What is yoga?
Yoga is a mind and body practice that involves movement, breathing exercises, and a focus on thoughts and feelings as they happen (mindfulness). It began in ancient India as a spiritual practice, based on the idea that the mind and body are one. But today, more people practice yoga for overall health, including flexibility, stress relief, and physical fitness.
Common styles of yoga include Ashtanga, Bikram, and Iyengar, which are all part of the school of Hatha yoga. While their styles vary, they all include stretching postures that are done with focused, deep breathing.
Yoga can be practiced alone or with others. There are yoga classes for all skill levels, from beginners to advanced students. Some classes focus on movement and correct ways to do each posture. Other classes are more about stress relief and mindfulness. Yoga classes often take place in a yoga studio, but they can be taught anywhere, including outside. For example, Bikram yoga (a type of hot yoga) is practiced in a heated room.
What is yoga used for?
Yoga is often practiced for overall health and stress relief. But it can also be helpful for physical problems, such as back pain or other health issues, along with regular medical treatment.
Is yoga safe?
Most experts consider yoga to be safe when used by healthy people and taught by a well-trained professional. Like any physical activity, yoga can cause muscle strains or sprains. Know your limits and adapt poses to work with your body's needs.
Talk to your doctor if you are thinking about trying yoga.
Other Works Consulted
- Miryala R, et al. (2011). Yoga. In M Micozzi, ed., Fundamentals of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 4th ed., pp. 482–494. St. Louis: Saunders.
Current as of: December 20, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Brian D. O'Brien MD - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine