10 Surprising Things that Could Happen When You Start Doing Yoga

When you roll out your yoga mat for the first time, you probably expect to reduce stress and gain some flexibility but there's so much more to this centuries old practice. Here are just a few of the many benefits of yoga and reasons why you might want to start saying 'namaste.'

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You realize that yoga really is for everyone

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You may have heard a yoga teacher mention that "yoga is for everyone," and after you take a few classes and find the style and instructor that fits your personality and goals, chances are you'll agree. "So many people are afraid that they won't be 'good' at yoga, whatever at means," says Ali Valdez, owner of Sattva Yoga Studios in Redmond, Washington and Sattva Yoga Online. "Yoga is all about leaving ego at the door and most students discover that is yoga is for everybody."

You start to see yoga as a legitimate workout

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You expect to stretch and reduce stress when you sign up for you first yoga class but you probably don't expect to be sore the next day. Although most instructors and studios don't directly promote yoga for weight loss, that can be one of the benefits of yoga. Yoga instructor Heidi Keith says that most of her first-time students are surprised both by how relaxed and how challenged they feel after expecting a class to be easy. (Find out these secrets your yoga teacher will never tell you.)

You start to have #YogaGoals

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You have goals for work, family, and maybe even weight-loss and fitness goals, but once you start getting into a yoga practice, you'll notice that you start to set some yoga-specific goals. Much like how a runner sets distance or pace goals, Valdez says that it's just like any other fitness objective. "The most popular ones seem to be able to touch one's toes, or do a handstand," she says, "It is a joy to students achieve their goals." Here's a 10-minute yoga workout you can do every day at home.

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You can take a deep breath...in a stressful situation

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Perhaps one of the most important benefits of yoga for women is it's ability to assist with stress-management. Many of women (and men) hold their breath when they encounter stress (which just exacerbates the problem). Valdez says that after taking on a yoga practice years ago, "I no longer held my breath when there was stress at my work, I kept breathing." She added that she went through a terrible breakup from her fiancé "and the gift of yogic breathing, pranayama, helped me mend a broken heart."

You get better at other sports and activities

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When Anne Phyfe Palmer, founder of 8 Limbs Yoga Centers in Seattle, Washington, began her yoga practice, she noticed a dramatic difference in many areas of her life, including her other hobbies. "I distinctly remember the first snowboard season after I started," she says, "I was able to feel the same strength and ability I'd experienced at the end of the previous season the first day on the slopes. I had the sense that my edges were sharper, my turns much more graceful." Check out these energizing stretches to start your day with.

You start to enjoy work

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Yoga isn't a miracle worker but your work satisfaction may go up with stress management and concentration techniques. Palmer even found that she wasn't as easily distracted at work after starting her yoga practice. Here other proven ways to de-stress after your work day.

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You get to know yourself

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You start to listen to your body's cues a little more carefully after starting a yoga practice. Palmer says that students cultivate body awareness in class but that it "follows them out of the yoga room." She adds, "This might translate to really feeling if you're hungry rather than eating out of habit, or noticing you really are tired, instead of bypassing fatigue and trying to do more."

You get deep

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Yoga newbies often show up for a good stretch but Valdez says that even new students feel calm and grounded post-practice. Keith adds that, over time, most practitioners find more interest in the mind side of this mind-body practice and start to meditate and place more focus on breathing techniques.

You start eating better

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Sometimes, your yoga practice will lead you to a healthier diet because of body awareness or mindfulness and sometimes, it's simply performance. "I started at a hot yoga studio and it was hot," says Keith. "I changed my diet pretty shortly after joining because I noticed when I ate unhealthy or was dehydrated that I had a hard time completing the class."

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You might become more open

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Yes, you might finally be able to stop complaining about low back and hamstring tightness, and your new found openness just might extend beyond you getting closer to doing the splits. "My heart stayed open and I learned how to find my inner peace in spite of challenges situations to which none of us are immune," says Valdez.


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