Just 15 minutes of yoga a day can alter your brain chemistry and boost your mood.
Medically reviewed by Dr Juliet McGrattan (MBChB) and words by Laetitia Tempelman
Need a pick-me-up? If you feel a bit low it’s tempting to go for a pint, order a pizza or treat yourself to some new shoes, but putting 15 minutes aside to practice yoga every day could transform your mood (and your health) in more ways than you could imagine.
Studies have shown that yoga can decrease the secretion of cortisol, the primary stress hormone, which in turn can improve your overall health.
Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, it’s easy to squeeze in just 15 minutes of yoga practice a day. Here are 16 reasons why it will be worth it:
- Improve flexibility and mobility
You don’t have to be super flexible to practice yoga, the beauty of yoga is that it can be practiced at all levels of ability. A few minutes a day practicing poses like the warrior or the downward facing dog, will soon make you really feel the difference in your flexibility, whether you’re pretty bendy already or not.
- Build strength
When thinking of improving your fitness, most of us think of huffing and puffing away at the gym. But weights are not the only way to work out. Daily yoga practice will help stretch and tone your body muscles. Popular poses like the plank simultaneously work on strengthening your arms, legs, shoulders and abs.
- Correct posture
Daily yoga helps improve your posture, making you walk taller and sit up straighter at your desk. Aches and pains caused by incorrect body posture such as back pain can also be alleviated.
- Better all-round fitness
Yoga gives you all that a gym can, but in a peaceful, safe and more holistic way. It combines aspects of cardio, functional and strength training all in one. What more could you ask for? The best part about this workout is that it can be done at your own pace, in your own home.
- Weight loss
You don’t have to practice Hot Yoga or be able to bend double in a yoga pose to lose weight. An everyday gentle yoga practice will fuel the metabolic system and will help burn fat, leading to weight loss. Daily yoga can also help restore the hormonal balance in your body, which can normalise your body weight.
- Cultivate self-awareness
Levels of cortisol, the hormone that is released in response to stress will be lowered, leading to less overeating. Daily yoga also strengthens the overall mind-body connection and helps you deal more effectively with unpleasant emotions rather than reaching for food to suppress those feelings.
- Increase your energy
Just a few minutes of yoga every day will provide that much-needed energy boost in our busy lives and will keep us fresh for longer. Yoga, with its unique synergy of body and breath work, is perfect when your reserves are running low.
Daily yoga practice will awaken the main energy centres (called chakras) in your body. Great poses for extra energy are those that extend the spine, such as the tree pose, allowing energy to circulate throughout the whole body, and poses that open the chest, like the cobra pose, encouraging the intake of more breath.
- Reduce stress
Many work places now offer lunch-time yoga sessions because it’s been shown that yoga is an amazing stress buster. Any yoga practice, even a short daily one, should be made up of three elements; poses, breathing and meditation.
Studies have shown that those people who regularly practice all three elements are better able to regulate their heart-rate variability (HRV). This generally means that their heart rate is lower, giving body the ability to respond to stress in a more flexible way.
- Sleep better
Are you coping with so much stress that it’s keeping you awake at night? Studies have shown that practicing daily yoga can reduce insomnia.
When experiencing insomnia, practice relaxing asanas or postures, such as forward fold (uttanasana) or lying on your back with your feet up the wall.
Breathing deeply and calmly is an essential part of every yoga practice.
Relaxing yoga poses such as the forward fold or lying on your back with your feet up the wall can calm both your body and mind.
- Breathe deeper
Breathing deeply and calmly is an essential part of every yoga practice. Yogic breathing techniques (called pranayama) focus on trying to slow down the breath and on breathing fully from the pit of your stomach to the top of your lungs.
These methods will make you feel more relaxed and balanced and will help you face the day with confidence and calm. They also have some great side benefits including increased lung capacity and more tidal volume (the total amount of air your lungs can hold at any one time).
You can adopt these techniques whenever needed in daily life. They can help you stay calm in emergency situations, think clearer in stressful situations and they can help reduce pain.
- Support your immune system
Yoga helps lower the levels of stress hormones in your body and calms the nervous system, A recent study revealed that a regular practice decreases chronic inflammation in the body by lowering the level of pro-inflammatory markers, such as cytokines.
- Be happier
A recent study has shown that practicing regular yoga and meditation results in higher serotonin levels (the happiness hormone). The same study showed that long-term yoga practitioners have more mass in the areas of the brain associated with contentment.
Another study has shown that the brain’s gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) levels are higher after practicing yoga. Higher GABA levels are associated with lower levels of depression and anxiety.
To put it simply, just 15 minutes of yoga a day can start changing your brain chemistry and improving your mood.
- Become more mindful
Yoga and mindfulness go hand-in-hand. When practicing yoga, you will shift your awareness to the sensations, thoughts, and emotions that accompany a given pose. That awareness will bring the mind back to the present moment – the main aim of mindfulness – where it can stay happy and focused.
Practicing mindfulness has lasting physical and psychological benefits that are very much in line with the benefits of yoga. You will feel more calm and relaxed, and less stressed and anxious. You will experience higher levels of energy and enthusiasm and more self-confidence and self-acceptance.
- Improve concentration
Yoga poses and meditation require you to concentrate on your breathing. This process of observing your breath calms your mind and makes you more mentally relaxed. As a result of this mental stability, you’ll able to recollect and retain more information. Meditating for just a few minutes in the morning can result in better concentration throughout the day.
- Think clearer
By reducing mental stress and physical tension, we are able to recall easier and have more organised thoughts. Improved cognitive function happens when we are able to clear our minds and refresh.
From a place of peace and calm, we are able to use our mental facilities more efficiently. Overall, by reducing mental stress and physical tension through daily yoga, you’ll be able to think sharper and have more organised thoughts.
- Live longer
As you now know, everyday yoga will help you increase your level of fitness, regulate your heart rate, reduce your stress levels and make you a happier person. All those elements may add valuable years to your life.
It’s also known that yoga decreases the risk of heart disease, and it reduces the pace of your breathing, which has been directly linked to a longer lifespan. Recent studies have shown that the meditation element of yoga might help delay the process of ageing by protecting the telomeres (caps) at the end of our chromosomes, too.