March 27th, 2021. By Aiden Wong '22

Yoga's everywhere now. Your mom does it, your friend does it, maybe even your second cousin, Mary, has tried to get you to join her class. But have you wondered what yoga really does? This article explores the physical and mental benefits of yoga and how you – yes you! – can get into yoga too!

Since the COVID-19 pandemic started almost a year ago, people across the world have been forced to stay inside. As a result, yoga has become an increasingly trendy way to stay active. Its accessibility, low barrier to entry, and claims of health benefits have all been factors in the industry’s skyrocketing popularity. In fact, the worldwide yoga market is currently worth around $37 million and is expected to reach $66 million, almost double the current value, by 2027!

With this exponential growth in mind, you might be wondering what all the hype is about. For one, yoga’s accessibility cannot be understated. Unlike other sports like basketball or soccer, yoga can be done anywhere, even in a bedroom. Furthermore, yoga’s low-impact activity makes it perfect for the young, the old, the athletic, and the “athletically challenged.” Most importantly, yoga offers a safe, indoor activity that requires no physical social interaction. Even better, yoga can be done alone, with friends, or through virtual classes held by live instructors. If there was ever a time to get into yoga, it's right now!

The key to yoga’s appeal is its proclaimed health benefits. Who doesn’t want to improve their strength and flexibility? Yoga’s main regimen of stretches and postures can stimulate stem cells, increase muscle elasticity, and decrease the constrictive reflexes that occur after stretching. This can be especially helpful for those struggling with chronic back pain, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, and other conditions that affect physical activity. Studies have also shown that yoga’s emphasis on breathing exercises can also boost heart and lung functions. By focusing on one’s breath, the muscles constricting oxygen pathways relax, allowing more blood to flow throughout the body. This may help those with lung conditions like asthma and bronchitis and even heart conditions such as high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

However, arguably the most attractive benefits of yoga have to do with mental health. As yoga is very similar to meditation in its emphasis on grounding oneself in the present, it’s no wonder that studies have shown that it can help with relaxation. Taking a few minutes to an hour every day just to stretch and breathe offers an escape from the chaos of daily life. Even better, making yoga a routine can also foster a sense of stability that grounds us in the present. SI’s Yoga Club president Lauren Keim ‘22 says, “Yoga can also improve both body and mind by giving a sense of clarity, awareness, and understanding of oneself. It can relieve anxiety, stress, and even improve concentration.”

If improving your flexibility and relieving stress sounds interesting to you, try out yoga by yourself, with friends, or with the Yoga Club. “Anyone can get involved with SI’s Yoga Club,” Lauren says. “Feel free to reach out to Mr. Brian, Dory Miller ‘22, or I, or stop by to join weekly yoga classes on Fridays!”