Woman meditating on the beach at sunset.

The Internet is awash with the myriad of benefits attributed to yoga.

Weight-loss, heart disease protection, freedom from depression, to name a few, but with a lot of focus on the more physical aspects, sometimes the subtle benefits can get lost in the noise.

So, for all you beginners out there thinking about venturing into this amazing pastime, don't worry.

We've got the low down of the real benefits of yoga, that run much deeper than a six pack and butt cheeks of steel!

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Feeling sad? Backbend into camel or kick out into King Dancer Pose.

The University of Wisconsin found the left prefrontal cortex showed heightened activity in meditators, a finding that has been correlated with greater levels of happiness and better immune function.

"I practice for at least 20 minutes every morning," says TV exec Anna. "Even if I get out of bed feeling groggy, after a few minutes on my mat my mood lifts and I start to feel much more positive about the day ahead. Even if it's a Monday!"


Researchers at Harvard Medical School looked at how a daily yoga practice affects sleep for people with insomnia and found improvements to measurements of sleep quality and quantity.

"I work really long and variable hours, which really disrupts my sleeping patterns," says doctor Steph.

"I find yoga helps me regulate. If I finish late at night a session of hatha along with some breathing exercises really makes a difference to my quality of sleep."


A regular yoga practice helps develop friendliness, compassion, and greater equanimity.

Yogic philosophy also emphasises avoiding harm to others, telling the truth, and taking only what you need to improve relationships.

"Before I took up yoga, I was really unaware of how much happiness I put on to someone else when I'm in a relationship. Then, when it ends everything always came crashing down around me," says teacher Natalie Buckland.

"Yoga opened my eyes and made me realise that happiness has to come from within - it's the only place where things won't change!"

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The idea of non-possessiveness also means letting go of anything that no longer serves you or things you’ve outgrown - a job, a relationship, our sense of identity, or even old attitudes and beliefs that prevent us from moving forward.

"If I struggle with people at work, rather than feel stressed and angry, I’ve been working on letting things go and not reacting in the heat of the moment," says Nat.

"I have also realised a change is as good as a rest. I'm going to leave my job this year - it’s so much easier to let things go when there’s an end in sight.'

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Physiologist Ralph LA Forge regularly advises physicians to recommend yoga to hostility-prone cardiac patients.

His ground breaking research on “hot reactive" personality types - people who react to anger more explosively than most - has shown yoga, particularly therapeutic forms like restorative yoga are a valuable method of cooling hot reactives down.

"I used to get irritated pretty quickly: rude people, idiot drivers etc., but now I find myself automatically deepening my breathing and ‘letting it ride’," says lecturer Laura.

"I don't seem to sweat the small stuff any more. I’ve noticed my husband saying, ‘Aren't you going say something or complain?’ - but I’m just not interested any more.

"I told my hubby I feel more chilled now and he said ‘It's only taken you 30 years!' I know this is going sound weird, but I actually feel grown up for the first time in my life."

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Studies show yoga practice can improve both physical and emotional awareness.

With regular practice focus can shift from outward appearance to functionality and pure acceptance.

"I was a competitive figure skater growing up and being lean for performance was advantageous," says personal trainer Katelyn.

"Poor habits that I formed during this time, such as talking negatively about my body to the point where I absolutely hated certain features, transitioned with me through university and the beginning of my career as a personal trainer.

"I was using exercise and fitness as a vehicle to punish myself if I cheated with my nutrition or if I wasn't a certain number on the scale.

"Incorporating yoga into my regime has taught me that nutrition and exercise should be used as a vehicle to nourish your body and soul rather than be used as a way to punish yourself.

"Now my daily thought processes surrounding nutrition, exercise, weight, and body image are a lot more positive, calm and nourishing."

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If there's one thing you need to get into extended side crow, it's patience.

Having the patience to master the basics of a pose before moving into trickier variations will also invite this mind-set into the rest of your life as well, allowing you to stay cool and collected in the face of a challenge.

"I used to be very impatient but yoga has changed (and is still changing) that," says trainee yoga teacher Sama.

"I am more comfortable now in my own presence than I used to be - in fact I sometimes look forward to time alone just to sit and meditate. By feeling more connected to myself, I feel more connected to others.

"There is much less tension in my house. I used to have a very difficult relationship with my brother but I have to say since yoga, our relationship has become so much more peaceful and loving as opposed to fighting all the time."

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“Jump, and you will find out how to unfold your wings as you fall," says yoga teacher Ray Bradbury.

In yoga, as in life, sometimes you will fall. By observing your natural reactions in these unstable moments, when the floor beneath you seems shaky and when you feel confronted by something new and unfamiliar you can learn a lot about yourself.

"Right now the biggest thing I'm aware of is how it's made me braver and less afraid to take risks," says trainee yoga teacher Jessie.

"I took a big jump leaving a long-term stable job to do something new and yoga has definitely helped me to do that, both in making the initial change and overcoming that fear, but also now in seeking something new and continuing to be brave in applications."

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By deliberately moving the body and thinking about the way it feels regular practices helps to develop more self-awareness.

"It's really helped me give myself a sense of self awareness and how I am towards other people and to myself too," says trainee yoga instructor Rags.

"We can sometimes be our own worse enemy, so yoga has helped me to understand this and cultivate the things I shouldn't waste my time on (which are the things I can't control like other people) and the things that are actually important.

"Before I took up the practice, I used to be a nightmare to be around, getting offended at the smallest thing.

"Now I am much more aware of my initial response. Rather than being reactive, I'm much more understanding of other people's views."

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A gentle form of yoga helps those with lymphoma sleep better.

A study found that among 39 patients being treated for lymphoma, those who participated in only seven weekly sessions of yoga said they got to sleep sooner, slept for longer, and needed fewer drugs to fall asleep.

Study author Dr Lorenzo Cohen, of the M. D. Anderson Cancer Centre in Houston, Texas, explained that living with cancer can be a very stressful experience, as patients cope with a diagnosis of a life-threatening illness and the side effects of treatment.

"In 2012, when I was 48, I was diagnosed with CLL (chronic lymphocytic leukaemia). I'd always looked after myself, exercised and ate well, but I lost confidence in my body," says senior manager Paula.

"At times of infection or stress my lymph nodes in my neck, armpits and groin swell to the size of a golf ball and sometimes are very painful.

"Observing this, my focus is keeping well. I am fortunate to have the option to do a yoga class in my lunch hour and a boss who encourages me to go.

"I feel more focused, energised, happier and even though I have been told only chemo can control the progression of the disease, my nodes appear to be under control and my overall health and wellbeing is good.

"I don't walk around with a veil of sadness, I feel strong, happy and in control."