Yoga is good for you! Well, actually to say that yoga is good for you is a bit of an understatement. In my job, I have seen cripples and supposedly handicapped people re-gain their ability to walk through yoga. I have seen depressed and even suicidal people find happiness through yoga. And I have seen absolutely average people become absolutely average happy and healthy people through yoga. The countless health benefits of yoga are what have made it so popular not only in India or the US, but all over the world. But let's keep it simple here. You don't have to be physically challenged, unhappy or obese to experience the health benefits of yoga.
This is the most obvious one. Yoga is great for this funny vehicle that you are using to carry your brain around. Yeah, your body! Yoga improves your flexibility, strength, muscle tone and definition. Yoga poses, and the flow from pose to pose, lengthen and stretch your muscles so they become and stay long and lean. What comes in quite handy here is that this has the additional benefit of increasing your metabolism and burning fat. Yoga also has a great effect on your energy, reinvigorating you for or from the day.
There is nothing like a little 20 minute yoga session before taking a shower in the morning. It gives you an absolute energy burst and is an awesome start into your day. In fact, if you practice yoga for 20-30 minutes every morning, chances are that you won't need any other exercise at all to stay fit and balanced. Also, by increasing your strength and flexibility, you are preventing your risk of injury, and gradually correcting your alignment, especially in the back. Thus your posture is also improved as you go further along in your practice. Herniated disc? So not going to happen!
Internal Organ Function
This one is actually not very well known. Yoga is great for your bodily system functions, gently massaging your organs and increasing their activity levels. Even yoga exercises for beginners can have great effects on your digestion, blood circulation and the cardiovascular system in general. Yoga is also known to have positive effects on your endocrine system, respiratory system (especially through the practice of pranayama or breathing exercises), and your immune system. Thus, a continuous and consistent practice of yoga lowers your blood pressure, cholesterol, and sodium levels.
Scientific studies have even shown that yoga makes you sleep better. Additionally, a side effect of yoga is the detoxification of the body, cleansing your body of impurities. This eventually results in what could be called a sort of anti-aging. Did you notice that yogis often look very young for their age? Well, that's the reason.
Stress Reduction and Other Mental Benefits
The reduction of stress levels is one of the most popular benefits of yoga. And it really is true. More than any other physical activity, yoga is great for those who are constantly tense in their mind and or body. Because part and parcel of practicing yoga is meditation, a serious and honest session involves achieving mental calmness and inner peace. It sounds cliche and many people focus on the physical benefits of yoga (which is totally ok), but I would never want to miss the meditation and relaxation that yoga gives me.
It also lights that creative spark within you - re-awakening your pineal gland and enhancing your imagination. Even if you don't meditate, yoga really alleviates your mood significantly, making you feel generally happier while reducing anxiety and depression. It even sharpens your concentration and memory, because when you do your poses you are more focused mentally and more aware of yourself, your body, and your surroundings.
Without any exaggeration yoga is one of the most holistic exercises you can get in terms of physical, mental and spiritual well-being. The different parts of your body work in perfect harmony with each other, which is just plain good for you (provided that you practice it correctly and responsibly). As with any other workout out there, you have to keep one thing in mind though: to see any long-lasting effects, you should be practicing yoga regularly (check out this article if you want to know more) and follow a healthy diet and lifestyle. It is also important to not overdo it and over exert yourself in your practice, otherwise you might lose some or all of these benefits.