Yoga is a physical and spiritual practice originating in India. It is accessible to beginners, and most people can reap the health benefits of regularly practicing yoga.
Yoga poses focus on developing a connection between the body and the breath. In addition to reducing stress levels, consistent yoga practice can improve a person’s flexibility, strength, and balance.
Researchers have conducted many studies that focus on the health benefits of yoga exercises. Some potential health benefits include maintaining a moderate weight, quitting smoking, and improving menopause symptoms.
Although some advanced yoga poses may look intimidating, many are suitable for beginners. Most people can start practicing yoga.
Read on to learn more about the health benefits of yoga and basic yoga exercises to practice at home.
Healthcare professionals say that yoga is a safe form of exercise, and injuries are uncommon.
The likelihood of a person injuring themselves during yoga is rare if they are practicing with a qualified instructor. A good instructor will observe a person’s form and help them make appropriate adjustments.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, people may want to speak with a doctor before trying yoga, especially if they:
Pregnant people may also need to modify certain yoga poses. They should speak with a doctor if they are not sure about starting or continuing their practice as their pregnancy progresses.
An easy introduction to yoga is through simple face yoga exercises.
Forward Fold and Lion’s pose (Breath pose) are poses that increase blood flow to the face. This can make a person feel more awake. There is some evidence suggesting yoga may slow and reduce skin aging, but more research is necessary to understand if and how this happens.
Modification: If a person cannot fully bend down, they can rest their hands on their thighs and perform a half fold.
Yoga poses that stretch the legs challenge a person’s balance and help improve core strength. Some poses suitable for beginners are Legs-Up-The-Wall pose and Boat pose.
Modification: Keep the knees bent. This is a less intense option that is easier for people with lower back pain and tight hamstrings.
Modification: If a person finds this pose too difficult, they can keep their feet on the floor. They can also place their hands on the floor behind their hips for additional stability.
Not all yoga involves the entire body. Some yoga exercises focus solely on the connection between the body and breath, which can be a calming, mindful experience. A 2018 review found that Pranayama, or breath regulation, may improve respiratory function in healthy people.
One yoga breathing exercise a person may want to practice is alternate nostril breathing.
Yoga is a form of physical activity, and regularly practicing yoga can help people meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation of 150 minutes of exercise per week. This helps people live a healthy lifestyle and maintain a moderate weight.
One recent study suggests yoga exercises are beneficial for weight loss. It examined 50 adults with obesity and assigned them to either Hatha (slower pace) or Vinyasa (faster pace) yoga practices. Although both groups of individuals lost weight after 6 months, the program also included a calorie- and fat-restricted diet, which likely contributed to the weight loss.
The results of this study suggest that people who would like to practice yoga as part of a weight management program should choose the type and duration that suits them best.
When people practice yoga frequently, they may notice their health improving in other ways. These can include:
Stress is a significant barrier for those trying to quit smoking. Because yoga exercises can reduce stress and improve mood, the practice could benefit people who may be finding it difficult to stop smoking.
A 2019 study assigned people who smoked to an 8-week program of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and either yoga or wellness classes. The results showed that those who practiced yoga twice a week were more likely to stop smoking than those who attended the wellness classes.
This outcome was particularly common among people who smoked lightly.
Researchers say more studies are necessary to determine how effective yoga and CBT are at helping people who smoke a lot of cigarettes.
Learn more about quitting smoking.
According to a 2019 review, yoga may improve psychological symptoms and fatigue symptoms in menopausal individuals.
However, there is no evidence to suggest that yoga exercises can improve physical symptoms, such as muscle pain, or vasomotor symptoms, such as hot flashes and night sweats.
Learn more about menopause.
COPD causes respiratory muscle weakness, which can make it hard to breathe. Because yoga may improve lung function, researchers wanted to know if it could improve inspiratory muscle performance.
A 2021 pilot study found that veterans with severe or very severe COPD experienced improvements in muscle performance after completing a 6-week yoga program.
These results suggest yoga is a promising tool for improving outcomes in people with COPD. However, more research is needed to understand how a wider demographic of people with COPD respond to yoga as part of a treatment plan.
Learn more about COPD.
Yoga is an accessible form of exercise that benefits physical and mental health.
Most people are able to start with beginner yoga poses from the comfort of their own home.
In addition to improving flexibility, strength, and balance, yoga can also reduce stress levels and aid in weight management.
Some research also shows it may help people with COPD and menopause.
Last medically reviewed on July 8, 2021