If you're in Central Minnesota, like I am, you may be having a case of the winter blues. Yoga is fantastic and easy way to chase the blues away. A regular practice has so many benefits.
30 reasons to get you back on your mat every day. 1. Yoga makes you feel better - simple as that!
Pick a suitable class for your level and approach it with an open mind - you’ll feel different, more open, present and happier. If you don’t believe us, try it!
2. Yoga increases your flexibility
If you haven’t heard about yoga’s ability to increase flexibility, you might have been living under a rock for the past twenty years ;) To gain more flexibility, it is worth practicing yoga regularly and consistently in order to build muscle memory; take your time though, and be patient!
3. Yoga improves your strength
Yoga isn’t just about stretching and bending, it also requires a surprising amount of strength. Physical strength is important in order to prevent injury, boost the immune system and metabolism and help make everyday tasks easier.
4. Yoga boosts your immune system
Any form of movement is great for keeping the immune system healthy. With yoga’s twisting, inverting, back bending, and calming, the body is able to spend more time within the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) and less with the sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight system, which causes stress and inflammation and dramatically lowers the immune system).
5. Yoga helps you to focus
Because your mind will be quieter and clutter-free it's easier to direct the energy to where you want it to go. In yoga they say you develop one-pointedness concentration through practice. You train the mind to become aware and present. Research has shown that after a yoga class you are generally better able to focus your mental resources, process information more accurately and also learn, hold and update pieces of information more effectively.
6. Yoga changes your energy
If your morning routine starts with dragging yourself out of bed and gulping down a coffee, try ten rounds of Surya Namaskar or some Kapalabhati pranayama, and notice the energising effects it has on the nervous system. Conversely, if you need a change later on in the day, just a few minutes of asana practice can re-balance the nervous system, calm the mind and give you a different perspective.
7. Yoga boosts your metabolism
A morning yoga practice will help to get the blood, breath and muscles moving before breakfast, therefore allowing the nutrients from your food to be better absorbed. A strong practice can help build muscle, dramatically boost metabolism, and breathing fully and deeply increases circulation, also helping the metabolism to stay ticking along nicely.
8. Yoga reduces anxiety
Shallow breathing, poor posture and tense muscles are both results and causes of anxiety. If you’ve been stuck in an anxiety cycle for a long period of time, it’s likely that your body has almost learned to protect itself by remaining tense, physically closed off and with very short, sharp breaths. The mind and body are so closely interlinked, that physically deepening the breath, improving posture and relaxing the muscles in a safe space can all help reduce anxiety.
9. Yoga helps you to be more mindful
Mindfulness is a buzz word at the moment and - with all the apps, downloads, classes and CDs - has become a billion dollar business.  Mindfulness, however, doesn’t have to mean meditating for long periods of time, and it doesn’t have to be something profound that's difficult to keep up. Being mindful just means paying a little more attention to each action you do, allowing you to be more present, aware and alive in each moment. Better to be mindful than mind-full…
10. Yoga soothes your skin
The skin is one of the first places in the body to display signs of stress and nutrient deficiency. By practicing a combination of some of the more calming aspects of yoga, such as Pranayama and meditation, as well as an active yoga practice, the body and all its systems receive better circulation, and the reduced stress levels can even help reduce conditions like acne and eczema. 
11. Yoga gives you some ‘Me-Time’
Having a little time for yourself is extremely important - particularly for those who spend their lives caring for others. Giving to others is a vital aspect of life, and helps us feel more connected to the world around us. However, in order to give, we have to be full first. As Gandhi (and Jimi Hendrix) said “If you want to change the world, change yourself first”.
12. Hydrate Your Spine
Moving the spine in a safe, healthy way encourages synovial fluid to be released into the column of the spine. In the morning, the spine contains a little more of this fluid, but in the evening the spine is more compressed and ‘dehydrated’ (hence why we’re somewhat ‘shorter’ in the evenings!). Practicing spine-lengthening postures like Downward Facing Dog, as well as inversions, can help to bring some moisture and life back to our all-important spine.
13. Yoga boosts brain power
Moving in a way that is different to our daily patterns helps the brain work harder and can help keep the brain healthy. Twisting asanas, and anything which involves crossing limbs over the body (a little like the cross-crawl practice where you alternatively extend opposite arm and leg from a table top position) are fantastic for balancing the brain hemispheres. To bring things into balance daily, practice Nadi Shodhana, the ‘channel cleansing’ breath, which helps to balance the brain and calm the mind.
14. No space? No worries!
Unlike many other physical activities, a yoga asana practice only needs space for your body. Aeroplanes, dorm rooms, offices and even jail cells, yoga can be practiced pretty much everywhere.
15. Yoga helps you to breathe better
The emphasis on breathing in yoga is something beginners often struggle with, but over time moving with the breath becomes second nature. Just the ability to breathe more fully and deeply can have a very profound impact on overall health, and is worth practicing every day. You might not have the postures with you for your whole life, but you have your breath in every moment.
16. Yoga helps you to stand up taller
Like much of the population, it’s likely you spend some part of the day hunched over a desk, screen phone or steering wheel. This slouched posture emphasizes the kyphotic curve of the thoracic spine, and in turn collapses the chest, puts pressure on the lungs, heart and lower back, and is a sure way to bring on a bad mood. Simply standing up a little taller and opening the chest can have instant positive effects on mood and overall wellbeing.
17. Yoga helps you beat the blues
Movement is one of the best ways to bring about a good mood, and yoga is an especially effective medicine when it comes to battling the blues. Yoga taps into the nervous system, helping to release hormones that improve the mood. Focusing on something positive each time we practice yoga is also an effective way to imprint that positivity into the mind, so the more you practice, the more you’re likely to notice yourself smiling…
18. Yoga improves your balance (in body and mind)
Balancing yoga postures help the brain to fire neurons that help with muscle memory and spatial awareness, and using the feet regularly in a daily yoga practice can strengthen the muscles of the foot, of which there are over 100!
19. Yoga helps to clear the toxins
While it’s controversial as to whether twisting yoga asanas actually ‘detox’ the body, it’s fair to say that a yoga practice definitely helps to clear toxins from the body. Getting things moving inside and outside helps shift any lurking toxins and rids the body of them quicker. Being aware and mindful of your thoughts too, can help to ‘detox’ the mind of any ‘toxic’ thoughts….
20. Yoga frees your feet!
Being barefoot is more important than we might expect. Many shoes are designed more for the way they look than the way they feel, and you may be surprised to know that your favourite shoes could actually be the cause of your aches and pains. Our feet are the foundation of the body, so giving them time to breathe, to move freely and to articulate in a way that allows the arches, joints and bones of the feet to move naturally can help the alignment of the body improve. It’ll also save you washing your socks so often ;)
21. Yoga has anti-inflammatory 'properties'
Decreased stress levels, better blood and oxygen circulation, and an increase in ‘happy hormone’ neurotransmitters all help to decrease inflammation. Calming Pranayama practices, in which the length of the out-breath is increased, can also be a way to powerfully reduce inflammation.
22. Yoga helps give meaning to your day
We’ve all heard the song It Ain’t What You Do, It’s The Way That You Do It, and while the song might be catchy, the deeper meaning is very profound. Spending a little time in the morning setting an intention, focus or Sankalpa for the day, helps us come back to that intention each time we need to make a decision. Setting an intention can also help us to be more aware of our actions, and can give the day much more meaning.
23. Yoga helps you to express gratitude
Traditionally, yogis would rise with the sun and perform Surya Namaskar, (Sun Salutations) as a way to greet the new day and pay homage to the sun, the giver of warmth, light and life.
24. Yoga teaches you to know yourself
Unlike group sports activities, yoga is a very internal and personal practice. Even though you might have practiced in a class with lots of other people, the focus is still on what is happening inside you. ‘Pratyahara’ is one of the Eight Limbs of Yoga, and it refers to turning one’s senses and awareness inward in order to discover more about the person’s own body and mind. We have to live with this body and this mind for a whole lifetime, so it’s worth taking time to get to know it, and even make friends with it.
25. Yoga regulates your body clock
Naturally, humans would rise with the sun and sleep when it’s dark. Since the invention of electricity and the light bulb however, we’ve been able to hack night time, which means getting up when the sun rises doesn’t always sound like the most welcome way to start the day. Practice getting up a little earlier however, and you’re likely to start noticing your body clock comes back into balance, and an improvement in your sleep.  Ayurveda – the ancient ‘sister science’ of yoga - tells us that the hours between 10pm and 2am are the body’s natural time of rejuvenation, that the best way to start the day is to get up as close to sunrise as possible, and head outside ASAP for some natural sunlight. The hours between 6am and 8am are best for ‘spiritual practice and exercise, like asana and walking’.
26. Increase compassion
The Metta Bhavana (Loving Kindness) meditation is intended to increase compassion and kindness towards others and ourselves. Humans are born to be compassionate and to feel emotions, yet the modern world often leaves us feeling more disconnected than ever. All our actions and even thoughts have impact on the world around us, and if the saying Love Makes The World Go Round is true, then practicing feeling love and kindness for others will make more difference than you might expect.
27. Yoga helps you to become more body aware
"Listen to your body" is something you’re likely to have heard most yoga teachers say, but what does it mean? Any ‘good’ yoga practice encourages feeling instead of forcing, gradual progress instead of instant gain, and a way of moving that is helpful instead of harmful. A study from the department of Psychology at Berkley, California, showed that yoga practitioners have more body awareness, responsiveness to bodily sensations, and even body satisfaction than those who do not practice yoga.
28. Yoga helps you to accept whatever life brings to your table
Yoga teaches us that everything changes. Both the positive but also the painful things in life come and go. Knowing this and understanding this on a deeper level makes it easier to accept and stay present and positive, also through the hard times.
29. Yoga gives you a natural wind-down
Instead of watching a movie or checking Facebook for the 100th time, try practicing some restorative yoga. This type of practice is a very powerful way to calm the nervous system, thus improving sleep quality, helping the digestive system to do its job overnight, therefore giving you the energy you need to get up early the next morning to salute the sun :)
30. Yoga is a life-long lesson
The beautiful thing about yoga is that it can be adapted to suit anyone. Whether you’re a baby or a baby-boomer, a grumpy teenager or a great-grandma, you can practice yoga. The task is often in finding the type of practice that suits you and listening to your body.