I am a total yoga lover. Nothing used to stop me from rolling out my yoga mat and jumping to class on two legs. You name it – hot yoga, heated vinyasa, power, kundalini, ashtanga or yin – I’ve fought my way through them (some harder than others).
It’s not just the benefits of yoga that keep me coming back — although according to the American Osteopathic Association, there are plenty of them (opens in new tab): improved mental well-being, better flexibility, reduced anxiety, increased muscle strength and tone, and injury prevention, to name a few. But for many yogis, finding a practice that connects mind, body and breath is the simple joy.
As a fitness trainer and author, I use my free time between yoga classes and CrossFit for strength and conditioning. It’s a balance I’ve rarely managed to achieve, so I decided to diligently devote myself to a daily yoga practice no matter what, morning or evening, for several weeks. Here’s what I noticed while lying down on one of the best yoga mats for home workouts and rediscovering the state of flow.
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You don’t have to be upside down or resembling a pretzel to discover the benefits of regular yoga. Showing up and trying it out can have a positive impact on your physical and mental health.
Research (opens in new tab) cites yoga as a type of “mind-body fitness” that could promote strength, flexibility, and balance, and improve circulation, increase oxygen delivery to your muscles, and improve muscle endurance and function. Through a series of deep breaths and slow movements, regular practice can even improve range of motion and bone and joint health, keep muscles supple, and protect you from injury.
Over time, and partly due to mainstream appeal, the focus has shifted somewhat, offering a more physical practice. You may have seen modern forms of yoga delve into faster, aerobic styles like power yoga that appeal to a wider audience looking for a workout. Wherever you are on the broad spectrum of yoga, having fun in your practice comes first!
I did yoga every day for two weeks – that’s what happened to my body
Here’s what I’ve noticed physically and mentally as I practice yoga more regularly.
I felt calmer
Research like this 2012 study (opens in new tab) of yoga students found that frequency of home yoga practice was a more important factor in measuring improvements in well-being, fatigue, and mindfulness than class duration.
I opted for a short but faster paced vinyasa yoga to start the day, or a longer yin yoga class in the evening that is restful and focuses on holding poses for several minutes to release muscle tension. I found myself feeling great after morning classes, but I couldn’t switch off to enjoy the moment.
That’s what meditation is for—training the mind to listen, acknowledge, and move on. But that only works with regular practice. I only tested this for a few weeks, but after the first week the future self started to shut down more and the present self started to relax. I’ve gone about my day with more clarity and feeling more energized than distracted, but I still have a long way to go.
My sleep hygiene has improved
Yoga classes before bed (this bedtime yoga routine with 14 million views is worth a try) has worked wonders for helping me unwind before bed. I combined this with a short 10-minute practice in night mode in the VR meditation app Tripp, which I found incredibly calming.
According to the Sleep Foundation (opens in new tab), blue light from electronic devices messes up your sleep cycle and keeps you awake at bedtime. The International Journal of Yoga (opens in new tab) found that yoga has a calming effect on the mind and better prepares the body for sleep. By focusing on breathing, your body can switch from flight or fight to the relaxed state of the parasympathetic nervous system, lowering your heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol levels.
After just 20-30 minutes of daily yoga, I felt more ready for sleep. The constant – who is writing to me? Do I have to reply to this business email? What class will I teach tomorrow? Felt less urgent and was more able to reach for sleep than my smartphone.
I felt more flexible
It’s amazing what yoga can do for your body. On a physical level, my range of motion feels noticeably better and my muscles are ready for action after just a short yoga session. I use yoga as a standalone practice, but 10, 20, or 30 minute yoga classes can be beneficial before or after strength training programs or cardio workouts to warm up muscles and increase circulation.
Yes, a longer yoga session gives your body more time to achieve depth and intensity in poses and stretches, and this produces similar results when lifting weights, but that doesn’t mean shorter exercises aren’t useful. You can still access yoga benefits in a short class, especially if you practice yin yoga. I found that 20-minute hip and shoulder-focused yin classes every other day helped release muscle tension, promote relaxation, and improve range of motion in the target area before lifting weights. It’s the most open my hips have felt in months.
Next: Improve your time on the mat. This $10 accessory improved my yoga routine and we tried a yoga with Adriene workout.
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