5 Surprising Benefits of Yoga

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When I decided to take my first yoga class, I knew it would help me to stretch and reduce stress. I even knew that there were a slew of supposed health benefits, too. (Of course, it’s hard to believe that all of these things can be true until you experience it yourself.)

But after just a few months of practicing, I noticed benefits I never even realized were a possibility from doing a few guided stretches and breathing exercises on a piece of PVC.

Here are the 5 benefits of yoga I found most surprising:

1. Compassion. Who would have thought that a physical practice could help me feel compassion and understanding for myself and those around me? Yoga philosophy tells us that we’re all one, but it’s the experience of many bodies moving and breathing simultaneously that I think really created that understanding for me. I realized that we’re all just doing the best we can in life. There’s something very liberating about that mind-set that can melt away ill-will, competition, and petty disagreements like nothing else.

2. Mindful eating. I am not a health-food yogi. In fact, at one point in my life, my daily diet consisted of little more than chicken fingers, French fries, and soda. But after a just a few months of yoga, I found myself craving leafy greens. Yoga changed the way I ate because I started to pay more attention to how the food I took into my body affected me. I still eat my share of junk food (I do love a good cupcake!), but thanks to my yoga practice, it’s an occasional treat instead of a daily habit.

3. Strength! I was shocked when I realized how much strength it took to get through a yoga class. I was even more surprised by how quickly how strength-building poses that were once incredibly difficult for me got a little easier. I wasn’t just getting more flexible–I was becoming stronger, too!

4. Confidence. It’s one thing for someone to tell you that you can do anything you set your mind to. It’s another thing to actually experience it for yourself. It takes a lot of time and determination to stand on your head, hold the weight of your body on your hands, or even just to consistently unroll your mat to practice. But once you’ve experienced it, you really start to believe you can do anything! You also start to see a beauty in yourself that you never knew was there. For me, this translated into a boost of confidence that I really needed. 

5. Better relationships. What do you get when you mix a little heightened awareness, a dash of compassion, a pinch of self-confidence, and a smidge of positivity? The ability to relate to people in a more meaningful way. And that means you get a stronger network of friends, confidants, and supporters. Of all the benefits I’ve reaped from my yoga practice, perhaps this is the most valuable of all.

What benefits have you noticed from the practice that would have surprised you when you first started out?

Erica Rodefer is a writer and yoga enthusiast in
Charleston, SC. Visit her blog, Spoiledyogi.com,
follow her on Twitter, or like
her on Facebook.

Erica Rodefer Winters is a writer and yoga teacher in Charleston, South Carolina. Visit her blog, Spoiledyogi.com, follow her on Twitter, or like her on Facebook

23 responses to “5 Surprising Benefits of Yoga”

  1. chris

    Calmness. I notice how much more even and level my emotions – and my physical body – stay when faced with major upset or sudden problems. I still mentally acknowledge what is happening but I FEEL completely different and can respond from a place of calm. It’s wonderful…and it’s all yoga.

  2. Daphne

    Yoga strongly reinforced that life is a never-ending journey of improvement. You may plateau, but there’s always somewhere better to go.
    It has also taught me that we always surprise ourselves. It has made me push myself physically and mentally in a way few other things have. My ability to focus has improved so much, I’m still amazed, and hungry to get better.

  3. Cath

    I’ve began to go off eating meat. And more recently after stepping up mu yoga practice, I suddenly have felt the need to switch to chemical-free/more natural products, both in terms of what I’m putting on my body (cosmetics, shampoo, etc, etc.) and what I’m using to clean my house and clothes.

  4. Cat

    Patience! Which is closely associated with “living in the now.” I attribute this to learning to hold a challenging pose without wishing it were over, and of course, the deeeeep breaths.

  5. Jodi

    Calmness yes, and finding a place of inner peace with no judgement or expectations. That I’m ok just the way I am.

  6. Marie

    I started doing yoga 30 years ago for back pain when I was a racing cyclist. My main goal then was to ease pain that was it. Now, after years of cycling and swimming, yoga is all I have been doing for about 7 years. I am much more fulfilled as a woman and an athlete doing this practice everyday. I find I learn something new everyday! It gives one an overall feeling of health because you become so concious of how you treat your body.

  7. ntathu allen

    Bliss. Inner peace and sense that no matter what crap (excuse language) i am going through, it is only temporary and will eventually pass….one wbreath at a time.

  8. Anne

    I lost 45lbs. after struggling with my weight since childhood!!! Yoga helped my embodiment which translated into mindful eating and a willingness to address some of the issues which were underlying my overeating. I’ve begun focusing my practice as a clinical psychologist on helping others deal with their weight and eating issues and I always recommend yoga! http://www.annedinkelspiel.com

  9. Dee Farms

    Took first class at 70. Loved it. Natural height shrinking with age. Yoga reversed it and I gained a quarter on an inch. Still have that quarter, too, at 80.

  10. Gary

    I had increasing issues with numbness on the bottom of my feet that had become increasingly worse over the last few years to the point where I had very little feeling left on the bottoms of both feet. After 4 weeks of practicing yoga 5-7 times a week, I started regaining the feeling back in both feet. I continued seeing improvement over the next 2 months to the point where I had regained total feeling back in both feet. I am extremely grateful.

  11. Linda

    I have been practicing yoga for about 15 years and 7 years on a daily basis, I am still amazed at how my body reacts to every posture and how I get better at it every day. I practice yoga for themind body spirit benefits, I cannot imagine my life without it. My yoga practice has also helped with my Reik practice. My back is grateful for yoga and so am I !!! Namaste !!!!

  12. naba

    one more benefit ov yoga is glowing skin!

  13. Dave C

    I ‘ve been practicing yoga for 2-3 months now. Even though I find yoga pretty strenuous and challenging I find that I really look forward to my yoga sessions! I plan to stick at it and it’s an important part of my life transformations.

  14. Prahlad

    For me, Yoga is not just ‘Yoga’ it is ‘Yoga’ & “Meditation’. When I commence my yoga practice, I will be haunated with various thoughts that surface in the mind. I gently observe them, let them go, and focus on my Breath. In my entire one hour plus Yoga session, I am indeed meditating and that feeling just cannot be expressed in words, when I finally lie down in Shavasana and begin to observe my Body as completley different from my Soul!

  15. Anouscka

    Fearlessness…

  16. Nat

    For me it was a deeper understanding of myself and the realization that I can do anything I want. Also a sense of calmness, relief from anxiety, reduction in fear, and better sleep. All of these things were just a list on a page to me, until I started noticing them for myself. I believe in myself so much more and am in a better mood. I can find the good in the bad and am a lot more optimistic. Even my digestion and posture has improved. These are all things I would have never believed to be possible from doing yoga!

  17. Ayurvedah1

    I like your article regarding the 5 benefits of yoga, if only it both people in a relationship did yoga and benefited from it. Think of the dynamic differences that could be accomplished in a relationship!! ElanVeda has a great blog where they had a series regarding yoga and you dosha. Kind of ties in with this blog post. For me, yoga brings me lots of great strength, mainly physical!

  18. adan lerma

    surprising benefits for me?
    hands down, increased awareness that stretches across disciplines into dance, art, elastic band work, writing, and so much more
    the other items listed, compassion, etc, are super super important, but the integrating awareness of yoga with so many other enjoyable beneficial activities, wow, that’s been great, thanks!

  19. Jessica

    Energy! Yoga gave me more calm and peacefull energy instead of the stress/anxiety energy. Also it helps keep my fybromialgy away and accepting it. I’m 20 years old and i’ll still be doing yoga at 100!

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    Yoga help relieve the stress of my day and bring well-being to my life.

  22. Jenny B

    Healthy, glowing skin. I don’t know if it’s a coinidence, but my skin is flawless, I look awake and fresh. Perhaps it’s to do with the fact that I also sleep better, but even so, I am happy!!!

  23. lisa

    i agree 100% with all of these!! you put the incredible benefits of yoga into words so well, and that means a lot to a yoga-lover with an english degree ;)
    i’ve definitely gained awareness. one of the foundations of yoga is being fully present, fully conscious to your internal and external environments. i’m much more in touch with my thoughts & emotions, and can therefore separate the “mental sewage” from the good stuff. i’m also much more in touch with my surroundings; i notice things that i would never have noticed before my “yoga consciousness.”
    the little, happy/positive things in life now have much more of an impact. even the drive to work can be awe-inspiring. (and i’m not trying to be corny here; it’s true!)
    also, i’m able to let go of the the little, insignificant/negative things that would have trapped me in a polluted perception before yoga. awareness gives you space to breathe deeply and see clearly.
    thanks for the awesome article!!! :)