Yoga

  • Author:
    Richard Weil, MEd, CDE

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Learn about the health benefits of yoga.

Benefits of Yoga

Q: I would like to start taking yoga classes. Please explain the different types of yoga and the benefits of each type.

Author: Richard Weil, M.Ed., CDE
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

A: Dozens of yoga types are practiced worldwide, but there isn't space here to review all of them, so I will limit my comments to Hatha, Kundalini, Bikram, and Ashtanga yoga, the four most popular types practiced in fitnesscenters and local yoga studios throughout the U.S.

I'll start by telling you that yoga has been around for millennia. According to some records, it was developed in Northern India over 5,000 years ago, and according to data published in 2004 in the journal Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, an estimated 15 million American adults have used yoga at least once in their lifetime, and more than 7.4 million participated in the year prior to when the research was conducted. Individuals interviewed for this research reported that they used yoga for wellness (stressreduction, quality of life), health conditions, and specific ailments like back or neck pain, and 90% felt yoga was very or somewhat helpful.


Introduction

Imagine an activity that increases your flexibility, strengthens your muscles, centers your thoughts, and relaxes and calms you. Yoga does all that and more! In this article, I will review a brief history and the philosophy of yoga, the different types of yoga, the benefits, equipment you need to do it, where to do it, how to get started, and a whole lot more.

What is yoga?

Yoga is an ancient physical and spiritual discipline and branch of philosophy that originated in India reportedly more than 5,000 years ago. The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit word yuj, which means to yoke, join, or unite. The Iyengar school of yoga defines yuj as the "joining or integrating of all aspects of the individual - body with mind and mind with soul - to achieve a happy, balanced and useful life." The ultimate aim of yoga, they claim, is to reach kaivalya (emancipation or ultimate freedom).

Who invented yoga?

There is no written record of who invented yoga because it was practiced by yogis (yoga practitioners) long before any written account of it could have come into existence. Yogis over the millennia passed down the discipline to their students, and many different schools of yoga developed as it spread. The earliest written record of yoga, and one of the oldest texts in existence, is generally believed to have been written by Patanjali, an Indian yogic sage who lived somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500 years ago. Patanjali is credited with writing the Yoga Sutras (sutra means "thread" in Sanskrit), which are the principles, philosophy, and practices of yoga that are still followed today. Although many schools of yoga have evolved over the centuries, they all follow these same fundamental principles. Buddhism and other Eastern spiritual traditions use many of the yoga techniques or derivations of those techniques.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/26/2015

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