Yoga–an ancient meditative practice that often involves stretching and focusing on the breath–has become a popular form of exercise in the U.S. in recent years.
It’s estimated that 34.4 million Americans practice yoga, and one in three Americans have tried the practice at least once. The number of people practicing yoga in the U.S. has grown by nearly 64% over the past twelve years.
During National Yoga Awareness Month, we look to shine a light on this powerful practice as a way to improve physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.
In today’s article, we’ll be talking about what yoga is, its origin, the risks and benefits, and how you can include yoga practice in your wellness routine.
Keep reading to find out more!
What is yoga?
Yoga is an ancient and complex practice that stems from Indian philosophy. We can trace its origin back to northern India over 5000 years ago.
Originally thought of as a spiritual practice, yoga has become a method to promote physical and mental well-being too. Today, yoga is a worldwide practiced technique for spirituality and mental and physical health.
Classical yoga embodies many elements, but in the United States it places a large emphasis on:
- Physical postures
- Breathing techniques
There are many different forms of yoga. Some are more physically demanding, and others are more gentle and calming.
A few of the most popular forms of yoga practiced in the U.S. include:
- Yin yoga - this is a slower-paced, gentle yoga where you stay in supported positions that are held for longer periods of time.
- Hatha yoga - Hatha combines a variety of poses with breathing techniques. It is one of the most common forms of yoga practiced today.
- Hot yoga - this is a more vigorous form of yoga that's performed in a very humid and warm studio.
- Iyengar yoga - this practice focuses on detailed and precise movements as well as alignment. In a session of Iyengar, practitioners take different postures while they control their breath.
These are just some of the many yoga practices out there. There are a variety of options to choose from, no matter your experience and skill level.
When is National Yoga Month?
September is National Yoga Month, and it’s a great time to experience the benefits that a regular yoga practice can offer.
Created by the National Institutes of Health, National Yoga Month was developed to bring attention to the vast benefits of yoga for people across the United States. The month features free classes and events to help people learn more about how to practice yoga and how doing so can boost health and happiness.
September is the perfect time to try something new, and celebrating the fact that September is the national month for yoga is a great way to get back to a healthy routine, just as kiddos are heading back to school.
Are there risks?
When performed properly and under the guidance of a qualified instructor, yoga is a safe practice.
But are there risks otherwise?
Just like any form of physical exercise, there’s a risk of strains, sprains, and more. But the risk is less likely compared to more physically demanding forms of activity.
To best prevent injuries from occurring, you should:
- Practice with a qualified teacher
- Avoid more dangerous and extreme practices like headstands unless you are physically ready for advanced techniques
- Be aware of any risks specific to the form of yoga you are practicing. For example, hot yoga, where there’s the possibility of dehydration and overheating.
What are the benefits of yoga?
What are the benefits of yoga?
There are a variety of benefits to practicing yoga. Some benefits might include:
- Weight loss
- Stress relief
- Improved sleep
- Improved balance
- Improved quality of life
- Support for quitting smoking
- Relieved neck and back pain
- Relieved menopause symptoms
- Improved mental and emotional health
- Increased ability to manage anxiety and/or depression
Research suggests yoga can help improve sleep. It’s also said to relieve symptoms of arthritis, and it may even contribute to healthier hearts due to its ability to relieve stress and reduce inflammation.
If you’re looking to get into yoga, we recommend you find a qualified teacher or Yogi. Being new puts you at risk of making mistakes in your form and technique.
Following guidance from a professional can reduce the risk of injury, improve the benefits, and lead to a better experience.
How to take part in Yoga Awareness Month?
It’s exciting to share a love of yoga with others! Whether you’re interested in exploring the benefits of yoga for the first time or you’ve been acquainted with your mat for years, Yoga Awareness Month is the perfect time to share your practice.
Ways to get involved with Yoga Awareness Month include:
- Invite a loved one to join you at home or at a studio for a yoga class
- Recommend yoga to loved ones who are dealing with stress or pain
- Think about taking your love of yoga to the next level by enrolling in course to become a yoga instructor
- Practice yoga in public (such as in a park) to provide a reminder to others of the benefits of hitting the mat
Whether you’re looking to get more exercise or practice a form of mindfulness, yoga could be a great choice for you!
As it increases in popularity, and more studies help us understand the benefits involved with this practice, we’re slowly learning how it can improve our quality of life.
Did you learn anything new?
If you did, make sure to share this article with a friend or family member who you think could benefit from adding some yoga to their daily routine!
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