Yoga is an ancient set of practices that originated in India. These practices include a philosophical tradition, an ethical framework, physical postures (called asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama), and meditation. Yoga postures can help strengthen or stretch parts of the body that are weak or stiff, as well as enhancing bodily awareness and pain tolerance. Breathing practices can improve lung function, increase relaxation, and help users improve emotion regulation. Meditative practices can enhance focus, concentration, and mental clarity.
How Does It Work?Back to top
While yoga has been practiced for thousands of years, Western scientists only started doing yoga studies over the past several decades. Yoga has been employed historically to treat numerous medical conditions, and recent studies have shown that yoga can be a useful self-management strategy for multiple chronic conditions by reducing stress and anxiety, decreasing pain, and enhancing strength and flexibility.
There are many different yoga traditions and schools which draw on various aspects of these practices. For example, many yoga teachers in the United States focus solely on breath and postures. The ways in which yoga works likely depend on which yogic practices are used, as there is overlap between the benefits of yoga practices and other mind-body techniques like meditation.
Types of YogaBack to top
Hatha: Slower movements, hold poses for longer periods of time to build strength.
Vinyasa: Dynamic movement, link breath with movement, variable sequencing, lively music.
Ashtanga: Physically intense, link breath with movement, same order of sequences in every class.
Restorative: Gentle movements, poses use support from blocks and blankets, long holds in each posture.
Hot yoga: Same order of sequences in every class, artificially heated classrooms that are 95º Fahrenheit or warmer.
What to Expect?Back to top
Since there are many types of yoga, what to expect will vary in each class. Most classes are 60 to 75 minutes long, have multiple participants (5–20). Classes typically cost $10–$30. An example of a typical one-hour class is as follows:
- Centering (5–10 minutes): Using breathing exercises or a gentle warm up to try to become more present in the space and the body. This is also the time during which the intention for the class is set.
- Movement (40–50 minutes): The sequence of postures will vary depending on which part(s) of the body are being targeted and the relative physical rigor of the class.
- Rest and relaxation (5–10 minutes): Lying down, resting, and/or meditation.
Depending on the yoga teacher and style of yoga, the class may also involve chanting, longer periods of meditation or breathing exercises, and checking-in with the teacher before or after class. If you are unsure of or are uncomfortable with certain practices, it is important to check-in with the teacher or studio owner to ensure that you choose a class in alignment with your needs.
Potential RisksBack to top
Yoga is generally considered quite safe. As with other forms of exercise, it is possible to overexert oneself, fall, or endure other injuries. It is important to pay attention to the body to ensure that the movements align with individual needs. Consider starting with low impact, gentle classes and gradually increasing intensity if desired.
Find a Yoga StudioBack to top
Yoga is typically taught by certified yoga teachers. These teachers may have variable degrees of training (200, 500, or 1000 hours) as well as specialty certifications, such as prenatal, youth, or trauma-sensitive yoga. There are many yoga styles, so it is worth searching for a teacher whose style aligns with your specific needs or preferences.
You can find a certified yoga school or instructor through Yoga Alliance.
Practice Yoga OnlineBack to top
You can practice yoga with free online videos. One example is Yoga with Adriene.
You can practice yoga through subscription sites like Movement Therapy Company.**