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Benefits of Yoga

This Expert Explains Why Yoga Should Be Part of Your Self-Care Routine in 2018

Self-care is the new name of the game. You can't feel healthy and happy without some quality time with the most important person in your life: you. While self-care looks different for everyone, there are some general practices that can bring good to just about anyone. POPSUGAR spoke with Ashleigh Sergeant, certified yoga teacher and head of yoga content at GAIA.com, who laid out all the reasons you should give yoga a shot in the new year, no matter how flexible you may be.

"Yoga is a lifestyle that brings a whole host of physical and mental benefits," Ashleigh told POPSUGAR. "A consistent yoga practice (even as little as 15 minutes a day) will strengthen your body, sharpen your mind, boost energy, and bring some calm and peace into your life."

Ashleigh cited a recent national survey showing that "Americans who practice yoga are healthier in many ways, including improved sleep, healthier eating habits, and increased motivation to exercise more regularly, among many other benefits." You can't argue with that!

"Yoga can help with digestive issues because it calms the parasympathetic nervous system, which governs the body's capacity to create homeostasis and balance."

The whole purpose of self-care is to reduce your stress and to lay out a healthy daily routine that will help you feel your very best. Ashleigh says yoga can do just that, because it's "proven to directly impact your stress and anxiety levels." Regularly practicing yoga can also "reverse stress-related changes in genes linked to poor health and depression."

Other physical benefits include a stronger immune system (to fight off the cold that seems to going around) and better digestion. "Yoga can help with digestive issues because it calms the parasympathetic nervous system, which governs the body's capacity to create homeostasis and balance," Ashleigh explained.

As you put together your own personal self-care package for 2018, consider adding some yoga into the mix. You don't have to go gung-ho and practice every single day. You don't even have to leave your house to do it! Even practicing for a few minutes at home will get you closer to reaping the benefits.

If you've tried yoga before and you just didn't like it, perhaps you haven't found the right style of yoga or the right instructor. "Some beginners assume all types of yoga are the same, but that isn't the case," Ashleigh explained. "If you take a yoga class and do not like the specific style, you shouldn't assume yoga is not for you. Not all teachers are the same, and there are many styles of yoga that create different experiences."

You may want to try Yin yoga, which features postures that are held for a longer amount of time, Vinyasa yoga, which is focused on flow and movement, or Hatha yoga, which is basic yoga postures without the flow that comes with Vinyasa. "It can take a few classes to find the right fit for your intention," she said. "Stick with it and you will find the right teacher, style, and flow for you."

"I highly recommend a daily yoga practice for everyone, from beginners to advanced practitioners."

One common mistake Ashleigh sees people making when they're just starting with yoga is that they "jump right into hard-core physical hot yoga or fast, power practices." She recommends starting with a beginner yoga practice so you can learn the basics, prevent injury, and set yourself up for a long-lasting, sustainable practice. "You will reap the benefits of yoga quickly and safely — even without dripping sweat."

"I highly recommend a daily yoga practice for everyone, from beginners to advanced practitioners," Ashleigh advised. "I personally recommend beginners start with GAIA's brand-new series Yoga Every Day: The Beginner Series, which is designed especially for new yogis." This 10-class series is available on Dec. 22, and it gently guides you through the foundations of yoga — and the best part is, you don't even have to leave your house!

Consider adding more yoga to your New Year's resolutions list, because your self-care routine will likely be more powerful and well-rounded than ever.

Image Source: Franz Steiner Photography
Product Credit: Model Credit: @jessicaolie
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