A set of specific exercises called poses, combined with specific breathing techniques and meditation principles are the building blocks of a yoga class. If a pose causes pain or proves too difficult, some variations and modifications can be made to help students. Props like blocks, blankets, and straps — even chairs — can be used to help you get the most benefit from the poses. Yoga is not one-size-fits-all: The best yoga workout for you will depend on your individual needs and goals. The benefits of a regular yoga practice are wide-ranging. In general, a complete yoga workout can help keep your back and joints healthy, improve your overall posture, stretch and strengthen muscles, and improve your balance.
Reduce back pain: Weekly yoga classes relieve symptoms of low back pain about as well as intense, regular stretching sessions.
Strengthen bones: In one small study, yoga practitioners were shown to have increased bone density in their spine and hips, compared to people in a control group.
Improve balance: Male athletes in one study displayed better balance after 10 weeks of yoga classes than a control group of athletes who did not change their routines.
Stave off mental decline: In one study, participants who did a combination of yoga and meditation as opposed to a brain-training exercise performed much better on a test of visuospatial memory, a type of remembering that is important for balance, depth perception, and the ability to recognize objects and navigate the world.
Reduce stress: A study of 72 women found that Iyengar yoga helped reduce mental distress and the related psychological and physical symptoms of stress.
Relieve depression: In a study of coal miners with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or C.O.P.D., yoga was shown to alleviate depression and anxiety.
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