Your practice may be a form of physical—and mental—therapy.
Yoga doesn’t just stretch you physically—it may encourage you to grow as a person, too. A new study in the Journal of Holistic Nursing suggests that hitting the mat may help you become a kinder, more patient version of yourself.
When the researchers surveyed more than 1,000 yoga practitioners from studios across the country, 87 percent said that yoga boosts their happiness, and 67 percent reported a positive impact on their personal relationships. This last stat in particular sparked the scientists’ interest, so they asked the participants to elaborate on the ways that their stretch sessions affect their lives outside the studio. A few consistent themes emerged:
Yoga Leads to Personal Transformation
• “Yoga makes me much less cranky.”
• “I am able to live in the moment more. … I am more present with others.”
• “Yoga helps me be more self-aware and thus more compassionate and empathetic. This helps me connect with others and build strong, trusting, and honest relationships.”
People who regularly practiced yoga claimed it brought out their positive traits and downplayed their negative ones—a benefit that spilled over into their personal relationships. Specifically, the yoga fiends credited their practice with making them more insightful, self-aware, calm, peaceful, happy, kind, respectful, and compassionate—and less judgmental and intolerant of others.
Yoga Increases Social Interaction
• “I love my yoga community. We are a social network of caring friends.”
• “My husband and I do yoga together. … It’s the one thing that my husband and I will always be able to do together no matter what age we are.”
Plugging into a yoga studio is the social equivalent of joining a sorority in college: You immediately gain a group of likeminded friends you can count on seeing consistently. In the study, practitioners consistently used the word “community” when talking about their yoga class, and they emphasized the close bond they felt with their teacher—both of which can help decrease feelings of isolation, a psychological state linked to a plethora of negative health outcomes, the scientists say. The study participants also said yoga strengthens their existing connections since they can bring their friends, siblings, or significant other to class.
Yoga Helps You Cope with Life’s Curve Balls
• “Yoga has saved my life and my marriage.”
• “I’ve had to deal with an abusive spouse and subsequent divorce. … It would be worse without yoga.”
• “I lost my job in January. … If I did not have yoga and meditation, I would have been a nutcase.”
When life stretches you to your limits, yoga may help you endure: In the study, yoga fans felt that taking time out in the studio helps them deal with challenging relationships, makes tough times seem more bearable, and even sustains them through life losses, like deaths or divorces.