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Yoga is a mind and body practice with origins in ancient Indian philosophy. Like other meditative movement practices used for health purposes, various styles of yoga typically combine physical postures, breathing techniques and meditation or relaxation. In the United States, yoga is the sixth-most commonly used complementary health practice, according to a 2007 National Health Interview Survey, and is generally considered safe for most healthy people when practiced under the guidance of a trained instructor. In addition to being a fun and relaxing pastime, yoga has been linked to the following:
A number of studies have shown that yoga can help reduce stress and anxiety, and people who practice yoga regularly frequently self-report they are sleeping better and experiencing lower levels of stress. Yoga practice has been demonstrated to reduce the levels of cortisol—the stress hormone. Most yoga classes end with a savasana, or relaxation pose.
Practicing yoga can lead to improved balance, flexibility, range of motion and strength. These gains mean practitioners are less likely to injure themselves performing other physical tasks.
Management of pain and chronic conditions
If you’re already injured or suffering from chronic illness, research shows that yoga postures, meditation or a combination of the two can reduce pain for people who have cancer, multiple sclerosis, auto-immune diseases, hypertension, arthritis, back and neck pain and other chronic conditions. Yoga can also help reduce risk factors for developing chronic diseases, such as heart disease and high blood pressure.