Yoga for Health Positioning Your Body and Mind

Have you rolled a yoga mat lately? If so, you are among the many who have adopted yoga to relax and stay healthy. One in seven adults in the US practiced yoga last year. Yoga can help bring about many health and wellness benefits.

Yoga, based on Indian philosophy, involves the body and mind. It started as a spiritual practice. Modern yoga focuses more on physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation. Meditation includes exercises to help clear and calm your thoughts.

“With practice, yoga teaches you to guide the mind into a single object,” says Dr. Nasheed, an expert at NAH on yoga research. Pamela Jeter explains. "It trains you to be aware and present at the moment."

But, she says, it requires a lot of practice. She suggests focusing on the physical aspects first. The meditation portion will become easier with time.

There are many types of yoga. Some are slow and focus on catching poses. Others involve moving movements that connect to your breathing.

Research suggests that yoga can help improve general health. Studies have shown that yoga has helped some people manage stress, improve mental health, lose weight and quit smoking.

There is also evidence that yoga can be helpful for certain medical conditions. "Yoga help to reduce pain and symptoms of menopause". It has improved sleep in studies of the elderly and those with cancer.

Numerous studies have shown that yoga can help people with chronic low back pain. Some experts now recommend it as a first-line treatment for low back pain along with other non-drug therapies.

But Jeter warns that more quality research is needed to confirm the health benefits of yoga. "There is a lot of research on different health conditions, but not enough to be sure," she says. Yoga should not replace your health care provider's treatment.

It is unclear what yoga this helps. The training combines physical, mental and spiritual factors. “Yoga has many elements. We don't know what the active ingredient is, ”says Jeter.

Research on yoga is ongoing. Studies are currently looking at whether yoga is helpful for specific groups. For example, the military could reduce chronic pain or improve the quality of life for people with breast cancer. New studies are looking into whether yoga can help with mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

If you are thinking about starting yoga, what do you need to know? "Start slowly and carefully to avoid any type of injury," says Jeter. If you have a medical condition, talk to your health care provider before starting.

Everyone's body is different. Yoga posters should be modified based on your abilities. Choose an experienced instructor who will take care of your needs.

You may also want to seek out a yoga therapist. “Yoga therapists have more advanced training than a typical yoga instructor,” explains Jeter. "They were trained to work with different terms and to work together or in small groups."

If you want to try yoga, see the Wise Choice box for tips on getting started.

Wise Choices

Getting Started With Yoga

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  • Start with an appropriate yoga class. Look for ones called beginner level, “gentle” yoga, or senior classes.
  • Ask about the training and experience of the yoga instructor you’re considering.
  • Talk with your health care provider before trying yoga if you’re pregnant, older, or have a health condition.
  • Let your yoga instructor know about your individual needs and any medical issues.
  • Go slowly to prevent injury. Avoid extreme positions and forceful breathing. Listen to your body.

  • Find studies recruiting people for research on yoga. You can start at
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