What is Yoga?
Yoga is an ancient physical and spiritual discipline and branch of philosophy that originated in India reportedly more than 5,000 years ago. The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit word yuj, which means to yoke, join, or unite.
Who invented yoga?
There is no written record of who invented yoga because it was practiced by yogis (yoga practitioners) long before humans knew how to write. Yogis over the millennia passed down the discipline to their students, and many different schools of yoga developed as it spread.
The earliest written record of yoga, and one of the oldest texts in existence, is generally believed to be written by Patanjali, an Indian yogic sage who lived somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500 years ago.
Patanjali is credited with writing the Yoga Sutras (sutra means "thread" in Sanskrit), which are the principles, philosophy, and practices of yoga that are still followed today.
How does yoga work?
Yoga uses asanas (postures), focused concentration on specific body parts, and pranayama (breathing techniques) to integrate the body with mind and mind with soul.
Who's doing yoga?
Apparently, many people are practicing yoga. According to a 2003 survey by the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, an estimated 13.4 million Americans practice yoga or other mind-body exercises such as tai chi.
Of those, an estimated 1.6 million were 55 or older. According to data published in 2004 in the journal Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, an estimated 15 million American adults have used yoga at least once in their lifetime, and individuals interviewed for that study reported that they used yoga for wellness (stress reduction, quality of life), health conditions, and specific ailments like back or neck pain.
And 90% felt yoga was very or somewhat helpful.
Is it safe to do yoga?
You should discuss yoga with your doctor before starting if you have medical conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetic eye disease (diabetic retinopathy), orthopedic problems (low back, neck, etc.), or any other medical condition that you think might be worsened by yoga. Some of the poses may be unsafe, and your doctor can advise you.
For instance, individuals with diabetic retinopathy should not do exercises where the head is below the heart, like downward dog, forward bending, handstands, and any of the other inversion poses.
Some of you may have back problems, and that should definitely be discussed with your doctor and the yoga instructor before you start Although the yoga instructor may be trained, they are not doctors, and so you should check with your physician about your medical concerns.
Benefits of practicing yoga
High blood pressure (hypertension) Many people believe that practicing yoga can help lower blood pressure by teaching breathing techniques and reducing stress. It is true that lifestyle changes like regular physical activity and stress management can help lower and manage blood pressure, but it doesn't do so in all cases. As for yoga, there hasn't been enough research to make firm claims. The American Heart Association Report on Prevention, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure does not mention yoga even once. However, there is some indication that yoga can help. In one study, small but significant reductions in blood pressure were shown in just three weeks of daily yoga, and in another study, one hour of daily yoga for 11 weeks revealed that both medication and yoga were effective in controlling hypertension. More research needs to be done, but I think it's fair to say that if yoga helps you manage stress, calm yourself, and gets your muscles toned and strong, then there's at least a chance it can help with blood pressure, too.
Mood. After just one yoga class, men reported decreases in tension, fatigue, and anger after yoga, and women reported fairly similar mood benefits. It's well known that physical activity has a mood-elevating effect, and yoga ought to fit right in.
Cognition and quality of life. A group of 135 men and women 65-85 years of age participated in six months of Hatha yoga classes, and at the end of the study, they reported improvements in quality of life, well-being, energy, and fatigue. They also did better on balance (one-legged standing) and forward flexibility (bending).
Carpal tunnel syndrome. Individuals with carpal tunnel syndrome who did yoga twice a week for eight weeks had less pain in their wrists than people with carpal tunnel who wore a splint. The effect may be due to improved grip strength in the yoga subjects.
Strength and flexibility. In one of the most persuasive yoga studies, men and women 18-27 years of age who participated in two yoga sessions per week for eight weeks increased the strength in their arms from 19% to 31%, and by 28% in their legs. Their ankle flexibility, shoulder elevation, trunk extension, and trunk flexion increased by 13%, 155%, 188%, and 14%, respectively!
Asthma. There is some evidence to show that reducing symptoms of asthma and even reduction in asthma medication are the result of regular yoga. Again, this doesn't mean that you should stop taking your asthma medication if you start practicing yoga, but it does suggest that there could be some positive result, and you should ask your doctor if you have a question about it
Independent of studies, I think it's fair to say that the majority of people who practice yoga regularly enjoy it and find it beneficial, otherwise they probably would’nt continue. I believe it's worth trying if you have even the slightest interest.
Go For It!!!
Yoga is a great complement to aerobic and resistance exercise, and I suggest that you might be completely surprised at the benefits you experience. I don't see how you have anything to lose, and so I urge you to give it a try!