The word yoga, from the Sanskrit word yuj, means to yoke or bind, and is often interpreted as “union” or a method of discipline for bringing balance into your body and mind. It involves the physical practice of yoga postures called asanas, and breathing exercises called pranayama. Yoga also includes meditation, self-enquiry and the study of yoga philosophy.
Practising yoga has loads of physical benefits: it can create a flexible, toned and strong body and can improve breathing, energy and metabolism. Yoga can improve circulatory and cardiac health, as well as fitness levels, pain and posture. It also has benefits for your mental health, and can make you feel happier, more balanced and emotionally calmer. It can help you relax so you can handle stress better. Yoga encourages self-confidence and helps you to focus your energy.
The spiritual benefits of yoga are also key: Yoga teaches you to be aware of what is going on inside and outside of you. Yoga teaches you to be present in your surroundings and open to what is all around – in other words, more mindful.
You may feel some benefits immediately, such as the release of physical tension, the body opening and muscles strengthening – the “feel good” factor that keeps people hooked on yoga. Other benefits depend on how much you practice and every person is different. But most people will feel a positive change after a few weeks, if not before.