Yoga is a mind and body practice. Various styles of yoga combine physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation, or relaxation.
Yoga’s history has many places of obscurity and uncertainty due to its oral transmission of sacred texts and the secretive nature of its teachings. The early writings on yoga were transcribed on fragile palm leaves that were easily damaged, destroyed, or lost. The development of yoga can be traced back to over 5,000 years ago, but some researchers think that yoga may be up to 10,000 years old old. Yoga’s long rich history can be divided into four main periods of innovation, practice, and development.
The beginnings of Yoga were developed by the Indus-Sarasvati civilization in Northern India over 5,000 years ago. The word yoga was first mentioned in the oldest sacred texts, the Rig Veda. The Vedas were a collection of texts containing songs, mantras, and rituals to be used by Brahmans, the Vedic priests. Yoga was slowly refined and developed by the Brahmans and Rishis (mystic seers) who documented their practices and beliefs in the Upanishads, a huge work containing over 200 scriptures.
Modern yoga focuses on exercise, strength, agility, and breathing. It can help boost physical and mental well-being.
There are many styles of yoga. A person should choose a style based on their goals and fitness level.
This type of yoga practice uses ancient yoga teachings. However, it became popular during the 1970s. Ashtanga applies the same poses and sequences that rapidly link every movement to breathe.
People practice Bikram yoga, also known as hot yoga, in artificially heated rooms at a temperature of nearly 105oF and 40% humidity. It consists of 26 poses and a sequence of two breathing exercises.
This is a generic term for any type of yoga that teaches physical poses. Hatha classes usually serve as a gentle introduction to the basic poses of yoga.
This type of yoga practice focuses on finding the correct alignment in each pose with the help of a range of props, such as blocks, blankets, straps, chairs, and bolsters.
This type teaches practitioners to know, accept, and learn from the body. A student of Kripalu yoga learns to find their level of practice by looking inward. The classes usually begin with breathing exercises and gentle stretches, followed by a series of individual poses and final relaxation.
Kundalini yoga is a system of meditation that aims to release pent-up energy. A Kundalini yoga class typically begins with chanting and ends with singing. In between, it features asana, pranayama, and meditation that aim to create a specific outcome.
In the late 1980s, practitioners developed this active and athletic type of yoga based on the traditional Ashtanga system.
This system uses a five-point philosophy as its foundation. This philosophy maintains that proper breathing, relaxation, diet, exercise, and positive thinking work together to create a healthy yogic lifestyle. People practicing Sivananda use 12 basic asanas, which they precede with Sun Salutations and follow with Savasana.
Viniyoga focuses on form over function, breath and adaptation, repetition and holding, and the art and science of sequencing.
Yin yoga places its focus on holding a passive pose for long periods. This style of yoga targets deep tissues, ligaments, joints, bones, and fascia.
Prenatal yoga uses poses that practitioners have created with pregnant people in mind. This yoga style can help people get back into shape after giving birth, and support health during pregnancy.
This is a relaxing method of yoga. A person spends a restorative yoga class in four or five simple poses, using props such as blankets and bolsters to sink into deep relaxation without exerting any effort when holding the pose.
Yoga has many physical and mental benefits, including:
Can help with pain management:
Research has been done on yoga for several conditions that involve pain. Studies of yoga for low-back pain and neck pain have had promising results, and yoga is among the options that the American College of Physicians recommends for first-line treatment of chronic low-back pain. Preliminary evidence suggests that yoga may also be helpful for tension headaches and knee osteoarthritis pain.
Is a good way to lose weight:
There’s evidence that yoga may help people lose weight. In 2013, a review supported by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) looked at 17 yoga-based weight-control programs and found that most of them led to gradual, moderate reductions in weight.
Can help to quit smoking:
There’s evidence that yoga may help people stop smoking.
Affects mental health:
There’s evidence that yoga may be helpful for anxiety associated with various life situations, such as medical conditions or stressful educational programs, and for depressive symptoms. The evidence on yoga’s impact on diagnosed mental health conditions is less promising.
Can help with menopause symptoms:
Yoga seems to be at least as effective as other types of exercise in relieving menopause symptoms. A 2018 evaluation of 13 studies (more than 1,300 participants) of yoga for menopause symptoms found that yoga reduced physical symptoms, such as hot flashes, as well as psychological symptoms, such as anxiety or depression.
Is helpful for people with chronic diseases:
There’s promising evidence that yoga may help people with some chronic diseases manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. Thus, it could be a helpful addition to treatment programs.
Although medication and talk therapy are common treatments for depression, yoga has had some promising results as a complementary therapy.
Although most people feel anxious from time to time, anxiety is also a symptom of many conditions, including panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and phobias.
A 2016 meta-analysis Trusted Source found that practicing Hatha yoga had a promising effect on anxiety. Yoga was also most beneficial in people who had the highest levels of anxiety at the start of their studies.
People often practice yoga to reduce stress and aid relaxation. Scientists are now learning the mechanisms behind how yoga lowers stress. Persistent surges of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, may damage blood vessels and elevate blood pressure. However, research has shown that people who practice yoga regularly have low cortisol levels.
Also, yoga can build muscle strength, enhance flexibility, promote better breathing, support heart health, improve sleep, enhance overall well-being and quality of life, etc.
Yoga is generally considered a safe form of physical activity for healthy people when performed properly, under the guidance of a qualified instructor. However, as with other forms of physical activity, injuries can occur. The most common injuries are sprains and strains, and the parts of the body most commonly injured are the knee or lower leg. Serious injuries are rare. The risk of injury associated with yoga is lower than that for higher impact physical activities.
Older adults may need to be particularly cautious when practicing yoga.
To reduce your chances of getting hurt while doing yoga:
- Practice yoga under the guidance of a qualified instructor. Practicing yoga by self-study without supervision has been associated with increased risks.
- If you’re new to yoga, avoid extreme practices such as headstands, shoulder stands, the lotus position, and forceful breathing.
- Be aware that hot yoga has special risks related to overheating and dehydration.
- Pregnant women, older adults, and people with health conditions should talk with their health care providers and yoga instructor about their individual needs. They may need to avoid or modify some yoga poses and practices. Some of the health conditions that may call for yoga modifications include preexisting injuries, such as knee or hip injuries, lumbar spine disease, severe high blood pressure, balance issues, and glaucoma.
If you are interested in learning and doing yoga by reading this article, you can join a beginner’s class so that an instructor can teach the correct poses and techniques, or you can use online videos or apps in this regard. But be careful online classes with no instructor may lead to improper alignment of poses, which may cause injury over time. The Habitomic app may help you to do yoga as a habit.