When you first start out with yoga you’re likely to experience some of the positive effects straight away. Your body feels more at ease, maybe a bit stronger, and you feel generally happier and more relaxed after class.
It is, however, after you’ve been practicing over a longer period of time that you realise your yoga practice has really started to influence your everyday life off the mat too. You notice your mind feels steadier, you feel more connected to your spirit, and a feeling of love for life just happens.
1. The benefits on your physical body
It’s easy to take the physical benefits of yoga for granted. They are perhaps not so ‘interesting’ as the more subtle benefits, but they’re such an important reason to keep it up as we get older.
Another main benefit for the body is improved mobility and flexibility. It was the main reason people reported taking up yoga according to research by Yoga Alliance. For me, the physical practice of yoga, is not about becoming as flexible as I can, or having the exact same pose as someone else – we all have different bodies – it’s about keeping my joints and muscles healthy, increasing or maintaining my personal range of movement, and allowing energy or chi to flow freely. As a result day to day tasks simply feel easier!
2. The benefits on your mind
Psychologists Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert of Harvard University studied people’s levels of happiness when they were focused on their task versus carrying out an activity while thinking about something else – having a “wandering mind”. Their study concluded that “wandering minds are unhappy ones”. “Mind-wandering is an excellent predictor of people’s happiness,” Killingsworth says. “In fact, how often our minds leave the present and where they tend to go is a better predictor of our happiness than the activities in which we are engaged.”
This is what yoga points to ultimately: to be here, now, in the present moment. Being present with the truth, with reality – whether you experience the reality as positive, negative or neutral – makes no difference. Being fully present for it, undistracted, calm and focused is what makes us happy.
3. The benefits on your spirit
When we learn to focus and we begin to show up for our experience of life, on and beyond the mat, our hearts usually begin to soften and open. We start to realize there is more to this life then the story of I, me and mine, my body, my thoughts, my goals, my dreams etc.
As Eckhart Tolle likes to say it