Indeed, the state I was at this moment has gradually faded, over months of practice until it became part of the past. Today I am no longer confronted with stress problems, anxiety or even panic attacks in public transport or supermarkets. I also manage to take a step back from the stress related to my work and to inconvenience it creates in me.
The overall assessment is therefore very positive, I am very happy to have made the decision to "try" yoga two years ago.
2/ The physical benefits:
In some aspects, yoga (Vinyasa and Ashtanga which I practice) can be similar to a sport in the gain of flexibility, tone, strength, dynamism and balance that it offers during sessions and over the years.
When I started this discipline, I didn't expect to see my body evolve over time. For example, when an asana (yoga pose) was difficult for me to perform, I didn't think I could complete it for a few weeks or months. But when it happened, it gave me great satisfaction while teaching me to be more aware of my body, to accept it better as it is as well as to be more respectful and patient with it and myself.
While confronting my own limitations and weaknesses, yoga gives me a great understanding of my body which I feel important and necessary to acquire in order to achieve a certain balance in life.
Yoga also allows me release tension that can appear in my body, especially in the neck and shoulder areas due to my work, which is mostly done on a computer. I realize as I write these lines that it has been a very long time since I had pain or felt any discomfort in this particular area.
I thus experience the feeling of offering something healthy to my body, something that makes it feel good and that allows me to know it better and therefore to understand it better on a daily basis and during yoga practice.
This better control of the physical aspect of myself allows me to calm the mental aspect in a way that I cannot really explain. I realized through the practice of yoga that these two spheres were closely related and tended to interact with each other to achieve appeasement. And this is where the very definition of yoga makes its sense: union of body and mind.
3/ Psychological benefits:
The positive, harmonious and respectful thought in which yoga is a part attracts me so much it seems right in certain aspects (in particular the inscription in the present, the awareness of the Self).
Yoga allows me to refocus through the combination of breathing and performing asanas. When I practice, I put aside my brain and its incessant thoughts. I then feel a sense of soothing, calm and serenity that it was very rare if not impossible for me to approach a few months ago.
Another new and extremely appreciable feeling for me it’s the consideration of the present moment. This notion of stopping, of suspending the passing time, the minutes and hours which pass during the practice and which prolonged afterwards, is a total discovery for me who was always in anticipation, thinking of the next day, the future, the desire to always move further and faster. Thanks to this awareness, I realized that I was able to better control and manage my daily life in the sense that I hurry less and less while accepting the lapse of time that it is necessary for me to perform a task. In the end, I have the feeling that I do things better because I do them more conscientiously.
4/ During practice / on the mat
The practice of yoga immerses my whole Self in a state of great captivation / attention, I am 100% in it, concerned, focused.
This state gives me an inner emptiness that I appreciate a lot and which begins at the beginning of the session (when reciting OM or mantra) and lasts a certain time after the end of the session. During this time, I have the feeling to come out of my head, out of my thoughts, to be free and unhindered.
When I first started practicing Vinyasa, I remember being surprised by my ability to ignore the environment around me, other students, the heat, the smells, etc. to focus only on what the teacher was saying and my personal practice. It gives me a real breath of fresh air, a new breath, as if I regenerated myself with each session.
Today I try as much as possible to make this feeling of relaxation, opening of body and mind that I feel after the sessions last and last, because it is so pleasant and beneficial to me.
5/ Daily life benefits:
Over the months, I have noticed that the practice of yoga has a real and tangible effect on my daily life. This work on myself in which yoga immerses me and the benefits associated with it tend to be prolonged and carried over into everyday life.
These repercussions, initially minimal and unconscious, have over time become obvious and considered, even intentional on my part. Their inclusion in various and varied registers (moral, ethical and behavioral) once again demonstrates to me the strength, interest, and usefulness of this discipline and continues to surprise me day by day.
The first observation that I realized is that of self-awareness in my environment which is based on a better connection to what surrounds me. Concretely, this materializes by:
Better concentration whether at work or in my interactions with others. I feel more present, attentive, awareness and receptive.
Better management of daily stress inevitably results. I feel less affected by my work, by my failures. Yoga helped me gain some distance, which was necessary to control my overly perfectionist, harsh and demanding side of myself. Today I accept failures, I realize that I cannot do everything, succeed everything and that is calming. I feel freer from all superficial and illogical pressure.
More passivity / taking a step back from the inconveniences of everyday life. Faced with a delay in the subway or train for example, I no longer feel any panic. I focus automatically, instinctively on my breathing for my breath clouded my mind.
In short, I put things that are happening much more into perspective. I don't think I am as much direct action as I used to be, but more reflective and tolerant while being more calm, collected and far-sighted. I am grateful to yoga for allowing me to discover and experience this.
The second concerns my posture itself, which I have seen changed by surprise in different situations. My positioning and in particular that of the torso has changed: my shoulders now instinctively move downwards, my spine is straighter / longer. These effects are noticeable not only at my workplace (I notice that my neck doesn’t pull me at the end of the day and that I have less and less headaches from standing a correct distance from my computer screen) but also in public transport.
Finally the third concerns my breathing, which has improved in the sense that I no longer feel as much as before or even very little feeling of shortness of breath during physical activities. Another very beneficial thing that I have noticed is the gradual decrease in the lack of oxygen that I felt in anxiety-inducing places (underground transport and supermarkets). These states of panic are now part of the past, yoga taught me to master them, to control them by an awareness of my own breathing, as well as a state of calm, of relaxation that I am able to apprehend today.
Thus, yoga is for me a vector of short and long term benefits that bring me real well-being. Among other things, yoga has helped me to take back 'possession' of my body or at least to recover it by helping me to know it better.
This reconnection with my body is something that I never imagined possible through this practice when I first started yoga. And I am sure that there are other benefits to practicing yoga that I am not aware of today, that may come to light with long term practice. I have the feeling that this is a source of immeasurable benefits that makes me want to continue today. […]”
If I schematize, here are the 12 first benefits that I noticed 9 years ago after two years of practice (and which are still proven today):
1. Improved strength, balance and flexibility
2. Relief of body tensions
3. Reconnection with the body
4. Perfection of posture
5. System relaxation
6. Improved breathing
7. Stress reduction and better management
8. Relief of anxiety
9. Better concentration, focus
10. Development of mindfulness
11. Peace of mind
12. Increased self-esteem, inner strength, confidence
Today, with nine additional years of hindsight, I can add other major benefits to this already great list. Some that I have observed, felt and experienced on myself or through my students. Then there are more subtle ones that are supported by science and which I can only assume to exist since I personally have not been confronted with them.
13. Improved back pain
By gently strengthen the muscles in the back (the muscular network of the spine), as well as the abdominal muscles, a regular yoga practice can greatly reduce or avoid back pain.
14. Better sleep pattern and quality
Through a combination of developing mindfulness, awareness and regulation of breathing, physical movements involving stretching and relaxing muscles, a yoga practice leads to deeper sleep, less sleep disturbance. and better sleep efficiency.
15. More energy and brighter moods
Yoga increases the energy levels in the body and helps bring more agility and stamina over a period of time which can eventually allow you to enjoy life more.
16. Connects you with a supportive community
One benefit that I never thought of before practicing yoga is the feeling of belonging to a community. Even if the practice is individual, each on his mat, the beautiful encounters and connections are real.
17. Promotes healthy eating habits
The development of mindfulness does not occur only at the bodily level, it tends to develop in all aspects of daily life and the way we eat too. Mindful eating is a concept that encourages paying attention to the taste, smell and texture of your food and noticing any thoughts, feelings or sensations you experience while eating.
18. Boosted immunity
The different, varied and even unusual movements and positions of yoga practice help to increase lymphatic drainage which helps elimination of toxins and fight infection.
19. Better relationships
A regular yoga practice can helps develop a sense of community as well as friendliness and compassion. And if you decide to dive a bit deeper in the yogic philosophy and to apply some principles that yoga is based on (non-violence (ahimsa), truthfulness (satya), righteousness (asteya), wisdom (bramacharia), simplicity (aparigraha), worship of the spiritual goal (ishvara-pranidhana), sacrifice the ego (shaucha), self-discipline (tapas), reading (svadhyaya), contentment (santosha)), your relationships may improve.
20. Improved health in various ways
A regular yoga practice may reduce inflammation, could improve heart health (by a drop in blood pressure), may fight depression (by a decrease in the level of cortisol), could reduce chronic pain (by improving flexibility, reducing inflammation, and helping people cope with their pain mentally), prevents cartilage and joint breakdown (by taking the joints through their full range of motion), protects your spine (by keeping your spinal discs flexible and supple), better the bone health (by doing weight-bearing and strengthening postures), release tension in your limbs, and much more to discover!
To sum up, practicing yoga on a regular basis (at least 3 times a week) improves quality of life. It certainly did with mine and I cannot be thankful enough through myself for deciding to push the doors of this yoga studio in 2009 to find some peace and quiet time/to relax! I had no idea it was going to change my whole life for what I perceive right now to be the best that could happen to me.
In the same way that yoga has transformed my life, I deeply wish that it could help transform yours.
NB: all these benefits come with a regular practice with a minimum of 2 to 3 yoga sessions a week