Listing out all the benefits of a yoga practice, would not be possible. Indeed, I believe it to be so personal that anyone could come up with his own and very unique attribute to describe the transformation(s) they experienced through yoga.
Yoga is transformative, but not in the way that it will make you a new person but more so that it will take you back to whom you truly are, to your Higher Self, to Atman in Sanskrit. Hanson Lasater gives a great metaphor to explain this concept in her book “Living Your Yoga: finding the spiritual in everyday life”:
A sculptor doesn’t add anything to his sculpture, but he rather removes everything that is not the statue by carving the stone.
The stone could refer to the layers of doubts, fears, denials and mis-identities that keep us away from our True Self. Yoga helps us to reach a total clarity of awareness - awareness of our thoughts, emotions, sensations, speech, actions and energy by learning to observe and control them.
I’d like to share two of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, which reiterate the above:
Yoga regulates the fluctuations of the mind (Yoga citta vritti nirodha)
Then the True Self appears (Tada Drashthuh svarupe vasthanam)
The above is the essence of yoga, and although quite philosophical, it is for me one of the most beautiful benefits yoga can bring to one’s life. That being said there are plenty of other benefits, which come along a yoga practice.
See below how yoga has direct and indirect impacts on:
Your physical body as it will improve your flexibility, mobility, strength, posture and balance through its static and dynamic movements targeting all area of the body from head to toes.
Your body-mind connection while improving your coordination, your awareness of body parts such as the different muscles used in various movements, your proprioception and your concentration.
Your breath ! Through yoga and its pranayama (breathing exercises), you’ll learn to breath more efficiently as well as learn to control your mind through the control of your breath.
Your health: yoga is known for improving digestion, fighting depression, detoxifying the body, boosting the immune system and increasing blood flow amongst many other ailment treatments.
Your mood: yoga brings inner peace, helps with self-esteem, contributes to grateful feelings, lessens stress or simply makes you feel happy.
Your community: on top of your friends and family benefiting from a happier and healthier version of yourself, yoga will also bring you a new tribe of fellow yogis sharing the same values as yours, lifting you up and inspiring you to keep going on this transformational path. Yoga helps developing value such as compassion and empathy as well as service to others.
Your subtle bodies: through the meridians, nadis and chakra systems (to name a few), yoga helps the energy to flow through your subtle bodies, releasing tension in stuck areas.
Your approach to life: the yogic philosophy is about unity (within yourself as well as with the outside world through all beings and things), it encourages living in the present moment and emphasis the importance of discipline, patience, acceptance, non-attachment, perspective, etc.
You might get motivated to go to your first yoga class for a gentle fitness exercise but if you stick with it, you’ll start to develop all the other benefits and will make yoga part of your daily life.
Yoga is often described as a science or a philosophy of life because it encompasses a wide spectrum of tools and values to develop a deeper experience with the Self and the world. As mystical as it may sound, do not overthink it, a yoga practice is fairly simple and here is what you can expect from a yoga class:
A pause in your day to tune-in, a moment you want to dedicate to yourself,
A relaxed atmosphere with chill music, ambient lightening, sometimes studios will even burn incense, etc.
A gentle community and teacher,
Some motion and movement which could be passive or active depending on the style of yoga you sign up for.
Overall, yoga will make you feel good as it is both a great work-in and a great work-out!
This is it.