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Most exercise enthusiasts acknowledge that yoga isn’t the most comprehensive workout. Yet even though it’s not optimal for increasing strength, muscle, or cardiovascular health in isolation, it’s mindful physical movement.

The word yoga comes from the Hindi yoga, originally from pre-Indo-European yeug, meaning “union” or “to join.”

Yoga practice can be traced back 5000 years to Indus-Sarasvati civilizations in India. (And we thought using free weights was old school.)

A Hindu teacher named Patanjali was said to  have recorded the first principles of yoga in religious scriptures known as the Yoga Sutra. Many forms of yoga have been developed since – each focusing on a new realm of personal development.

Hatha yoga came to the west in the 1920s thanks to T. Krishnamacharya and remains the most popular style today.

Yogis claim numerous physical and psychological benefits result from yoga. But is there any data showing this?

Well, the double-blind test, adored by many Western health professionals, isn’t possible with yoga. If one group in a study is practicing healthy yoga, it’s hard to recruit a blind group that isn’t, and doesn’t know it. Still, yoga data does exist.

Yoga may help reverse heart disease. Well, when combined with aerobic exercise and a low-fat plant-based diet. The author of one study said, “Adherence to the yoga and meditation program was as strongly correlated with the changes in the amount of blockage [in the arteries] as was the adherence to diet.” Yoga may help to control inflammation throughout the body as well.

What is one of the greatest fears among the elderly? Falling. Yoga can help with balance in older folks. Just two sessions of Hatha yoga per week can increase stability. Before you dismiss yoga as a Friday night nursing home activity, yoga can improve balance in people under 60 years old too.

Yoga interventions have been shown to be effective for alleviating back pain and symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.