The essence of optimal health is a healthy mind in a health body. Yoga, which has been practiced for more than 5,000 years, is a way to achieve both.
The November issue of Mayo Clinic Women’s HealthSource offers an overview of yoga and its health benefits.
Rooted in ancient India, today’s yoga is broadly understood as a system of relaxation, postures and breathing. Over the centuries, different forms of yoga have evolved. Some focus more on spirituality, others on mediation and mastering the conscious mind. Some are more physically challenging than others.
A number of research studies have been conducted on the potential health benefits of yoga. Some commonly acknowledged benefits include:
Relaxation and stress relief. Yoga’s quiet precise movements focus your mind less on your busy day and more on movement as you breathe deeply and progress through a series of poses.
Increased flexibility and balance. As you learn and practice new poses, you’ll find that each time you can reach a little farther.
Although evidence isn’t definitive, studies have also shown that yoga may help manage certain chronic health conditions, such as:
Depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders
Cardiovascular diseases, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol
If you’d like to try yoga, look for classes in your area. You also can learn from books and videos, but an instructor can help you adjust poses to your needs. Ask about the instructor’s training and experience in working with your particular needs or health concerns.
At the end of the yoga class, you should feel invigorated yet calm. If that’s not the case, talk to the instructor for suggestions. Otherwise, another yoga class may be better suited to your needs.