The Benefits of Yoga - Inspiring Yoga Stories From Yogis of All Ages, Shapes and Sizes
Stressed? Depressed? Anxious? Get inspired by the real life stories of people who’ve used yoga to transform their challenges – and find out how yoga can benefit you.
I was a burnt out corporate, working eighty hour weeks in advertising. Nothing was working for me, and all those hours spent debating what song a sunflower should sing had landed me with clinical depression. I tried anti depressants but stopped after three days as they made me feel sick. I decided to try to straighten myself out with six months in the yoga schools of India.
Inspired by Paul Brunton’s book A Search in Secret India, published in the 1930s, I imagined a mystical world of saints and sages. Instead I encountered Gucci’d up gurus and poolside body fat contests in which the winners were always the Ashtanga students. It wasn't what I expected but the yoga got to work anyway, peeling back the layers to reveal new ways of being.
I realised, as I packed five volumes of diaries in my suitcase for the journey home, that my happiness lay in writing. I came home and wrote Yoga School Dropout, which Random House published a year later.
I think the reason it sold so well (40,000 copies and counting) was that my story touched a chord with a lot of people. I started getting emails from readers around the world. As I’d shared the story of my transformation, from corporate burn out to born again writer, readers shared theirs; how yoga was helping them transform life’s obstacles and create lives they loved – as small business owners, mothers, yoga teachers, designers. The list went on, and on.
I realized that there were a lot of us on the same journey, all of us using the power of yoga to transform our challenges and create lives we love, but that we had no basecamp from which to spread the word about the power of yoga. So I created The Yoga Map Project as the place to acknowledge and share the many benefits of yoga.
So far we have collected over 500 stories, stories that stretch from New Zealand to New York, California to London, Tel Aviv to Durban, South Africa.
Each story is personal but there are some common themes. As this graph shows, the most commonly reported benefits of yoga lie in dealing with stress, low self esteem, and feeling without purpose. I can certainly relate to all these feelings. If you’re reading this perhaps you can too?
Another common yoga benefit commonly cited in these stories is recovery from burnout. Health challenges also feature large; injury, yoga as a way of coping with and transforming body image issues, eating disorders, addiction, anxiety, and depression.
Whatever the specifics of the individual stories, one thing is clear – the benefits of yoga run the whole gamut of human experience. Read on to inspire yourself with the power of yoga!
For ease I have divided the stories into three categories:
The benefits of yoga – transforming health challenges through daily practice
The benefits of yoga – yoga for a happy, stress-free life
The benefits of yoga - yoga for addiction
Sometimes, when we are faced with difficult challenges – especially those we might have lived with for our whole lives, we can feel lost, without purpose. Read how yogis used yoga to transform their exp erience of a health c ondition. Uniting body, mind and spirit, they are steering their own path towards a new, healthier experience of life.
Yoga benefits anxiety
Zoe’s story – “my daily practice allows me to find a sense of inner peace”
Zoe Goodyear, a yoga teacher from Andover, UK, found that yoga calmed her OCD. She has been powered by yoga since 2010.
“As a sufferer of OCD and anxiety my daily practice allows me to find a sense of inner peace. It hasn't been always an easy path, but one full of facing up to my own demons every day and each time I step onto my mat.
Without that daily grounding and centring I know I would today be a very different person living a very different life.”
Sam’s story – “I finally felt I was empowering and healing myself”
Sam Wells, a yoga teacher from London, used yoga in her battle against anxiety, drug and stress issues. She has been powered by yoga since 2007.
“My whole young adult life I was in stress from the breakdown of my family unit, losing a parent, making the wrong choices as a teenager and putting myself in challenging risky and dangerous situations which ended up in me consuming copious amounts of drugs and alcohol.
I found yoga and struggled with it for a few years, but knew it was alleviating my anxiety and drug and stress issues. When I found Strala and my mentors Tara Stiles and Mike Taylor, I finally felt I was empowering and healing myself through an easier way to move more, with less effort. I've found my calling now and taking this easy-going approach through my life not just in Yoga.
I still come across challenges, life is not a bed of roses, but I'm learning to take what serves me and drop what doesn't. I'm passing it on too! I love guiding people through grace and ease to feel great in themselves, like Tara and Mike guided me to heal myself. I'm still at the beginning of my journey, but I'm loving it!”
Yoga benefits Autism
David’s story – “all my symptoms seemed to melt away”
David Ellams, a yoga student from London, UK, learned that yoga helped alleviate the symptoms of Autism – and built his confidence. He has been powered by yoga since 2010.
“When I tried yoga it completely transformed my life. It was just amazing, and all my symptoms seemed to melt away! I’m now doing public talking and it’s all thanks to yoga.
I’m definitely powered by yoga in that it just really, really helps.
I can’t live my life without yoga, and I do it every day and if I don’t do it for a few days to a week, I start to regress again. I really swear by it.”
Yoga benefits Eating Disorders
Rose’s story – “Yoga healed me and helped me grow into a healer”
Rose Bird, a yoga teacher who struggled with an eating disorder, from Bristol, UK, has been powered by yoga since 2012.
“I’d suffered with an eating disorder from the age of 12. There was a time when I was too weak, both physically and mentally to walk more than a few steps. But I could still breathe. And where there was breath, I found yoga. I used yoga to help me heal; I rejected medications and turned to meditation.
Suddenly I find myself being a medic yogi: studying medicine, giving holistic massage AND teaching what I love - YOGA.
Yoga helped me shape and sculpt myself in to a stronger, more satisfied human being. Yoga stopped me using my body as a source of suffering and let me see it as a source of satisfaction & celebration... of how far I have come, and all that I have yet to discover.”
Bhanu’s story – “The practice of yoga healed my compulsive thoughts”
Chaz, or Bhanu, a yoga teacher from Los Angeles, found that yoga helped her in battling an eating disorder. She has been powered by yoga since 1993.
“25 years ago, I took my very first class. I was a stressed out, overachieving teenager with an eating disorder. My life felt out of control, and so I tried to control what I could through what I ate (or didn't eat.) My godmother recommended I come with her to a class, and I'm so happy she did. Thus, began my journey.
Breath by breath, asana by asana, I began traversing a long road toward catharsis, healing, and transformation. The practice of yoga healed my compulsive thoughts, and helped me through tremendous adversity over the years: great loss, cancer, obsessive thinking, divorce, heartbreak, etc.
I became a teacher in 2003 and had the great privilege of studying with Gurmukh Mike Noury, of Yoga of India. He bestowed my yoga name, Bhanu, meaning "bringer of positive energy." I have taken that on as a great responsibility--the need to share the light and love for this practice that heals, uplifts, and inspires.
I eventually open an all-female yoga studio in Fresno called Sisters Yoga. While I sold it many years ago, it still serves as a sanctuary for women of all ages to tend to the gardens of their self-esteem.”
Neyu’s story – “Yoga has changed my whole life!
Neyu Marques, a yoga teacher from the Balearic Islands, found that yoga boosted her self-esteem. She has been powered by yoga since 2015.
“Yoga has changed my whole life. When I was a child, I experienced some situations I didn’t know how to handle, and I built a huge wall of ice around me to hide my emotions. It was a way to protect myself, so nobody would discover my true feelings. I also struggled to accept my body; suffering eating disorders for many years.
Then, last year, I found yoga, and everything started to change. Initially I fell in love with the physical aspect of yoga; but step-by-step I become more aware of my body, and later of my mind. After a while I started to connect with myself, my feelings, my emotions, my thoughts, my energy, and gradually, I learned how to control my mind, how to achieve my inner peace.
I can’t say that I don’t still have annoying thoughts, but I’ve learned to let go of the unhealthy ones. Now I accept myself for my potential and my flaws; I lead a healthy lifestyle physically and mentally, and I absolutely love my life! I live every day intensely, as if I was taking my last breath … because I understand what it is to live freely – with my heart wide open, loving myself and the world.”
Yoga benefits Chronic Pain
Roquita’s story – “Broken girl made whole”
Roquita Williams, a yoga student from Memphis, USA, felt the benefits of yoga for her chronic disease. She has been powered by yoga since 2007.
“I stumbled into yoga a bird with severely broken wings. I had tried just about every unhealthy means of managing an overwhelming life, chronic pain, failed relationships and a broken heart.
I finally decided to try something that wasn't going to make things worse. I knew yoga would help with my physical pain and the limitations I was suffering due to chronic disease, but I didn't realize the way it would massage my heart, my liver, my stomach, my intestines and every other internal part of my body to wellness.
Today I live a whole, happy life filled with joy and mindfulness.”
The benefits of yoga - yoga for a happy life
Many yogis find yoga when they are feeling lost, searching for a new way of being. Yoga grounds us through the ups and downs of living and brings us back home, to ourselves. Find out how yoga helps us live happy lives, and embrace every new day.
Yoga benefits our state of mind
Kevin’s story – Dealing with life’s ups and downs.
Kevin Brackley, a yoga student from Berkhamsted, found that yoga helped him recover from several operations and deal with ageing. He has been powered by yoga since 1996.
“When I first came out from the hospital after the first of 3 operations, I couldn't even lift my little mug of tea off the ground. You have to have the motivation to get back on your mat. You just need to do a little bit every day. And it's amazing how much of a mental lift yoga can give you, as well as being physically helpful for your rehabilitation.
Yoga has brought me so much, but I think mainly it helps me deal with the ups and downs that life throws at us as we get older. Dena Kingsberg told me once the only thing we can really control is our attitude and reaction to situations. I don't think I've become any less passionate about things, but yoga has certainly contributed to letting things go and deciding what's worth it and what isn't.”
Maria’s story – Fulfilling my dreams, living out my dharma
Maria Santoferraro, a yoga teacher from Richfield, Virginia, USA, discovered that yoga was good for her health, creativity and lifestyle. She has been powered by yoga since 2004.
“Yoga is absolutely responsible for helping me to fulfil my dreams and live out my dharma. In my late 40s I made the transformation from a stressed-out corporate executive to a blissed-out beach yoga teacher and have never been happier.
Yoga has blessed me with the opportunity to do work that I love, help others, share love and compassion, travel around the world, meet the most OMazing people and make new friends, lift up and support women, and provide an outlet for my creativity.
It is my life insurance policy that will keep me healthy and vibrant both physically and spiritually and I look forward to living and sharing this practice both on and off my yoga mat for years to come!”
Sarah’s story - Do what you love for longer
Sarah Ramsden, a yoga teacher from Manchester, popularised yoga for sports when she started working with Ryan Giggs. Over a decade later he was still on the pitch and winning. She has been powered by yoga since 1990.
“I spent a lot of time in Nepal where I learnt real, classical yoga and it’s the best thing I ever did—mentally, physically, and emotionally.
What I want to do with my teaching is enable you to go on doing the things you love for longer. I work with professional footballers, so obviously for them being able to do what they love for longer is a big deal.
But also, the regular people in my class—runners, triathletes, mountain bikers; all those guys in their 50s who think it’s a reasonable idea to do an Iron Man when they haven’t really done much for 20 years.
For me it’s about having them manage their bodies to go on doing stuff they love. And to me that also includes our minds and our emotions. You cannot make yourself more flexible unless you calm your mind and your emotions. They are utterly inseparable. So, to go on doing what you want to do for longer we need to be supple, strong, calm and centred. That’s my yoga practice.”
Emerald’s story – Yoga enables me to let go
Emerald Barcelona, a yoga student from North Hollywood, USA, learnt the art of letting go with yoga. She has been powered by yoga since 2014.
“Yoga had changed my life! Before yoga, I was a completely different person. I wasn't myself. I was the person I thought I was supposed to be. I had an "image" I was trying to protect. I had such a busy lifestyle trying to be this and that, here and there, I never had time for myself, just other people, businesses...I had a life of pleasing everyone else. I also held on to everything! Grudges, arguments, past relationships...my mind could've exploded with all the stress and negativity I kept within me!
Thank goodness for yoga, I finally learned how to LET GO! Let go of what isn't me. Stop trying to be this and that. Let go of planning every single thing and trying to be everywhere for everyone at once. Let go of what isn't there anymore. Release what no longer serves me. Be in the present and forget about the past.
I never truly knew what "letting go" meant until I started practicing yoga and now I have become so much more relaxed, happy, peaceful, balanced, present...the list goes on! I can deal with so much more now because of meditation and yoga. I found myself through yoga. I am a happy being because of yoga. I love my life now! Namaste ❤”
Uma’s story – Yoga gives me resilience and joy
Uma Dinsmore-Tuli, a revered yoga teacher from Stroud who specialises in yoga for women, credits yoga with her visible joy. She has been powered by yoga since 1969.
“Yoga makes me feel resiliently joyful. In the face of the complicated things that happen to you during middle age—family difficulties, illness, work pressures and all that—you can be quite resiliently joyful and happy in it and the yoga does that.
I feel like it gives us access to our birth right; we’re born on this planet, so we should be able to enjoy our lives and all the people that we meet and connect with, what’s living and alive.”
Brian’s story – Yoga gave me self esteem and self respect
Brian Cooper, a yoga teacher from Edinburgh, found that yoga gave him the power to be confident, and respect himself. He has been powered by yoga since 1970
“I was at a party and found a book on yoga. I went home and started practicing what was in the book and I really liked it. It made a big difference. The difference had everything to do with self-esteem and self-respect. A lot of people have very low self-esteem and some people have no self-respect, especially if there are problems in their life. They see the problems as their fault; they put themselves down.
You start doing yoga and—even if it’s just managing to do a single posture—it’s yours, it nobody else’s. It’s your practice. Your self-esteem starts climbing because you think, “I can do this. I did it on my own. I’m doing it every day,” which then brings on a huge amount of self-respect. That’s the biggest lesson for me.
Yoga is not religion, but a freedom of self-expression, self-esteem and self-respect.”
Elad’s story - Where Light Meets Yoga
Elad Itzkin, a yoga teacher from London, UK, experiences the benefits of yoga in daily life. He has been powered by yoga since 2005.
“I made it my life mission to continue inspiring people to add yoga to their life, and I have been taking photos since my teen years, mostly urban, architecture, nature and landscape… Yoga photography is my path… For me, it's the perfect combination of my two passions, where light, which is the essence of photography, meets the essence of my life, Yoga.”
Trina’s story – Yoga inspired my creativity
Trina Solomon, the designer and creator of SoloSol Movement, learnt that yoga improved her to live life to the fullest. She is from Santa Monica, California, USA, and has been powered by yoga since 2009.
Says Trina, “Our mother took me to my first yoga class when I was twelve, so perhaps it’s no surprise that I became a yoga teacher. The benefits of yoga are immeasurable. Yoga makes people happier, healthier and more connected. Yoga helps people find their true selves.
We are testimony to the belief that yoga gives us the courage to find our true self and reach for our dreams. Hiking the 4,421 metre Mount Whitney with my sister Charlene, we realised how connected we were on a deeper level and how this connection would enable us to work together with ease.
We decided to realise our dream - designing active wear for the adventure seeking, wild hearted, and free spirited. Charlene would take care of the business and I would design the prints.
The challenges are inevitable. But there is nothing more rewarding than when things come together, when a deal goes through, when there is success. You have to use this success to fuel you to keep going, and of course you have to practice yoga.
Anna’s story – “A sense of deep connection, of opening”
Anna Ashby, a yoga teacher from Barwell, UK, felt the benefits of yoga herself, and is dedicated to passing them on to others. She has been powered by yoga since 1987.
“I remember I was standing at my window of my bedroom and looking out as a little kid, and saw the sunset happening. And it was extraordinary. And in this moment, as I was watching this sunset, this huge feeling of expansion, like a sense of huge love just came up. And it wasn’t really attached to anything; it just felt like it was connected to everything. This very present, ecstatic feeling of the heart; just opening.
I see teaching yoga very much as an act of service. I think it’s important to serve others - to share what I know as best I can, in the hope that other people can also have this very same experience of an expanded state, the sense of deep connection and start to live from that place.”
Robin’s story – “Yoga is the root of my life”
Robin Watkins-Davis, a yoga teacher from Stroud, used yoga to build self-respect. She has been powered by yoga since 2011.
“I was not a natural mediator. At first, I could barely manage 5 minutes but each time I did it I would notice small changes. As the practice started to become more prominent in my life, more things would change and shift; people at school started to actually like the real me, I didn't have to be someone I wasn’t, and this was so liberating - it gave me to confidence to keep practicing.
Yoga as in asana practice then came into my life about 2 years ago. I would practice every morning for an hour with a hatha yoga DVD before school. Now, Yoga is the root of my life. Its practices are the foundation for my values and it is my rock, which I come to whenever a challenge presents itself. The benefits of this practice are so profound they helped me mentally and physically feel good, with self-respect, with friendship, with family, with resilience and schoolwork.”
Goldie’s story – “Yoga is coming home”
Goldie, a yoga student and YoGangster from London and Thailand, finds that yoga is a home he can take with him anywhere. He has been powered by yoga since 2010.
“I am most definitely powered by yoga. I travel around the world (everywhere around the world). You get that little place on the mat, and you’re sitting there, and you go, ‘I’m home. Even though I’m away from home, I’m most definitely home.”
Ellen’s story - Yoga made life beautiful.
Ellen Van Velden, a yoga teacher from Durban South Africa, found freedom from pain and suffering through practice. She has been powered by yoga since 2013.
“Yoga healed my heart. Every life on this earth endures pain and suffering, most of it that is never set free. Yoga allowed for an inward journey on a massive scale. It allowed for the past to be put in its place, making space for the life-giving present.
Without suffering I would never have found the yoga practice and without suffering I wouldn’t understand how to heal. It’s worth it to feel pain, if it means those lessons can be channelled to healing hearts and maybe even the world.”
The benefits of yoga - yoga for addiction
Sometimes, when people are stressed, depressed and anxious they look outside of themselves for sources of comfort. Read how yogis experienced the health benefits of yoga, as they used the practice not just to clear their mind, but to help clean their bodies of addiction.
Jo’s story – “it has quite literally saved my life
Jo de Rosa, a yoga teacher from Lavenham, Suffolk, UK, found that yoga helped her battle her addictions.
“I’ve been powered by yoga for 15 years; teaching yoga and meditation. It has quite literally saved my life. I was addicted to cocaine, cigarettes, alcohol, and various other more minor addictions like sugar and caffeine. Doing yoga and meditation has literally saved me from those things. I’ve been completely sober for 3 years now and it was all because of yoga!
I’ve now opened a retreat centre—Inner Guidance Retreat Centre—and I share the love with everyone that’s ready for transformation. We do residential retreats, addiction retreats, yoga retreats, meditation retreats—all sorts of different retreats.
You can transform yourself. You can do yoga, do meditation, eat clean food, get off sugar, get off alcohol, get off drugs, get off anything and quite literally come and learn how to live the dream because that’s what I did.”
Celeste’s story - “Yoga and the 12 Steps Transformed My Life”
Celeste Mendelsohn, a yoga teacher and recovering addict from Encinitas, USA, experiences the health benefits of yoga in her daily life. She has been powered by yoga since 2005.
“The stress of living with addiction, first in my family of origin, and then in my marriage, was killing me, slowly. Emotional pain becomes physical pain and eventually disease. Yoga and Ayurveda have known this for thousands of years. Modern science is beginning to know this now. But we CAN recover. We CAN live happy, joyous and free lives if we are willing to walk in the sunlight and find and speak our truth, follow our dreams and trust in the Universe instead of looking for another human being to fix us and make us whole. It's an inside job, as Al-Anon says.
For me, I needed every tool I could find to discover the keys to my own wellbeing and happiness. Yoga was essential in opening the doors to my own soul that had been closed and locked by living a traumatic lifestyle. I am forever changed and forever grateful for the opportunity to give to others the great gift I have been given.”
A note from us…
Feeling inspired? Now that you’ve read so many stories on the benefits of yoga, it’s time to find out what yoga can do for you. Roll out your yoga mat and start transforming your own challenges!
Already got a story to tell? Share the benefits of yoga with the world by adding your story to the Yoga Map.
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is a yoga advocate and writer with three yoga books to her name, including the beloved travel memoir Yoga School Dropout. She writes regularly for the national press, has authored over 150 guides to types of yoga and yoga
poses, discovered nearly 250 proven health benefits of yoga through her painstaking classification of 300 clinical studies, and collected more than 500 personal testimonials to the real life benefits of yoga. She is also
the creator of our yoga shop – YogaClicks.Store – handpicking yoga brands that are beautifully made by yogis committed to environmental and social sustainability.