“You’ll feel good, OK?”
Unfortunately, that simple yet effective benefit of yoga isn’t always good enough for some in today’s world who seem to be willing to consider giving it a try but are curious “what’s in it for me?”
It’s OK – we live in a world where quantifying everything we do is accepted and even important, whether business or pleasure. Most modern workplaces can’t exist without spreadsheets that track any sort of possible return on investment for all products and services. Even our personal pursuits such as exercise can now be tracked and analyzed to high degrees with tools like smart watches and phone fitness apps.
So it’s natural that yoga, as timeless as it is, can be put under the same “What, specifically, do I get out of it?” magnifying glass. The good news is that the answer is “plenty” of long-term benefits if you start it and keep at it, and some good things that came come right away.
Here are five examples of some of the nearly instant improvements.
- Relaxation. Taking time to isolate yourself from the world wherever the class is held, can be wonderful. By nature, the studio can be a calm and soothing place where the only thing you hear is the voice of your instructor – no background noise, no chatter, no ringing phones.
The simple tranquility and requirement to concentrate only on moving and breathing in rhythm can be a valuable way to charge one’s batteries anytime of the day. Once your brain starts realizing that yoga can create a temporary stress-free zone, it may even start craving that peacefulness.
- Muscle strength. Some longtime practitioners report many positive mental and physical improvements after years of active yoga. But one Harvard study showed that things can start improving as early as eight weeks.
People who practice at least twice a week for 180 minutes over a two-month period reported greater muscle strength plus improve endurance, cardio fitness and flexibility. It especially focused on people who were sedentary, which means they were anything but active in any other fitness regimens.
- It can improve concentration. When you focus on the physical acts of yoga positions, it can free up one’s mind to work on solving other challenges. Hatha style, which focuses more on repetitive physical motions rather than energy flow, has been connected to improving memory.
A study from the University of Illinois showed that people who went through 20 minutes of Hatha yoga received higher scores on tests and brain functions immediately afterward, especially when compared to people who went through 20 minutes of high-impact aerobics or even basic exercise like jogging.
- Reduction of pain. A study shared by the American Pain Society showed that people with chronic neck pain who tried yoga noticed less intensity of this pain after four weeks of yoga. The program and observations continued, and they reported that the intensity gradually decreased.
Greater flexibility is also a possibility: it’s common knowledge that the stretching, holding and releasing muscles tasks in yoga can lead to improvements in the future. How soon? Less than a month, according to a study of young people reported to the National Institute of Health. The study focused on those who performed Bikram style.
- Weight loss. A study in “Diabetes Care,” a health industry journal, said that yoga in combination with treatments for diabetes care showed significant improvements, compared to someone who tried diabetes treatment only, and someone who didn’t try anything at all.
What was especially interesting was that as early as three months, participants in yoga classes reported that their body mass index dropped along with their overall weight.
When researching yoga and yoga-related activities, it’s clear that there’s never a bad time to start something that can become a healthy habit for any stage of your life. The fact that some dramatic improvements can start to be seen after a few weeks or months makes it even more positive.