Will Yoga Give Me a Great Body?

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Prana Flow site author Kara-Leah Grant

Yoga Lunchbox site author Kara-Leah Grant

By Kara-Leah Grant, author Forty Days of Yoga

The short answer is… YES.

The more interesting answer is that as you practice yoga, your perception and understanding of what a “great body” is will change.

And even more interesting… the concept that happiness is reliant upon creating specific circumstances (i.e. when I lose weight I’ll be happy, when I win the lotto I’ll be happy, when I find my perfect partner I’ll be happy…)… is revealed to be an illusion. What this means is that whether or not your body is “good” ceases to matter, because you’re happy and content anyway.

But right now, those of you who are looking to begin an exercise practice that will improve the condition of your body don’t care about that.

Nope – you just want to know, is it worth investing time and money into yoga to get what I want?

I’m here to tell you, yes it is. Absolutely. In fact, despite the fact that I do no other serious exercise and eat whatever I want… at 33 years of age I am in better shape than I have ever been. And it’s all down to yoga.

Yoga will give you the very best body you could possibly have for your body type if you practice regularly.

Can’t put it any simpler than that.

Here’s how it works.

The practice of physical yoga, or asana, works far more than just your muscles. It doesn’t just lengthen and strengthen – although it does that super well. Yoga, because of it’s mindful attention to the breath amongst other things, works every single system in your body – it works your body from the inside out.

I don’t want to list off all the ways that yoga can improve your body based on what I’ve read, or even what other people have told me. No, I’m only going to tell what I have experienced myself, as I know these improvement to be 100% true and possible.

And I’m sure other readers will use the comments to share how yoga has changed their body.

Here’s what’s happened to my body since I began to practice yoga regularly:

1. Yoga has meant I have lost weight and now maintain my ideal body weight with ease and no thought necessary – no dieting, no restrictions on food. I eat what I want when I want. In practice, because my system is more sensitive and I am more tuned in to what things really feel like, I don’t WANT to eat crap because it makes me feel like crap. It’s not about discipline – I just don’t enjoy processed icky food anymore. Oh, I still love chocolate – in small doses. I love cheese. I enjoy a glass or two of wine. There is nothing I won’t taste or sample – but I can feel when I have had enough and I stop there. When I do crave food, it’s the good things in life – like asparagus, or corguettes, or salad. (Yes, a salad craving has become normal for me!)

2. Yoga has improved my lung capacity – yoga is not thought of as a cardio workout, but because you are mindfully breathing, taking long deep breaths, your lung capacity will improve. Plus, if you practice pranayama, it will definitely improve. I notice it when I’m walking up hills, or climbing stairs. I can always breath with ease, and it just feels like my body is able to extract oxygen from the air and get it to every cell in my body far more efficiently than it could when I was in my early twenties and working out on the treadmill. I would love to have my lung capacity tested, just to see the numbers on paper, but you know it in yourself when you’re breathing easy and damn if it doesn’t feel good.

3. Yoga has improved my flexibility enormously - this is the obvious improvement from yoga. When you practice regularly, your body will open up, enormously. When I first started, I couldn’t sit on the floor with my legs out straight in front of me. In real life, this meant that I was unable to bend over to tie up my shoe laces. I had to find somewhere to sit and awkwardly hoist my foot up close enough to my body to reach. Not a good look when you’re only 25! Now even small actions, like turning around to look behind me when I reverse the car, are graceful and easy.

4. Yoga has improved my balance. Balance ties in with strength and flexibility, and it’s improved just as much. In practice, it’s hard to quantify what improved balance means in my day to day life. But I know it means I am far less likely to fall over and hurt myself – something that matters a lot as we age and our bones get more brittle. Plus if I feel like jumping up on to low walls and walking along them just for fun because I can, I have no qualms about it. And that’s a cool thing.

5. Yoga has improved my concentration. This is something I’ve noticed at work – when I’m given a task to do, no matter how long and onerous it might be, I can just switch my attention on to that task and stick with it until it’s done. This is a huge advantage when doing things such as proofreading long documents such as briefings to incoming ministers (BIMs). My concentrated attention means I notice things too – I’m just more aware of everything that is going on in my immediate environment. If I had to rely on my brain or concentration for work, I’d definitely want to be practicing yoga.

6. Yoga supports my health – it’s fantastic. Number of sick days I’ve had in the last five years? Can’t remember – maybe less than a handful. It’s a standing joke in my household – when a bug comes through my partner will be hit for three or maybe five days. I’ll get the condensed version and feel a bit off colour for maybe 6 to 12 hours. Health is one of those intangible assets that we don’t really notice or appreciate until we don’t have it, but it’s definitely worth practicing yoga and building it up.

7. Yoga means my stress levels are zero. Yep – not much bothers me anymore. Stuff happens still, but all the worry and anxiety and freaking out that I used to experience in my twenties has gone, gone, gone. Regular practice of yoga, pranayama and meditation has brought me to a place of surrender. This is one of the niyamas – isvara pranidhana. It’s a place where you are no longer concerned about trying to control life, and make happen what you think needs to happen in order for you to feel good. Instead, even though you may experience struggle or discomfort, you know that whatever happens is perfect. So you go with it. I could lose my job tomorrow and I wouldn’t stress out about it. I might still experience some fearful thoughts or feelings, but I wouldn’t allow those thoughts and feelings to take me over. No matter what happens, I know I am supported and I am loved. And that is a very cool thing to know!

8. Yoga has made me strong – very, very strong. The beauty of yoga is that it works every single muscle in the body. Bicep curls may give you a large bicep… but what about all the other little muscles in the arm? Yoga strength is being able to hold yourself up in inversions, and in arm balances. It’s sitting deep in Warrior II for a long period of time and finding a place of grace and lift. It’s coming into Warrior III and feeling like you’re superman. It’s not just strength of body either, it’s strength of mind. Yoga teaches us to stay with the discomfort, to sit with the awful feelings. When you do this enough times, you begin to realise that discomfort and even pain do not touch the core of who you are. It’s possible to go to a place of peace within even while your feelings, thoughts or physical sensations are uncomfortable. I’ve been fortunate in my life not to ever experience any physical violence, or torture, or even prolonged pain (beyond that of my spine) but I imagine that if I ever needed to… yoga will have given me the strength to endure. And that’s a big thing.

9. Yoga means I can now hold a tune.

At least, I can sing and feel good about doing it and I think I’m in tune :)  Yoga encompasses chanting, and if you’re doing Bhakti Yoga (the yoga of devotion), it also encompasses Kirtan. Kirtan is a call and response jam session with instruments and sanskrit chants and it absolutely rocks.  I’ve only recently started adding Bhakti Yoga to my practice, attending monthly sessions with Satyananda Yoga here in Wellington, but I never thought I’d feel so damn good about opening my mouth and singing. I look forward to it every month, and have started getting together with a few yogi friends on the weekend to do kirtan just for fun. I think it might be the next big thing, and I can’t wait until the next Wellington Satyananda Kirtan session on November 29th (leave a comment if you want to know where and when).

10. Yoga means I love my body, inside and out. As a hyper-critical, perfectionist teenager and young adult, I wanted the perfect body. And I worked damn hard to get it. In doing so, I was completely missing the fundamental truth that my body was already perfect. n fact, my body was an amazing feat of biology that was housing my soul and doing a great job in moving me from A to B. There was little appreciation for it at all! Instead, if I looked in the mirror, my gaze would go to those bits I “hated”, and I would obsess over what I could do to “fix” them. I mean, give me a break! Talk about self-absorbed and narcissistic.

Now however, I have a new appreciation and wonder for my body – I feel so blessed. I can run, and walk, and jump, and leap, and twirl, and twist, and sometimes I even feel like I could almost fly, if I could just sort out a superhero costume that worked :) But seriously, my mindset has shifted, and when I look in the mirror at myself now I grin. I appreciate what is there, because it won’t be there forever. I will age, and my body will change, and there may come a day when I struggle to make it to the bathroom. So today, when my body is 100% fit and fighting, damn it if I won’t appreciate it and love it for the miracle that it is.

Of course, in shifting to this mind space where I love my body, (yes – yoga WILL give you a body you will love!) I realise that it’s not actually having a great body that we want. We just think it is. What we truly want is to look in the mirror and feel AWESOME about ourselves. We want to be able to walk down the street with a bounce in our step and a glow on our faces. In our upside down way of seeing the world, we believe that we have to control our external circumstances in order to create this feeling and these thoughts inside of us.

But that’s not true – and practicing yoga will help you to understand this. Practicing yoga will give you a good body, not JUST because it changes and reshapes your body, although it does do this. No, practicing yoga will give you a good body because it pierces your illusions and pulls back the veil of maya to reveal that you already HAVE a good body. In fact, you already have an excellent body. It’s just waiting for you to see it, appreciate it, and celebrate it.

And if you don’t believe me, than get thee to a yoga class and see how your perception of your body shifts after regular practice. Let me know in a year or two if I was right.

Enjoy the yoga!

How has yoga changed your body? Leave a comment and let me know.

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Comments

  1. Trudi Collins says

    I love this article, and have shared it with lots of people, as it definitely sums up my experience of yoga. I had a baby earlier this year, and people are constantly commenting on how I “got my figure back”. What I’ve tried to explain, many times, and what most people don’t understand is that I’ve had my figure – my body – the whole time, and it has been perfect throughout, regardless of size and shape. I do think it is thanks to yoga that I’ve come back to my pre-baby shape fairly rapidly, not because I am any more special than anyone else, or because I’ve been dieting and exercising like crazy! Instead like you KL my body tells me what I need, in terms of food and movement, and that is what I do. There is no secret to this stuff!! Just invite yoga into your life, have some fun, and learn to trust yourself…it won’t just be your body that thanks you, either. Being more relaxed, feeling healthy, strong, supple, and connected to the universe definitely makes me an easier person to be around!

    Thanks for writing this stuff KL – love your work T xx

  2. Kara-Leah Grant says

    Hey Trudi,

    I’ve known a few yogis now who’ve had babies… and they report the same experience as you. You sum it up so well when you say “invite yoga into your life, have some fun, and learn to trust yourself”

    Thanks for sharing!!!
    KL

  3. Chakra Man says

    I have practiced iyengar yoga for 13 years and seen many benefits, I would always say you get the body you work for, the Natural body, even expectant mothers, always say it help with an easy birth

    • Kara-Leah Grant says

      Hey Chakra Man,

      I’d have to agree with you – we do have the body we work for as such. Our body is the sum total of everything we do.

      Thanks for stopping by,
      KL

  4. Kate says

    So well said and well written! Added yoga to my exercise routine about 4 months ago – I have asthma and anxiety and have already seen the improvement in these areas as well as overall fitness and state of mind. Thx for sharing!!

  5. Terry says

    Hi.
    I have always wanted to have a figure, a slender body. But that doesn’t seem to work for me. Right now I am 16 and I don’t think dieting is the answer. So, I decided I want to work towards that with the help of yoga. I am a beginner right now, so I don’t know too much about yoga and how it would help. But your article inspired me, I am going to perform yoga regularly but I want to know will it be beneficial a 100%?
    Thank you!

    • Kara-Leah Grant says

      Hey Terry,

      There’s no doubt that regular yoga practice can have a profound impact on our bodies & minds – exactly what impact it will have depends on who we are. We all have different bones, different body proportions, different muscle structure, different places we store fat… Yoga teaches us to take right action – looking after our well-being – without being attached to the results – wanting to look a particular way.

      As you practice, you’ll feel better and better. Your body will change slowly over time and you’ll become more of who You are.

      So will yoga be 100% beneficial? Yes & no – if you commit to the practice 100%, and let go of the results, it will be 100% beneficial. Will it give you what you’re looking for? Maybe not… but by then, you may want something else anyway ;)

      Blessings,
      KL

  6. Jessica says

    I’ve been thinking of enrolling myself in an upcoming yoga class for a little while now, and I wasn’t too sure about it, but now that I know the benefits of it , i’m definately going to start :) i’d like to get an early start on my overall health, because i’ll have this body for the rest of my life! afterall, i’m only 14 :P

  7. Tenesia says

    Fantastic article! I was searching for a little motivation. I just began doing hot yoga, which seems to take the pressure off my joints (I have rheumatoid arthritis) and I find I am more capable of performing some of the postures. I just finished up day four and reading this bumped my excitement up a little for tomorrow! Thanks!

  8. Nancy says

    Hello,
    How many yoga classes should I receive per week? Right now I receive two per week, I was just wondering if that is enough.
    Thanks!!

    • Kara-Leah Grant says

      Hey Nancy,

      Great question! And I have one for you… enough for what?

      The more yoga you do, the faster you’ll see benefits and results. Two classes a week is twice as many benefits and results as one class. So you decide. Do you want the kind of results you can get from five classes a week, or two classes a week?

  9. guy says

    I hate life and am extremely dissatisfied and miserable. I have had a terrible life, very traumatic (unbelievably so), and at the moment I have no one who loves or cares about me (I have no family, grew up in foster care).

    I went through a lot of gym-junkie workout binge phases, but lately I let myself go. I am in my mid-20′s. I finally decided I am going to get in shape again, but now I have a bad knee (and I hate cardio anyway), and I don’t have a car at the moment, so gym isn’t exactly a solution. I’m so out of shape at this point that for the first time in my life I am seeing fat on my stomach and even a little on my arms, and walking down a flight of stairs has me breathing heavier than normal. It’s really bad. I work with computers, and at home, and lately have become very introverted and just want to be alone, so I just spend all day working or playing on the computer. It’s really terrible, I know. Between my awful diet and complete lack of exercise, I know this is probably a large cause of my current unhappiness and somewhat antisocial behavior. Additionally, my body is basically falling apart and I bet it’s a result of the same.

    The idea just popped into my head to maybe try yoga, ad to throw away all the aversions I had to it because it’s “a girl thing”. I guess that’s a result of growing up a bit and becoming more of a mature adult. Reading your blog on this page, you are basically convincing me that yoga is precisely what I need for my life. I hope that it will transform my body (back to what it was) and my depressed attitude toward life. Let’s see how it goes. I just don’t know where to begin.

    • Kara-Leah Grant says

      Hey Guy,

      Great idea! Just start… do you know any friends who go to yoga? Best bet is to find your way to a highly recommended kind and supportive yoga teacher who does great work with beginner’s and understands how to work with injuries. Ask around, check the local noticeboards and newspapers, go on the hunt.

      If you can’t find a real live teacher, hit the internet as there are loads of resources online, including many free classes. If a teacher doesn’t work for you, try another teacher, and another. Don’t be put off if the yoga seems too ‘easy’ or not enough of a ‘workout’. When you find a teacher you like, invest in their DVD. Baron Baptiste and Rodney Yee both have some good DVD and books for beginners.

      If you can though, you really want to find a good teacher to work with in person – it makes the world of difference!

      Good luck with your search, and the beginning of your yoga adventure.

      KL

  10. María says

    Estoy pasando por una fuerte depresión a raiz de ello me inscribí en yoga y danza arabe, llevo poco mas de una semana realizándolo…Mi pregunta es :¿ Veré los beneficios del yoga al realizar otra actividad como la danza arabe, o es mejor que realice solo yoga y deje las clases de danza arabe?..
    Espero que me respondan
    Saludos y gracias

    • Pippy says

      Hola Maria
      Creo que puedes hacer los dos, la danza arabe y yoga. Los dos ejercicios son muy bueno para tu cuerpo. Creo que los beneficios de los dos son similares. Me encanta yoga, siento que es bueno para mi mente y mi cuerpo. No he hecho danza arabe. Hacer lo que te encanta.
      Espero que puedes entenderme y mi español!
      Saludos! Pip

  11. zoe says

    Hello, I have been doing yoga for maybe a week. Bikram yoga to be exact. I am 22 and have had to take a break from modeling. I used to be very thin, long, lean and then boom. I made a huge decision to change my life and move to paris/let go of everything I once had. I gained weight although I was eating almost nothing and destroying myself in the gym twice a day. I felt a huge disconnect between my mind and body. so fast forward to now after 1 week of yoga. Something is working with yoga and I really feel the body and mind reconnecting.

    So my question is a bit weird but well… my job is to have this insanely slim tight figure and i believe the body can do anything you want it to as long as you know how to do it and do it safely. So right now I need to drop some serious fat and remain tight and muscular. Can yoga alone give me this body or do I need to be doing some time in the gym as well to drop the weight faster?

    I thought I had this all down to a system and now im throwing everything out the window and starting over BUT i can’t wait for a solution because … cough cough …. I have bills coming up and my body is my job…help!

    • Kara-Leah Grant says

      Hey Zoe,

      I can’t give you an answer. Bikram is an amazing practice, for many reasons, especially when first starting out with yoga. Try it every day for a month and see what happens.

      And welcome to yoga!

  12. zoe says

    Unfortunatly I had to stop yoga now just after starting : ( …. NO!
    I had a herniated disk when I was 17… saturday in class something happens and now I have tingling in my fingers pain in my neck back and down my calfs and more tingling under my feet. I was going to go see someone but I live in Paris and have yet to get insurance. They suggested I see an osteopath, my friends suggest the hospital and me, I have no idea…. The yoga people told me it is trapped nerve but for 2 days now it seems to be getting a tiny bit better… any advice?

    • Kara-Leah Grant says

      Hey Zoe,

      My advice is to find someone you trust in Paris who can help you out. I can’t know what you’re actually experiencing, nor what you should do, via a website on the other side of the world. That said, I too have had a herniated disc, and it did feel like tingling in my calf and feet. Any physical practice can exacerbate sciatica or a herniated disc if we push beyond our limits. It’s beyond the scope of a comment thread on a website to give you the right support and help. I’m sorry I can’t do more, and I hope you find the right person to help you.

      Blessings,
      Kara-Leah

  13. Stephanie says

    I needed this to get motivated! Thank you so much:)
    However, I cannot afford a yoga class or a personal yoga instructor at the time:(
    What’s the best type of yoga I could start practicing?
    And what DVD’s or videos could I practice from?
    I heard of Yoga Shakti from Shiva Rea
    but what other videos? Help Me please

    • Kara-Leah Grant says

      Hey Stephanie,

      I can’t give you a definite answer, because I have no idea what kind of yoga you need. There’s plenty on YouTube, start checking them out and see which ones feel best for you.

  14. Krista says

    I have recently joined a yoga center and love what it’s doing already for my shoulder tension and backaches, but mostly for my state of mind. I found this article in my search to see what makes yoga effective for the body, and got the answer from this article, but also (and more importantly in my opinion) was completely amazed by the beautiful description of yoga’s effect on self image. What an incredible article! The outer self is what we tend to work on nowadays, like a new paint job on a car. But we don’t realize that changing the look of the vehicle doesn’t matter if the engine isn’t in prime condition. Great read; must share.

    • Kara-Leah Grant says

      Hey Krista,

      Great to hear from you – I love how this article just keeps on giving! It is amazing what yoga does for one’s state of mind, but I guess it’s hard to “sell” that in a photo of yoga.

    • Kara-Leah Grant says

      Ah… ’tis the nature of what people search for in Google, and it brings many people to this website who may not otherwise discover it.

  15. Carmen says

    I just started yoga 2 weeks ago. I have been wanting to do yoga for a long time. But never really got to it, since I am a hyper person and I love to do aerobics and high energy stuff. But recently my health took a turn for the worse and my cardiologist suspended all vigorous activity. So I decided now would be a good time to start the yoga as to not lose to much muscle and stay strong. The first day I did yoga. I felt like it really stretched me out really good and even took away my stress headache by the end of the first week. Something precription drugs DID NOT DO. I am feeling great and look forward to my yoga. Having 4 hyper kids make it even better and they also join me sometimes. I try to do it twice a day. I am looking forward to advancing in yoga and just lovng myelf and appreciating my body more.

    • Kara-Leah Grant says

      Hey Carmen,

      Congratulations on starting yoga! It’s wonderful that your kids join in sometimes too. It will be interesting to see what other benefits you experience over time.

      Many blessings,
      KL

  16. SP says

    I was a runner for years. My hips and ankles were talking about it. I retired from running and have been doing Bikram religiously for a year. Best decision of my life. I dont have an ache to speak of and love my body. It has strengthened my mind, body, and soul.

  17. prashant says

    Hi…i went through ur article and was impressed. I know all the benifits of yoga, is i am from INDIA, but its always great to hear from a real experience person, I am re-inspired now, i mean i had started and stoped and started again and stoped again.. was not reguler, may be due to lazyness or whatever, But now i am again decided to make yoga as integral part of my daily routine, whatsoever may be the situation, just do practive yoga for an hour a day….i wil try to stick for it..and wil try to share the success story with all of you…thanks for the little addition to the inspiration….thanks

    • Kara-Leah Grant says

      Hey Prashant,

      Great to hear you’ve been inspired to make yoga a daily practice again. Glad to be of service.

      Many blessings,
      KL

  18. Aiza says

    Hi KL,

    Great article!:) Just started yoga about 2 weeks ago, and I really need some motivation…

    When you say “practice regularly”, what does it really mean?:) Im attendingg yoga glass about 2 to 3 times a week, but I still feel that my body is still stiff.I cannot even bend properly, to reach my feet.:( pls advise…thank you.:)

    • Kara-Leah Grant says

      Hey Aiza,

      I’d define regular practice as minimum three times a week. And if you’ve only been going to two weeks and you’re worried about still feeling stiff and not being able to reach your feet, I would suggest patience grasshopper! Yoga takes time, and persistence. Give it a year or so and see how you’re feeling then.

  19. Caroline says

    Dear Kara-Leah,
    I have been doing Crossfit for 10 months and getting in shape again, after having my son, 2 years ago. I am 31 years old and my body is finally toned, I am very excited about that! Despite of this, I am feeling a little tired of being sore all the time, I want a change in my life. If I practice only Yoga, will i be able to keep up with a tight body? I just dont wanna loose the nice shape in my legs, butt and arms. Thanks!

    • Kara-Leah Grant says

      Hey Caroline,

      I have no idea – there are far too many variables to give any kind of definitive answer. What style of yoga? How often? At what intensity?

  20. Dee Williams says

    hi all, i have had serious problems with pelvic pain, and after several operations and no improvement, i am now seriously considering yoga. i also suffer from OCD, anxiety and live a hectic life due to full time study, work etc. Through alot of articles and comments ive been reading on this page i am really inspired as lots of people have mentioned how yoga has made a difference to this issues. I have brought the Forty days of Yoga resources, and cant wait to give this a good shot!! heres hoping for results :)

    • Kara-Leah Grant says

      Hey Dee,

      Sounds like you have a whole lot going on. I’d also suggest finding a good local yoga teacher you can work with – either attending classes or maybe even doing a private session once a week or once a month. Working with the right teacher can make a world of difference.

  21. Casey says

    I just wanted to say I really enjoyed reading this article. I have recently picked up yoga as a class, and I really have enjoyed it. I did yoga for a couple of months a few years ago, and I remember how great I felt. Since stopping, I felt something was missing. I kept trying to figure out why I didn’t feel as well as I used to. When I started these classes, that feeling came back. I finally realized that yoga is what was making me feel so good. Mind, body, and spirit. It wasn’t that one summer those years ago that made me feel great, it was the confidence I felt about myself, the calm of my mind, and the relaxation that yoga had helped me to achieve. I strive to continue this practice, so I can always feel this great. Your article is a wonderful representation of what this practice encompasses. I really enjoyed reading. Namaste.

  22. Frank says

    Hi!
    First of all, great article! Now, I just wanted to know a few things. So, I have always had low self-confidence and low self-esteem which leads to not loving me or my body and, as you may know, that kind of screws up my social life (I have few friends and no girlfriend). My question here is: can yoga give me the self-confidence i need to love me and get more friends and a girlfriend? I really wanted a quick response if that’s possible, because if yoga really does all that, then i will definitely join some yoga class or something!
    Blessings :)

    • Kara-Leah Grant says

      Hey Frank,

      Why do you need to know? Why not just go to class and find out for yourself? Commit to three classes a week for a month and see what happens. You’ll know.

      KL

  23. Kate says

    I’ve been wanting to try out yoga for a long time now but couldn’t find any good resources to give me that extra push! This article is that push! Fantastic, thank you for this :)

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