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Good for the Body and Soul

yoga

Workout fads, like diets, come and go every year or two. But one exercise program has remarkable staying power and has been around more than 5,000 years - yoga!

Ask yoga believers and they will tell - yoga does more than just burn calories and tone muscles. It's a mind body practice that combines poses, breathing techniques and meditation or relaxation. Yoga has been shown to have physical benefits while also providing stress relief and lowering anxiety for many people.

According to a National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), yoga is the sixth most commonly used complementary health practice among adults. The survey also found that more than 13 million adults and more than 1.5 million children practice yoga. Most people surveyed said they practice yoga to maintain their health and well-being, improve physical fitness, relieve stress, and enhance quality of life. In addition, they may be addressing specific health conditions, such as back pain, neck pain, arthritis, and anxiety.

Current research suggests that a carefully adapted set of yoga poses may reduce low-back pain and improve function. Other studies also suggest that practicing yoga (as well as other forms of regular exercise) can:

  • Improve quality of life
  • Reduce stress
  • Lower heart rate and blood pressure
  • Help relieve anxiety, depression, and insomnia
  • Improve overall physical fitness, strength, and flexibility

Research shows yoga can be a great activity for anyone with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or heart disease. Just be sure to check with your doctor before beginning.

There are many different types of yoga, some involving certain types of poses requiring more strength and some that involve exercising in heavily heated rooms. Generally speaking, low impact, traditional yoga is considered safe for healthy people when practiced appropriately and under the guidance of a well-trained instructor. People with chronic health conditions or who are pregnant should always talk to their physician before starting a new exercise regimen, including yoga.

If you want to try yoga, seek out a studio or a class that offers a trained, certified instructor. Let the instructor know you are new to yoga and ask him/her to let you know if your poses need adjusting. Most yoga-related injuries happen when a participant is posing incorrectly and placing strain on a muscle, joint or nerve. A good instructor can identify these mistakes and help you correct them.

You might also consider purchasing your own yoga mat for class. Know that most yoga classes are performed barefoot. And bring water - staying hydrated is important.

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