How your body changes when you start doing yoga

In today's fitness-obsessed world, it seems like there's always a new up and coming "it" form of exercise, but one form seems to have stood the test of time — yoga. Yoga dates back thousands of years and it's estimated that approximately 30 million Americans practice yoga today (via Yogi Approved). Given its versatile and modifiable nature, there seems to be a yoga practice for everyone.

If you've considered yoga in the past but never pulled the trigger, here are just a few health benefits that may encourage you to roll out your mat and get started.

Increased flexibility. This is most often the first and most obvious effect of a physical yoga practice. Over time, the muscles and connective tissues surrounding the joints and bones loosen and are able to move more freely, with less associated aches and pain (via Yoga Journal).

Builds muscle strength. There are many different forms of yoga, some more strengthening than others. Newbies to vinyasa yoga may be struck by just how much power and strength is needed to perform chaturanga, commonly referred to as a yoga push-up, repeatedly (via Shape). Yoga helps build muscle mass and increases muscle strength. Healthier muscle is more than just aesthetically pleasing — it actually helps you become stronger and can prevent conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis, and chronic pain.

There are even more benefits of yoga

Yoga also increases bone health. Weight-bearing exercise is recommended to all individuals at risk of developing osteopenia and osteoporosis. Several yoga postures require the lifting of one's own body weight and have been shown to increase bone density, which is critical in reducing the risk of bone fractures.

Improves cardiovascular health. Yoga has long been proven to decrease blood pressure and decrease heart rate. It has also been shown to lower triglyceride levels and improve overall cholesterol levels. These factors promote better overall cardiovascular health and decrease the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, and many other serious ailments (via WebMD).

Improves mental health. Several studies have demonstrated the efficacy of consistent yoga practice in helping relieve stress, decrease anxiety and depression, and promote mindfulness. Yoga tends to decrease cortisol, the "stress" hormone, levels in the body, making one feel more relaxed and less overwhelmed and frantic (via Healthline).

Whether it's in a yoga studio or your living room, roll out your mat, center yourself, and start practicing. You'll be reaping the health benefits in no time!