Mega stars do it. Pro-ball players do it. The NFL made a video about it.

Yoga is a full-body workout for men and women of all fitness levels. 

If you want to stay fit and flexible and learn breathing and meditation techniques that help to reduce stress, adding yoga to your workout routine is recommended.

Yoga can be utilized as an entry-level workout for those just starting their fitness journey, or it can be a useful supplement to workout enthusiasts hoping to diversify their routine and keep their joints safe. Whether focusing on breathing in an introductory lesson or burning calories in a hot yoga class, yogis can expect to:

  • Build muscle
  • Increase flexibility
  • Sharpen mental focus
  • Reduce stress
  • Rid the body of toxins

These reasons may be why some pro athletes have adopted yoga as part of their training. The only special equipment you need to start is a yoga mat, space and 60 to 90 minutes to move through the positions. You will start to enjoy yoga’s benefits within a few sessions.

The only special equipment you need to begin is a yoga mat, space and 60 to 90 minutes to move through the positions. (To learn proper form, you may want to start under the guidance of a certified yoga instructor.) Your body’s health will benefit from the first few sessions.

#1 Yoga increases flexibility. 

Bending, stretching and balance are necessary to create yoga’s unique positions. The poses stretch and loosen the tendons, ligaments and muscles surrounding your joints. For instance, as your vertebrae and spinal joints open during a yoga workout, you gain flexibility and suppleness in your back. You may also notice a change in the joints of your upper and lower body when you’re kayaking, dancing, golfing or participating in other activities that require bending and twisting.

#2 Yoga builds and sculpts muscles.

Using your body weight, yoga’s smooth movements combined with deep breathing techniques will have you working many of the same muscles you need for leg lifts, pushups, planks and squats. Yoga also strengthens muscles missed at the gym. A yoga session not only works your muscles in a sustained fashion, but it also promotes muscle growth at the cellular level.

#3 Yoga sharpens mental focus.

Whether you choose to join a yoga session in a studio or you complete a session in your living room, yoga encourages you to leave the hustle and bustle of a busy life behind. For an hour, you focus on your body movement and your breathing.

This ancient practice has been used for centuries to improve circulation, regulate breathing and develop self-awareness through conscious movement.

Yoga takes physical and mental discipline. It helps many people clear their minds and improve concentration.

#4 Yoga relieves stress.

The deep rhythmic breathing required during a yoga session floods the body with oxygen as it massages internal organs. Instructors believe that exhaling for twice as long as you inhale benefits the entire body and leads to a state of relaxation.

Deep breathing also reduces the cortisol levels in your body as it activates your parasympathetic nervous system. Cortisol is the stress hormone that forces your body to hold on to belly fat and causes bone loss.

#5 Yoga cleans you up from the inside out. 

Don’t be fooled. Yoga is not for the weak-willed. As you move into and out of each position, you will work up a sweat, and that’s a good thing. Sweat and deep breathing help rid your body of toxins.

What’s the best way to start a yoga program?

Do a little research and pick a style that appeals to you. This article from WebMD explains some of the most popular forms of yoga and how to find one that is suited to your fitness level. Find one that works for you, and look for a class in your area.

You can customize even further by looking for prenatal classes, couples’ classes or men’s classes. With the rising popularity of yoga studios came a variety of options. Joining a live class helps you build new relationships with people who are interested in yoga and fitness. These relationships also create accountability and make it harder for you to skip your yoga sessions or shy away from new or challenging yoga poses.

Many beginners start with the Hatha method. Another popular form is the Vinyasa style, which has moderate to advanced movements.

You also can practice yoga on your own using the wide variety of online guides and videos available.

Remember: If you have a pre-existing condition, talk to your primary care provider before starting any exercise program.