Full disclosure: I have a slight addiction to yoga. It may seem weird, but my body actually craves it. I used to be quite the yoga skeptic, but two years ago I fell in love with practicing and have never looked back. Not only am I hooked on the physical benefits, but the health benefits of yoga are what keep me coming back for more.

Yoga is more than just a workout; it stimulates your mind and body, and connects them in ways that are extremely valuable to your health. More so, the benefits you experience in a yoga class (such as relaxation and flexibility) are carried over to life outside your practice, making you a healthier individual all around. Maybe you’re looking for reasons to begin your yoga journey, or perhaps you need some stable facts as to why you can’t seem to get enough. From boosting your immune system (flu season is coming!) to increasing your happiness, today we’re looking at 5 amazing health benefits of yoga.

Stress Reduction

One of the main reasons many people practice yoga (myself included) is that it significantly reduces stress. Whether it’s the stress of work or family, or the anxiety over a deeper-rooted issue such as loss, stress can be quite debilitating. Yoga combines physical and mental disciplines that work together to calm your body and mind. One of the key aspects of this is controlled breathing. Yoga teaches you that controlling your breath can help quiet your mind and control your body. Not only does this help to reduce stress while you’re practicing, it helps you take control in your everyday life as well.

Increases Flexibility

Since yoga is pretty much one big stretch and strengthening class, it’s no surprise that increased flexibility is one of its main benefits. Even by the end of one class, you will notice that your muscles are much looser than they were in the beginning. And if you practice regularly, you’ll see that those poses you once thought were impossible are now easy as pie! Increased flexibility can diminish physical aches, loosening tight hips, knees and hamstrings that are often the source of uncomfortable body pains.

Builds Muscle Strength

Although a nice, toned body is a major advantage of practicing yoga on a regular basis, the muscle strength you build also contributes to your health. Strong muscles fight conditions such as arthritis and back pain, and the fact that you are also working on your flexibility during yoga gives you an extra advantage over lifting weights to build muscle at the gym.

Increases Happiness

Happiness is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. Regular and consistent yoga practice can improve depression and increase serotonin levels. Practicing yoga and meditation removes negative weights that surface in your life such as inadequacy, embarrassment and judgment, and allows you to reshape your views and thoughts about yourself in a positive way. All of these things combined give you access to a happier self.

Boosts Immune System

A healthy immune system ensures that your body is able to fight off sickness and bugs, and as we head into the cooler months this becomes increasingly important. Yoga helps to stimulate the four main physiological areas that are linked to the immune system (the circulatory, digestive, nervous, and endocrine systems) and practicing poses that effect even one of these areas can boost your immunity. Try: downward dog flow for circulation; bow pose for digestion; shoulder stand for your endocrine system; and plow pose for your nervous system.

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From boosting your immune system (flu season is coming!) to increasing your happiness, there are so many health benefits of yoga that will keep you coming back for more. Check out 5 reasons we love it so much, and make sure to get in a yoga workout today. Your mind, body, and soul will thank you!

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This is an excerpt from the article 5 Health Benefits of Yoga which originally appeared on http://www.cloudywithachanceofwine.com/.