By Elizabeth Scott, M.S., About.com Guide
Dating back over 5000 years, yoga is the oldest defined practice of self development. The methods of classical yoga include ethical disciplines, physical postures, breathing control and meditation. Traditionally an Eastern practice, it’s now becoming popular in the West. In fact, many companies, especially in Britain, are seeing the benefit of yoga, recognizing that relaxed workers are healthier and more creative, and are sponsoring yoga fitness programs.
Overview of Yoga:
Many of the popular techniques found to reduce stress derive from yoga:
Yoga, which derives its name from the word, “yoke”—to bring together—does just that, bringing together the mind, body and spirit. But whether you use yoga for spiritual transformation or for stress management and physical well-being, the benefits are numerous.
Yoga’s Effects On the Body:
The following is only a partial list of yoga’s benefits:
reduced cortisol levels
improvement of many medical conditions
allergy and asthma symptom relief
lower blood pressure
smoking cessation help
lower heart rate
sense of well-being
reduced anxiety and muscle tension
increased strength and flexibility
slowed aging process
Yoga’s benefits are so numerous, it gives a high payoff for the amount of effort involved.
What’s Involved With Yoga?:
The practice of yoga involves stretching the body and forming different poses, while keeping breathing slow and controlled. The body becomes relaxed and energized at the same time. There are various styles of yoga, some moving through the poses more quickly, almost like an aerobic workout, and other styles relaxing deeply into each pose. Some have a more spiritual angle, while others are used purely as a form of exercise.
What Are The Benefits Of Yoga?:
Virtually everyone can see physical benefits from yoga, and its practice can also give psychological benefits, such as stress reduction and a sense of well-being, and spiritual benefits, such as a feeling of connectedness with God or Spirit, or a feeling of transcendence. Certain poses can be done just about anywhere and a yoga program can go for hours or minutes, depending on one’s schedule.
What Are the Drawbacks of Yoga?:
Yoga does require some commitment of time and is more difficult for people with certain physical limitations. Some people feel self-conscious doing some of the poses. Also, yoga classes can be expensive, although it is possible, albeit perhaps more challenging, to learn from a book or video.
How Does It Compare To Other Stress Reduction Methods?:
As yoga combines several techniques used for stress reduction, it can be said to provide the combined benefits of breathing exercises, stretching exercises, fitness programs, meditation practice, and guided imagery, in one technique. However, for those with great physical limitations, simple breathing exercises, meditation or guided imagery might be a preferable option and provide similar benefits. Yoga also requires more effort and commitment than taking pills or herbs for stress reduction.