This blog first appeared on: 13 Benefits of Yoga: How It Helps the Mind and Body ( Author: Elisabeth Scott, PhD

Many yoga benefits are physical, ranging from increased strength and flexibility to lower blood pressure. But a regular yoga practice also provides a variety of mental health benefits, such as stress relief and improved well-being, while increasing spirituality at the same time.

Certain poses can be done just about anywhere, and a yoga session can go for hours or minutes depending on your schedule. Enjoy the many benefits of yoga by engaging in this practice in a way that fits your lifestyle best.

Yoga derives its name from the word “yoke,” which means to bring together. And it does just that—bringing together the mind, body, and spirit. Whether you use it for spiritual transformation, stress management, or physical well-being, yoga’s benefits are numerous.

What Is Yoga?

The practice of yoga involves stretching the body and forming different poses while keeping your breath slow and controlled. This helps the body become both relaxed and energized at the same time.

Dating back over 5,000 years, yoga is considered by many to be the oldest defined practice of self-development. The methods of classical yoga include ethical disciplines, physical postures, breathing control, and meditation.

While it was first practiced in India, yoga has now become popular all over the world. Many companies understand the benefits of yoga in the workplace, recognizing that relaxed workers are healthier and more creative. Thus, they are sponsoring yoga fitness programs.

There are various styles of yoga, some moving through poses more quickly (almost like an aerobic workout) and others that focus on relaxing slowly and deeply into each pose. Some have a more spiritual angle while others are used purely as a form of exercise.

Woman doing yoga stretch

13 Yoga Benefits for the Mind and Body

The benefits of practicing yoga are numerous, promoting health in both the mind and body. Some of the most-recognized yoga benefits include:

  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Sounder sleep
  • Reduced cortisol levels
  • Improvement of many medical conditions
  • Allergy and asthma symptom relief
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Help with smoking cessation
  • Lower heart rate
  • Spiritual growth
  • Sense of well-being
  • Reduced muscle tension
  • Increased strength and flexibility
  • Slowed aging process

Yoga’s benefits are so numerous, it gives a high payoff for the amount of effort involved.

Yoga for Stress Relief

A little yoga in the morning, at night, or even during a lunch break can reduce stress. There are multiple ways that yoga works to lower stress levels. Studies show that yoga targets stress by lifting mood, allowing for increased mindfulness, and increasing self-compassion.

By improving mood, allowing us to focus on the present moment, and encouraging us to give ourselves a break, yoga is an effective stress reliever. Many popular techniques used to reduce stress are derived from yoga, such as:

  • Controlled breathing
  • Meditation
  • Physical movement
  • Mental imagery
  • Stretching

Yoga combines several techniques used for stress reduction, so it provides the combined benefits of breathing exercises, stretching exercises, fitness programs, meditation practice, and guided imagery in one technique.

For those with physical limitations that may prevent a yoga practice, simple breathing exercises, meditation, or guided imagery might be a preferable option and provide similar benefits.

You can also look for chair yoga, yin yoga, and restorative yoga, all of which provide relaxation and movement but are not physically challenging.

How to Start Enjoying the Benefits of Yoga

You’ll see more benefits if you practice yoga regularly, so choose a time each day to get on your mat. For people with certain physical limitations, chair yoga can be a good option. Some people feel self-conscious doing some of the poses. This is normal. Over time, your confidence will increase.

If you want to enjoy yoga benefits on a limited budget, it is possible to learn from a book or video. Another option is to look for a studio that offers donation-based classes. Online yoga classes may also be more financially accessible.

If you can, though, try taking a class in person. Yoga classes can be wonderful for beginners. You are surrounded by people of all levels of expertise and ability, and you will have someone talking you through the process and helping you to learn the correct form.

Aside from taking a class, there are several useful apps that can help you with yoga. Many provide tips to help you learn everything you need to know to make the practice a regular part of your life, enabling you to enjoy yoga’s benefits for years to come.