We’ve all heard that Yoga can have a big impact on your physical and mental health (you’ve probably especially heard this if you live with mental illness, as it’s often recommended as a a coping skill. But you don’t really hear many people talk about how those changes to your physical and mental health manifest.
I began my yoga practice about a year ago, and I started as a way to cope with the symptoms of my mental illness. I had heard it many times, from therapists, doctors, friends, and so on; so I figured “Why not?” There’s no harm in trying something new.
But what I didn’t know is just how true it was that yoga can have fantastic health benefits, beyond being more bendy and flexible. I gained quite a bit from trying yoga, and I gained much more from sticking with it.
Let me explain.
1. Lessened Anxiety
I will admit, I didn’t feel this as an immediate effect after a yoga session. However, after weeks of practicing, I started to notice feeling less anxious throughout the day than I did before. For me personally, I think it was the fact that a regular practice brought some routine and structure to my life, and it was something that made me feel good.
2. More Core Strength
I’ve definitely seen an improvement in my core strength. I’m no fitness model, but I did find that my belly was looking flatter, and does feel stronger. A year ago, if you asked me to hold a one minute plank, I probably would have laughed. Today, I can absolutely hold that and then some. My body as a whole feels stronger.
3. Muscle Gain in Arms and Legs
Which leads me to my next point. Before I began my journey with Yoga, I was sort of in a bad spot in regards to my mental health. And if you’re like me, many of us neglect our physical body when we aren’t in a healthy mental state. Long story short, I was very frail, malnourished, and weak. I’m not anymore. I’m capable of lifting things I never would have been, my thighs are built compared to what they were, and my biceps and forearms are much stronger than what they were, all thanks to beginning Yoga practice.
4. Less Trouble Falling Asleep at Night
Shoutout to Yin and Restorative Yoga! I’ve mentioned in other posts that I’ve had a lifelong on and off issue with Insomnia. Doing even 15 or 20 minutes of a slow paced, relaxing, meditative practice can make all the difference. It helps me declutter my mind, release any tension in my body from my day, and unwind.
5. More Acceptance of Current Life Circumstances and Stressors
Yoga has taught me to change what I can that I’m unhappy with, but also to accept what I’m unable to, and to be okay with that.
6. More Confidence in What My Body Is Capable of
I now know something that prior to this journey, I never would have known. I’m capable of making all of the changes I want to make in myself. If I want to set a goal of doing a headstand for a minute, I know that I can train to do that. If my goal is to be in Scorpion pose, I can work my way there. Our bodies are so much more powerful than we know; which may be the most important lesson that I’ve learned so far.