Practicing yoga has many health benefits for the body and mind. Originating from ancient India, this physical, mental, and spiritual practice is still beloved by many in modern fitness culture. Read more to learn about the top ten reasons why.

Flexibility

With correct instruction, yoga is a great way to get a person's body moving and flowing. The more the body gets used to the various poses, the more the muscles will stretch and increase their range of motion, especially in the back, shoulders, hips, and hamstrings. These are the areas most effective by sitting still at a desk job all day. Yoga will help alleviate those aches and pains and increase flexibility over time.

Posture

Yoga improves flexibility, and in turn, comes better posture and less back pain. Most back pain is caused by sitting at a computer all day and/or from driving long commutes every day. This creates spinal compression and tightness throughout the entire body, which yoga counteracts by aligning the spine and the rest of the body. Most poses require the use of the abdominal muscles to maintain balance, which strengthens the core and back — so say goodbye slouchy-shoulders.

Better Breathing

Most people don't pay too much attention to their breathing and are actually taking in very shallow breaths. In yoga, the breathing is very mindful and deep, which strengthens lung capacity and builds endurance. This practice is called pranayama and teaches yogis to focus on taking deep breaths throughout the entire class. Doing so can also help clear one's nasal passage as well as calm the nervous system by bringing fresh air into the lungs and body tissues.

Lower's Stress

From juggling work, a social life, and personal health, life seems to only get busier and busier. Yoga dedicates time in one's schedule for peace and calm, or simply "self-care time." Many yoga styles use meditation techniques that quiet a restless mind and require intense concentration. The practice focuses on being present in the moment, and so there's no time to worry about the past or future. People leave class feeling less stressed than when they arrived.

Builds Strength

Many yoga poses require the body to bear weight differently and work itself in ways it's not used to. Popular poses like balancing on one leg, known as tree pose, are held for several minutes and breaths, strengthening and building the muscles. This is not the main focus of yoga, however, and should not be used solely as a strength builder.

Improves Balance

One of the most important advantages of yoga is improved balance. With continued practice, the body will obtain muscle memory for all of the poses, especially as the classes get more advanced. This will help build core strength, and in turn stability throughout the entire body.

Supports Joint Health

Yoga movements help strengthen the muscles around the joints, which in turn helps lessen their load. Most of the poses are low impact, which allows those with injuries or weak joints to do them. Athletes and people with arthritis and/or old injuries tend to see improved mobility as well as less pain with a gentle yoga practice. This type of exercise, as oppose to high-intensity workouts, actually restores the body and muscle functionality.

Better Sleep

Practicing yoga is a great way to help one fall asleep faster. The practice helps induce sleep as well as create deeper sleep, and help one stay relaxed until morning. Plus, thanks to the meditation and calming effects of the class, it reverses the feelings poor sleep creates such as exhaustion and agitation.