Yoga can be a completely spiritual experience for some, a physical experience for others, and could contain elements for both for many. Contrary to the opinions of a lot of people, yoga isn't some meditative experience connecting you to a god you do not know or believe in. Because the concept of this practice is so foreign to many people I know, I wanted to highlight the benefits of yoga.
Flexibility: I am a living testament of how much more flexible your body can become from consistent practice. If you put in the right amount of work, the progress is phenomenal.
Strength: Because you require so much strength to lift and hold yourself in awkward poses, you build muscle strength, especially in your upper body and core. All those planks and downward dogs? Yes, they count.
Muscle tone: Strength is great, but it doesn't stop there. Doing yoga is like strength training for your muscles and so you actually develop muscle tone as well. Who doesn't love that? :)
Focus: For me, this is a big piece. Yoga requires that you focus internally on your breathing, which is not as easy as it sounds. But as you get more comfortable clearing your mind and focusing on your breath, you realize it starts to get easier to maintain your focus on other things in your daily life.
Spiritual connection: Most yoga practices promote meditation. That's what it was built on. But this meditation is very personal, and allows you to connect with your body, your mind, and with what spirituality means to you. For some, that means a god or gods; for others, it means connecting with nature; and for others, it means quietly connecting with themselves. Just like prayer means different things to different people, so does meditation in yoga.
Stress relief: I think this is related to releasing muscle tension and constant meditation, but most people that practice yoga consistently are less stressed out in general.
Sleep: Yoga (and exercise in general) helps you sleep better as your body's systems - circulation, digestion, etc. - just work better. Plus, when you are less stressed and your muscles are less tense, guess what happens?
Posture: Also a result of released tension in your muscles and the proper alignment brought on by many yoga poses, your posture improves when you practice yoga consistently. What does that mean for you? Less stress on your spine, neck, shoulders and knees, which leads to a lower probability of issues with these areas as you grow older.
There are so many more benefits, and some are super-medical, but these are the biggest for me. I hope it pushes you to at least try yoga out!
Cheers Eights & Weights!