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Yoga originated in the Indian sub-continent around 5000 years ago. Today it has developed into many different forms, with each type of practice having its own idiosyncrasies and nuances. The birth of modern yoga, which is practised by tens of millions of people around the world is generally credited to Swami Vivekananda. Vivekananda took his ideas to the USA in the late 1890s where he developed his teachings and by the 1970s millions of Americans were following his yoga.


Yoga is concerned with spiritual, physical and mental goals, with the ultimate goal being that of the individual liberation. For many modern yoga practitioners the key aims are about gaining greater physical and mental control and improving their health and fitness.

Unlike many other forms of exercise, yoga aims to engage the mind just as much as the body. The complexity of the postures, combined with the requirements of controlled breathing requires high levels of concentration. Being a non-competitive activity means that it is accessible to anyone, young or old, healthy or frail. You don’t need a particular level of fitness. You simply do as much as you can in each practice with the aim of making small, incremental improvements.  Over time you’ll notice the postures becoming easier to achieve  and sustain. Yoga is a gentle exercise regime that stretches and tones the muscles gradually. It means there is less risk of overworking any particular muscle group or being injured. Many yogis practise every day, something you could not do with weight-training or high-impact aerobics. Indeed the more often you practise the more quickly you improve.

Yoga health benefits – the body

  • Increased flexibility
  • Greater muscle strength
  • Greater bone density
  • Improved balance
  • Improves circulation
  • Better digestion
  • Improved lymphatic drainage
  • More effective breathing
  • Improved digestion
  • Increased immunity
  • Improved cardiovascular function
  • Lower blood pressure and pulse rate

Yoga health benefits – the mind

  • Reduced stress levels
  • Improved concentration
  • Enhance meditation skills
  • Deeper sleep
  • Better mood
  • Less anxiety and depression
  • Self control and inner calmness

Yoga health benefits – the person

  • Better posture
  • More energy
  • Weight loss

Yoga as an anti-inflammatory exercise

Many studies have told of the anti-inflammatory benefits of yoga. In 2009, the Harvard Mental Health Letter, reported that yoga lowered the body’s responses to stress which in turn can reduce the body’s sensitivity to pain. The results of a study of two groups of women, where one group practised yoga regularly and where one did not, suggested that yoga was effective at reducing the levels of interleukin-6 – the inflammatory marker in the blood.