If you'd have told me when I was 14 that I'd become a self-confessed yoga addict I wouldn't have believed you. I wouldn't have even thought I'd ever own a yoga mat, let alone more than one!
A few years ago I was at an unhealthy point in my life, both in my body and in my mind. I hated exercise so rarely did any, I didn't understand about nutrition, I didn't like or appreciate my body so didn't treat it well, I was unfit, I suffered with back pain and I was crippled by depression, anxiety and horrendously low self esteem.
One day I decided to try yoga, I wish I could remember why and how I managed to find the effort to do it but I'm so unbelievably happy and thankful that I did. Yoga has become a hugely important part of my life, it's helped me feel stronger, it's aided me in my journey to self-acceptance and self-love, it's taught me to be more mindful, I've become less anxious and I feel like a light in my spirit was switched back on. I'd go as far as to say yoga changed my life, which is why I endlessly encourage others to start practicing because I no doubt it'd benefit every human being on this planet and I'd love more people to find the joy in this art that I have. However, people can be very judgmental, skeptical or even turn their nose up at the thought of yoga, to some it's 'just stretching' but I promise there's a whole load more to gain from regular practice than purely increased flexibility.
2. Yoga protects your spine. Keeping the discs in your back supple is extremely important, especially as you start getting older. Yoga poses that involve backbends, forward bends and twists really help that and can prevent back problems later on in life. I mentioned earlier that I used to suffer from back pain and I can happily say I no longer do! It used to be so bad I wouldn't be able to stand for more than half an hour or so without suffering with a dull ache that would lead to agonising pain, but now I work somewhere that requires me to stand for a good nine hours sometimes and it doesn't phase me.
3. Yoga increases blood flow. Yoga aids circulation by getting more oxygen into your blood cells. Twisting poses wring out venous blood from the legs and pelvis to flow back to the heart where it can be pumped to the lungs and freshly oxygenated. All this reduces the risk of heart attacks, strokes and kidney problems.
4. Yoga helps you focus. During your practice you should focus on the present - yoga helps you remain in the present moment instead of dwelling on the past or stressing about the future. This is so important for general happiness and mental health, as well as improving co-ordination, reaction time, memory and even IQ scores with regular practice!
5. Yoga is good for the bones. We all want strong bones, don't we? Yoga requires you to light your own body weight which strengthens the bones and also reduces a stress hormone that's not good for bone health.
6. Yoga is a natural anti-deprasnt. Yoga helps raise your levels of amino acid GABA which is vital for a well-functioning brain and central nervous system. It also helps to promote a feeling of calm inside the body. Low GABA levels are associated with depression and anxiety.
7. Yoga is a real workout. While yoga can be very relaxing, it can also be pretty tough and it can leave you sweating. There are different forms of yoga, so whether you're after a soothing meditative practice or something that's going to get your heart pumping there's a yoga flow for you!
8. Yoga relieves anxiety. Feeling anxious is something we all experience, maybe you suffer with an anxiety disorder or perhaps you just get anxious occasionally due to work stress or home life, either way yoga can help. Yoga has the ability to relieve tension and lower cortisol levels - which leaves you feeling calmer or much more relaxed. It also teaches you to breathe more deeply and focus on the present moment, helping you find clarity.
9. Yoga aids digestion. Good digestion is key for a healthy body - it means you can absorb all the amazing nutrients from food better and you won't be left feeling bloated or sluggish, you'll have loads of energy too and are less likely to feel down. Yoga is amazing at stimulating your internal organs, and certain poses like like cat-cow help to massage your intestines and bring fresh blood to your cells. Twisting poses are particularly amazing at releasing toxins from the body.
Now, do you see why I'm in love with yoga practice? Hopefully this has inspired you to roll out the mat (or just jump on a towel!) and get flowing.
I love to follow YogaWithAdriene on Youtube - her yoga videos are simply wonderful.