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Updated 07 July 2017

Here's why yoga is good for your health

This ancient discipline has a modern (and growing) following.

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Want to add strength training, flexibility, and even stress reduction to your fitness plan?

Then it's time to consider – or reconsider, if you've shied away from it in the past – the ancient Indian practice of yoga.

Don't twist yourself into a pretzel

Some 11 million Americans take part in one form of yoga or another. And, far from being a new-age type of exercise, it's embraced by people from all walks of life – men as well as women, and even pro athletes, according to the American Council on Exercise. And you don't have to twist yourself into a pretzel.

There are currently no available statistics on the number of people who practise yoga in South Africa.

The most popular discipline is Hatha yoga, which stresses concentration and uses stretching andstrengthening exercises. Many poses or asanas aren't complicated, but they are effective.

You can choose those specifically targeted to your needs. For example, the Warrior 2 pose improves hip flexibility and strengthens the quadriceps. The Tree pose is great at improving balance. As you hold each pose, you focus on your body, mind, and breathing. Keeping your mind in the moment can help clear your head and reduce stress.

Know what you're getting into

Yoga can be good medicine, too. Research has found that it can improve lung function in people with the lung condition COPD. Other research shows that it can improve pain, disability, and depression in those with chronic low back pain, according to the US National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

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Health24 previously reported that one of the primary purposed of practicing yoga is to bring about relaxtion – your heart rate and your blood pressure should be lower when you have finished, and you should never be short or breath.

Before starting a yoga class, make sure you know what you're getting into. Some types of yoga, like hot yoga or power yoga, are more challenging than others. They may not be the best choices for beginners or people with certain health conditions.

Different kinds of yoga

Yoga has been around for thousands of years and it's therefore not surprising that there are many kinds and styles of yoga. Here are a few examples:

Hatha yoga is typically a basic and classical approach to yogic breathing exercises and postures.

Bikram yoga features yoga poses in a sauna-like room. The temperature us turned up to about 40 degrees and 40 percent humidity in official Bikram classes.

Iyengar yoga is a purist yoga named after founder B.K.S. Iyengar. Props are used to get you more perfectly into position and that's why it is often called “furniture yoga”.

Kundalini yoga features constantly moving, invigorating poses. The practice is intended to release the kundalini (serpent) energy in your body.

Prenatal yoga postures are carefully adapted for expectant mothers. It is tailored to help women in all stages of pregnancy, and also helps those who want to get back in shape after giving birth.

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So, ask questions before you commit to a class. Finding the right fit for you could benefit your mind, body and spirit.

Read more:

Does yoga help for back health

Can yoga help to ease your arthritis pain?

Yoga mats matter

 
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