Yoga isn’t just a form of exercise. Its guiding principles can help you develop a strong mind-body balance that will help you handle life’s highs and lows.

If yoga and meditation are part of your exercise routine, you probably already know about the health benefits of this type of exercise. Yoga improves strength, flexibility, range of motion and balance, reduces stress and anxiety, improves mood, and can even help you reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure or heart disease. While the benefits of yoga as a form of exercise are well-documented, the advantages of incorporating yoga as part of your lifestyle aren’t as well-known. The five principles of yoga – proper relaxation, proper exercise, proper breathing, proper diet, and positive thinking and meditation – each play an important role in maintaining a healthy mind-body balance.

Proper Relaxation

When you’re feeling stressed, your muscles tend to become tense, which can lead to headaches and sore muscles. You also might feel tired or notice that it’s harder to concentrate. Performing yoga exercises help you reduce muscle tension. Although you might not have time for a full yoga session before work, chances are you can squeeze in a few minutes before it’s time to leave. When your muscles are relaxed, you’ll feel in control, at peace, and ready to face the day’s challenges.

Proper Exercise

Yoga keeps your muscles strong, your spine and joints flexible, and your blood flowing freely. Whether you sit in front of a computer all day or have a more active job, keeping your muscles and bones strong will help prevent muscles aches and strains – allowing you to focus on your tasks, not your body.

Proper Breathing

Yogic breathing involves taking slow, full, deep breaths that circulate air all the way to the bottom of your lungs. Although mastering yogic breathing does take some practice, you’ll find that changing the way you breathe can help you feel more relaxed and energetic during the day. Yogic breathing also reduces tension in your shoulders and upper back and neck. If you breathe shallowly, you tend to hunch over when you breathe, which causes tightness in those muscles.

Proper Diet

Following recommendations regarding proper diet can help you avoid overeating and snacking when you’re upset, angry, or bored. When you view food as nourishment, you’re more likely to choose healthy foods and eat only when you are hungry. Although a true Yogic diet is vegetarian, focusing on a proper diet, whether vegetarian or not, is an important part of ensuring that you stay in good health.

Positive Thinking and Meditation

It’s hard to stay calm when your boss dumps a big project on your desk at 4 p.m. or your children won’t stop fighting. While it’s only natural to feel overwhelmed, negative feelings can prevent you from tackling problems. The yogic focus on positive thinking banishes negativity from your life and allows you to focus on achieving your goals. Daily meditation plays an important part in positive thinking. It helps you rid your mind of negative thoughts and anxiety and returns your focus to the positive.

The Bottom Line

Yoga is not for everyone. However, its basic principles are part of any healthy lifestyle. If you’ve never explored yoga before, it’s worth taking a lot and possibly learning some new tools that will help you with your daily challenges – whether mental or physical.