What is Yoga?
Yoga is an ancient form of exercise that focuses on strength, flexibility and breathing to boost physical and mental wellbeing. The main components of yoga are postures (a series of movements designed to increase strength and flexibility) and breathing. The practice originated in India about 5,000 years ago, and has been adapted in other countries in a variety of ways. Yoga is now commonplace in leisure centres, health clubs, schools, hospitals and surgeries
What are the health benefits of Yoga?
Dozens of scientific trials of varying quality have been published on yoga. While there's scope for more rigorous studies on its health benefits, most studies suggest yoga is a safe and effective way to increase physical activity, especially strength, flexibility and balance. There's some evidence that regular yoga practice is beneficial for people with high blood pressure, heart disease, aches and pains – including lower back pain – depression and stress.
What can Yoga help me with pain?
Yoga is popular with people with arthritis or joint pain for its gentle way of promoting flexibility and strength. Some research suggests yoga can reduce pain and mobility problems in people with knee osteoarthritis. However, some yoga moves aren't suitable for people with the condition. Find a teacher who understands joint pain and can adapt movements for individual needs, especially if you have replacement joints. Check with a doctor or physiotherapist to find out if there are any movements to avoid
Do I need to be fit and flexible to do Yoga?
No, you can join a class that's suitable for your fitness levels. For example, to join a mixed ability yoga class, you need to be able to get up and down from the floor. Some yoga classes are chair-based. Yoga will also improve your flexibility and help you go beyond your normal range of movement, which may make performing your daily activities easier.
What style of Yoga should I do?
There are many different styles of yoga, such as Ashtanga, Lyengar, Sivananda and Tara. Some styles are more vigorous than others. Some may have a different area of emphasis, such as posture or breathing. Many yoga teachers develop their own practice by studying more than one style. No style is necessarily better or more authentic than any other. The key is to choose a class appropriate for your fitness level.