19 Reasons You Need Yoga in Your Life

By , SparkPeople Blogger

When I tell people that I practice and teach yoga, I hear one of two responses from those who've never tried it:

  1. "I always wanted to try yoga."

  2. "I could never do yoga because I can't (insert physical limitation here)."

My answer is always the same: "You should do yoga!"

It doesn't matter if you can't touch your toes. (I know many a yogi who have never touched their toes). It doesn't matter if you're not flexible, if you're not strong, not patient, not able to sit still. Everyone starts somewhere. Most people who have a regular yoga practice started right where you will--from the beginning. They're not dancers, not gymnasts, and not "yogis." They're just people who wanted to give yoga a try. They wanted to control their breathing, move their bodies, and find even a few moments of peace in this crazy life.

You should try yoga. You (yes, you!) should do yoga. You (I'm still talking to you!) should practice yoga. And I'm about to tell you why.
The yoga I practice is hard, mentally and physically. Ashtanga yoga combines strength, cardio, and flexibility, and most practices last 75 to 90 minutes. By the end, I've given everything I have. My muscles are exhausted, my mind pushed to the limit, and my body drenched in sweat. "Each morning, this practice rips me to pieces and rebuilds me stronger than ever," I told a friend last week.

When I started this practice five years ago, I was anxious. I was unhappy. I was flexible but not strong. I had never run a mile and certainly never imagined I would run half-marathons. I had never turned upside down. And I certainly couldn't hold up my own body weight using my upper body. I couldn't even do a single "chaturanga" (yoga/triceps pushup). Back then, my anxiety was so severe that I often couldn't make it through an entire class. I had to excuse myself to the bathroom to catch my breath and calm down. (But wait--wasn't yoga supposed to calm me down? Not to worry--it did, but not immediately.) Today I'm stronger than ever inside and out. If I can do it, so can you.

You don't have to do yoga my way. You don't have to practice daily, and if you do, you don't have to stay on your mat for a prescribed amount of time. All you have to do is show up and breathe. That's all. Movement is optional.

No matter your age, your physical capabilities, your current weight or your fitness goals, you should be doing yoga. (Talk to your health-care provider, especially if you suffer from any medical condition. I'm just a yoga teacher not a doctor.)

One of my teachers, Lewis Rothlein, says at the end of each class that "you can't do this enough. You can't do this too much." Whether you're taking one yoga class a week, spending five minutes mindfully stretching each morning, or doing something more, your body and mind will thank you.

Let's talk about why you (yes, you!) should do yoga*--as little or as much as you want.

  • Less anxiety and a better mood. A 2010 study found that practicing yoga just three times a week increased levels of chemicals in the brain that help combat anxiety and depression.

  • Less stress. An Ohio State University study found that long-term yoga might help you recover from stressful events more quickly.

  • Better control over medical conditions affected by stress. Researchers earlier this year theorized that yoga may be effective in treating patients with stress-related psychological and medical conditions such as depression, anxiety, high blood pressure and cardiac disease.

  • Better management of rheumatoid arthritis. Patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis reported significant improvements in their quality of life after starting a gentle yoga practice.

  • Better balance. The American Heart Association journal Stroke reported that post-stroke yoga may be able to improve balance, decrease fear of falling, and improve quality of. 

  • Less back pain. Back pain affects 31 million Americans (myself included), and it's recommended by the National Institutes of Health as a way to ease pain and stretch muscles. A study funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)  found that after six months of yoga, those suffering from low back pain had significantly less pain, disability, and depression. And another study found that just 12 weeks of yoga had a greater effect than standard medical care in those who suffered chronic or recurring back pain.

Whatever ails you, yoga can help. Other studies have linked yoga with improvements in the symptoms of Parkinson's disease, carpal tunnel syndrome, multiple sclerosis, migraines, and more.
Yoga has also been linked to:

  • Lower blood pressure

  • Mental calmness

  • Reduced stress

  • Increased strength  

  • Greater flexibility

  • Pain relief and prevention 

  • Better breath control

  • Less post-workout pain

  • More confidence

Whether you work out with a DVD, seek out a class in your area, or give it a go on your own, yoga can help you! Just remember what really matters in your yoga practice! Even Coach Nicole, who once confessed to being a yoga dropout now practices weekly!

See you on the mat. Why do you practice yoga? If you've not yet tried yoga, how could it benefit you?
If you're new to yoga, you might like to read:

*Will you experience any or all of these health benefits? There's only one way to find out! Give yoga a try--after talking to your health-care provider.

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I now enjoy yoga because it helps my body stay more flexible, I get physical activity in and I also meditate during this time. Report
PLCHAPPELL 11/11/2020
Makes a good case Report
CKEYES1 9/7/2020
I do yoga. Still have problems when on one leg. Report
KATHYJO56 6/4/2020
I have never liked yoga, but this is a great article Report
MUSICNUT 4/4/2020
Thanks for the great article Report
Thanks Report
Great reading. Thank you! Report
M’y daughter recently became a yoga instructor (hot yoga) and she has been telling me that I could do some also. I have started trying some positions, which she corrected. Thanks for the article. Report
Gonna give this a try! Report
I have never tried yoga, but after reading this article, I may give it a try. Report
Good to know Report
I agree! Report
I can still touch my toes, but the risk of falling is there. Report
I really should try yoga. Report
Great article! Report
thanks for sharing Report
yoga is a challenge Report
If I refuse to do something because I FEEL it conflicts with MY beliefs is my business and it is NOT ridiculous!! Report
Great article! Report
I need to get back to yoga. Report
fantastic Report
Great article Report
"See you on the mat." I wish I could get down on a mat. Report
When I am consistently doing morning yoga I feel more in control during the rest of my day. Report
Agree. I've just recently restarted a daily yoga practice on a beginner's level. It's a great way it build flexibility and calm into your life. Report

YES, YES, and YES Everyone must do yoga Report
I love doing yoga especially after lifting weights. It stretches my muscles and loosens me up Report
Presently I have both arms in casts but I still do some and enjoy my yoga. Report
Am currently attending a conference on dealing with trauma clients and the main speaker is Dr Bessel van der Kolk who is a major supporter of using yoga as a means for working through the physical manifestations of emotional traumas: it even builds and repairs the areas of the brain most impacted by these traumas! WOOHOO!!! Report
Since I started Yoga, I have a lot less chronic pain. My mobility has increased immensely and I love challenging myself in every class. Report
Yoga is great and incredibly hard! Report
I've been going to yoga classes for about 3 months now. I have less aches and pains, and I am getting slowly stronger. The biggest thing I've noticed is that my heel spur/plantar fasciitis pain is gone. The muscles and tendons in my legs are looser and not causing the pain I used to have. Report
I came 'this close' to not trying yoga. So glad I did! It's helped more than PT has for my back and knee. I go to a yoga studio 3 times a week. Think you can't do it? We have a fellow with Parkinson's, a few with bad knees, somebody in an ankle brace. I do go to a 'gentle' yoga class, not the Ashtanga that the writer describes. I may just work up to that. Oh, I'm 64, and my first friend at the studio is 73. Report
I do some yoga and I really like how the moves are relaxing and not hurried like other exercises. I will be doing more in about a month when i have more time to devote to exercising without having to rush Report
The "spiritual aspect" of yoga can be whatever you want it to be. To not practice yoga because of that is ridiculous. If you have been to a studio that pushes something spiritual that you are not comfortable with then you have found the wrong studio. Please try again. Yoga is about taking care of your body and being mindful of what is right for you and your body. Everyone's practice looks different. If you can breathe you can do yoga. There are practices that do not require a lot of space or special equipment. You may not be able to do every pose and that's why it's called "practice". I am not an expert by any means. I started yoga about 6 months ago when a new studio opened in my town. I had been looking for a place for some time. I found that there is a lot more to yoga than I realized and have enjoyed learning what my body can do. Namaste Report
I keep saying I'm going to try it and today think I will look up beginners yoga on sparkpeople. Report
After reading the blog to get up early and start moving, I dusted off my Namaste CDs. I'm so glad I did. The breathing and stretching has left me more alert throughout the day and I don't let the stresses of the day affect me so much. You don't need much space and you can even feel closer to whatever spiritual presence you choose. Report
I love how yoga allows me to challenge myself with poses but also be kind. I always felt taller, leaner, and stronger after practicing. It's also great for athletes and for improving your golf game (as I'm learning!). Report
This sounds like something I need to try - I need the flexibility and balance and well as the calming of the spirit. I'll be looking for a beginner's video next time I get to Barnes and Noble. Report
@ AMY SIOUX, from what I've heard about PraiseMoves, it's actually a great, milder stretching/fusion practice ... I have been into stretching for a decade longer than the 5 years I have been heavily involved with yoga--due to my orthopedic problems.

Any practice I would gladly engage in, would be active--without being vigorous.

I love my fusion practice and my pilates classes! Report
We started a class at work Report
I use yoga, tai chi, or qi gong routines at the end of my workout session to stretch and cool down. Also, if I am too short of time for a workout, I will turn to one of these more relaxing "workouts" to help me improve my balance (I have felt very off-center since my illness and surgery last year). The improvement in my strength and balance over the past month simply amazes me. Plus, as a state and local tax accountant (think sales tax and property taxes, not April 15), the added bonus of yoga and yoga-type routines is the ability to refocus and relax after a stressful day at the office. Report
I practice yoga on average 5x/per week (practice Tai Chi on the other two days), and have been practicing for over 6 years now. There have been times when I have not practices and I have truly felt "unbalanced". Report
NO, Yoga is NOT for everyone! My research fully supports the fact that you cannot separate the physical aspects from the spiritual. There are plenty of great exercises that can be enjoyed that are NOT yoga. You can find good ones at praisemoves.com. Report
Sounds like this is something I need to try. I have noticed that as I age, I am loosing balance and flexibility, also am fighting insomnia. Pehaps this is what I need to help me 'grow old gracefully'. Report
This was a great article and I plan to start a beginners' yoga program. Report
I've been doing yoga on and off for over 20 years. If it were not for these gentle stretches and movements, I would probably not be able to move today.

I can understand that some of the people posting here do not want to try yoga, because of the 'spiritual' aspects. I would like to say that I have had certain teachers whose classes I have 'excused' myself from during class because of their heavy focus on the spiritual aspect (for example, I am not 'into' chanting, ommmm-ing, etc.)

I am a believer and most of the last 20+ years, I have been actively involved in church ministry, pastoring churches, etc. and I just don't want to go 'there' when it comes to participating the eastern practices.

Keep looking around until you find a teacher with a belief structure and teaching style that agrees with you (either a class or dvds, etc.) or find an instructor or a video on youtube that will teach you how to do the moves properly, and then do them alone, in your own home.

Just don't miss out on it.

I do understand, but it would be tragic to let yourself miss out on such a great physical blessing due to overcomeable circumstances. Report
I don't know much about the spiritual aspect of yoga. I think that you just get more in touch with yourself. That opens you up to insights about what is going on around you and the occasional emotional release (crying, laughing, coughing, etc.) about something from the past. I've never had such a release but I know someone who did.

I did recovery yoga at a time when I was off work for carpal tunnel. My teacher was so awesome. She asked each student what their issue was and modified poses to allow us to get the benefit of the pose without stressing the body. My back, hands, and arms gave me problems.

It was amazing! Downward dog against the window sill/or chair, hamstring stretch against the wall. In my own practice, if I can call it that, I am aware of the modifications that I can make, and if I can't do a pose, I just fall into the old standby - child's pose. Report
Can someone help me understand the spiritual aspect of yoga that some people seem to have an issue with? I've been to a few yoga classes, grew up a Baptist minister's daughter and never felt like I was in a situation in any of these classes that threatened my beliefs or made me feel uncomfortable. Maybe I attended a "mild" yoga class? I believe one should be "spiritual" rather than "religious " anyway. I believe that when you are in a state of spirituality, you are truly one with God. Thank you for posting this article. It has motivated me to get back to yoga at least once a week Report
I have limited mobility because of what cancer has done to my body, but I have found a yoga DVD that works great for me, by Peggy Cappy and it's Yoga for Arthritis. She shows options to do it seated, with the support of a chair, or the traditional way, and you don't have to wrap yourself into a pretzel to do it. Report