Yoga is an ancient and complex practice, rooted in Indian philosophy. It began as a spiritual practice but has become popular as a way of promoting physical and mental well-being. Yoga typically combines physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation or relaxation.
If you’re thinking about practicing yoga, here are 6 things you should know:
- Yoga and two practices of Chinese origin—tai chi and qi gong —are sometimes called “meditative movement” practices. All three practices include both meditative elements and physical ones.
- Yoga may be beneficial for a number of conditions, including pain. Recent studies in people with chronic low-back pain suggest that a carefully adapted set of yoga poses can help reduce pain and improve function. Other studies also suggest that practicing yoga (as well as other forms of regular exercise) might have other health benefits such as reducing heart rate and blood pressure, and may also help relieve anxiety and depression.
- Some health conditions may not benefit from yoga. Yoga is not helpful for asthma, and some studies looking at yoga and arthritis have had mixed results.
- Yoga is generally considered to be safe in healthy people when practiced appropriately. However, people with high blood pressure, glaucoma, or sciatica, and women who are pregnant should modify or avoid some yoga poses.
- Practice safely and mindfully. Everyone’s body is different, and yoga postures should be modified based on individual abilities. Carefully selecting an instructor who is experienced and is attentive to your needs is an important step toward helping you practice yoga safely. Inform your instructor about any medical issues you have, and ask about the physical demands of yoga.
- Talk to your health care providers about any complementary health practices you use, including yoga. If you’re thinking about practicing yoga, also be sure to talk to your health care providers. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.
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