Yoga has been practiced in different parts of the world for about 5000 years in over 100 different forms. Today, in the US, many people think of yoga as an excellent way to improve flexibility,But there are many more benefits that we are documenting with Western medicine studies.
Yoga definitively leads to improved flexibility. Strength and balance in the core, spine, arms, and legs is developed with the many different poses and positions. Activities are often done with a focus on one side and then paired to the other side to create added balance. Further, prevention of injury and improvements in performance have also been seen in novice to higher-level athletes who participate in yoga once or twice per week.
After performing yoga even once many people feel more relaxed. After many weeks of performance, studies report that many people report improvements in falling and staying asleep, as well as decreased tension and stress throughout the day. More still, additional studies show reductions in PTSD, anxiety, and depression with continued performance of yoga.
General health markers like blood-pressure and resting heart-rate improve as do levels of stress hormones including serotonin and cortisol with yoga performance. Improvements in breathing efficiencies and mechanics are also demonstrated. Many who perform yoga also see not just maintenance of a healthier weight, but those that are overweight and regularly perform yoga will often see a decrease in weight.
Subjectively, people report a better quality of life, increased vitality, and feeling more at peace with themselves. They also report being more mindful about their eating and body composition when performing yoga.
Yoga has such variety to it, that anyone can start at any time. The many studies of yoga suggest that doing it once to twice weekly for at least 30 min each time will result in the many benefits reported above. It is something best performed, at least initially, with guidance from a movement specialist or yoga instructor.