1. You have better flexibility and mobility.
This one may be obvious, but it’s worth mentioning because, hey, you may not have been able to touch your toes or connect your hands behind your back before practicing yoga. But being able to do that isn’t the only benefit to getting bendy.
Because yoga has a ton of postures that are performed to improve flexibility and build muscular strength, it also retrains our deep connective tissue, says Emilie Perz, a yoga movement therapist and teacher in Los Angeles. “Stress and anxiety can leave our tissues tired, tight, and stuck,” she explains. “[But] yoga focuses on whole body movement and awareness, so we can often use the poses to release and lengthen these chronically tight regions.”
Not only does this mean more flexibility on the outside, but you can also retrain how your body’s tissues hold together, Perz adds. The way to do that is with a consistent practice. “From more mobility to better posture, the poses themselves are a potent tonic that wakes our bodies up and moves them more freely through space,” she says.
2. You might lose weight.
If you’ve always thought that high-intensity yoga classes were the only way to lose weight, it’s time to retrain your brain. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with those styles—and research shows Ashtanga, Bikram, and Iyengar varieties can be particularly effective thanks to their aerobic tendencies—a study from the American Journal of Managed Care found that a restorative practice can also be effective in lowering that number on the scale.
In the study, researchers divided a group of overweight women into two groups—those who took regular restorative yoga classes, and those who participated in stretching sessions, both of which lasted for 48 weeks. Those in the yoga group didn’t bust out any hard-core postures or speedy flows; researchers said the classes focused instead on relaxation and stress reduction. Poses were held for long periods of time, measured breathing was emphasized, and meditative music was played.
With all that in mind, you’d think weight loss wouldn’t really be the end goal. But this group lost significantly more subcutaneous fat (the kind that sits directly under the skin) than the stretching group did in the first six months and kept it off longer. So, this just goes to show that it’s not always about going hard-core all the time.
3. You could get better at other workouts, too.
Listen, no human being is interested in one thing and one thing only. So it’s OK to love yoga but also love bootcamp. Or running. Or touch football. Whatever your passion is, Perz says, it’s likely that a regular yoga practice can help you perform better. “Repeating postures gives [deep connective tissue] more buoyancy and adaptability, which allows our muscles to fire more effectively,” she explains. “This means practicing yoga daily may also help improve our performance in other exercise modalities.”
Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you have to start doubling up your workouts all the time. On days you have another routine on the schedule, a quick 10-minute flow in the morning could be just what you need to get your body (and mind) in prime condition, Perz says.