By: Jamie Finnan, CorePower Yoga

Looking back to my first yoga class, I thought the only benefit was increased flexibility. I would soon discover that was just one of countless benefits my mind and body would receive.

While increased flexibility and mobility, and gradual stress relief will commonly be experienced, there are a few lesser-known benefits that a regular yoga practice can offer:

1. Digestion and Detoxification:
Regular yoga practice aids in the detoxification of internal organs. Twisting poses compress internal organs, halting circulation. When released, fresh blood, oxygen and nutrients flood digestive organs, improving their functionality.

2. Good GABA:
Serotonin, dopamine and GABA are “feel-good” brain chemicals responsible for elevated mood and contentedness. Yoga helps boost the levels of these important chemicals naturally, helping us deal with anxiety, depression and stress.

3. Stress Response:
It’s not uncommon for our stress response to constantly be in the “on” position. This wreaks havoc on our bodies. Yoga helps reduce this stress overdrive by reducing the body’s cortisol levels, calming our nervous system and restoring balance after high-stress events. On the mat, we learn to gain acceptance for ourselves and others, release our judgments, and embrace what is – one of the best stress relievers of all.

4. Immunity Boost:
Another benefit of yoga’s ability to reduce cortisol levels is improved immunity. Cortisol is known to decrease the immune system’s effectiveness by immobilizing white blood cells. Dampening cortisol boosts immunity and prevents illness.

5. Inflammation Reduction:
Yoga has been shown to significantly decrease inflammation, which is a primary culprit of disease, illness, infection, and a host of other maladies.

6. Mindful Eating:
Regular yoga practice has been linked to mindfulness – of the body and emotions. We become more mindful of our emotions, the body’s ability to cleanse and detoxify itself, and how whole, non-processed foods fuel the body rather than slow it. Yoga helps instill mindful food choices and helps suppress emotional food cravings.

All of these benefits compliment many others you’ll see/develop from a regular yoga practice, such as better sleep, improved posture and breathing. If you find yourself challenged by stress, anxiety, or illness, consider yoga, but remember yoga is a process, not a product.