The practice of yoga extends back thousands of years in India.  It has become increasingly popular in Western countries over the last several decades.

What is Yoga?

Yoga is both a philosophy and a practice.  It sees well-being from a holistic (or whole body) perspective.  Yoga has many different components, including, for example, meditation, postures (also called asanas), stretching exercises, and working with breathing (pranayama).  All of these calm the mind, and are believed to foster the harmony between the body, mind, and spirit.  Many people believe that yoga can help to achieve and maintain better health, and therefore assist in preventing illness.

Yoga has about 80 main postures.  Some of the postures are done sitting or lying down, while others are carried out standing or kneeling.  It is believed that yoga postures help to relax and the body and mind, increase flexibility of the joints and muscles, boost the function of the immune system, and improve the quality and efficiency of your blood circulation.

smadhi guru yoga

Yoga as a Complementary Therapy

Using yoga as a complementary therapy can help with relaxation and boost your sense of general well-being.  It can also help with anxiety and stress, and improve mood.

Each yoga session is usually between an hour and 90 minutes.  You can either see a private teacher or take part in group classes.  During these sessions, you will be guided by your yoga teacher through postures and breath work.  You should wear clothing that you can move and stretch in.  You will need to use a non-slip mat.  Make sure to choose a qualified yoga teacher.  This is important because they will give you the safety and other types of information you need to make sure you learn and practice yoga properly and safely.

Some research has indicated that yoga can be helpful for people who suffer from problems such as:

yoga flower
  • Lower back pain
  • Joint problems (including arthritis)
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Asthma
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Epilepsy

Make sure to tell your yoga teacher about any existing health problems before beginning learning and practicing yoga.  Some yoga poses might be detrimental to people who have osteoarthritis.  Ask your doctor and yoga teacher whether you should try yoga and which poses you need to avoid.  This is especially crucial if you have replacement joints.  Certain yoga poses also need to be modified for, or avoided by, pregnant women, as well as people who have specific medical conditions (including, for example, sciatica, glaucoma, and high blood pressure).

It is very unusual for yoga to cause negative side effects.  However, it is possible that pain caused by nerve damage and specific kinds of stroke might occur.  You should keep in mind that this is extremely rare.  You can help to avoid such problems by having a properly qualified and experienced yoga instructor who will guide you correctly.

om yoga

How to Make a Start with Yoga

If you have any existing health conditions, consult with your doctor to make sure that yoga would be a safe and helpful option for you.  Once you have done that, you need to find a qualified yoga teacher.  Look for an instructor who has a yoga teaching certificate, accreditation from a yoga association, and insurance.  Never attempt to start a yoga program on your own (for example, using a DVD or online videos).  You need the guidance of an instructor to prevent injury and gain the greatest benefit.