Yoga is a diverse practice with many types and correlating health benefits.
In a general sense, yoga is a system of exercises for attaining bodily or mental control and well-being, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
In Sanskrit, the word means union or connection.
“It’s the idea that everything is connected: body, mind and spirit,” said Amber Aten, who recently owned a yoga studio in Prescott called Sutras.
Achieving such connectivity requires acute self-awareness. As a study released by Harvard Medical School put it, “(Yoga) focuses your attention on your body’s abilities at the present moment.”
Once the present is determined, goals can then be set and achieved through consistent practice.
For instance, Aten has been practicing yoga for about 20 years and teaching for about 15.
She started yoga with limited flexibility, lower back problems and a significant amount of emotional discontent.
“For me the practice of yoga changed all of that,” Aten, 36, said. “I feel stronger, more vibrant and even younger then when I was like 20.”
There are a number of health issues yoga can help to overcome.
Recent studies in people with chronic low-back pain suggest that a carefully adapted set of yoga poses may help reduce pain and improve function (the ability to walk and move), according to the National Center of Complementary and Integrative Health, an extension of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Studies also suggest that practicing yoga (as well as other forms of regular exercise) might have other health benefits such as reducing heart rate and blood pressure, and may also help relieve anxiety and depression, NIH states.
Additionally, yoga is generally low-impact and safe for healthy people when practiced appropriately under the guidance of a well-trained instructor, according to NIH.
Joanna Johnson, an instructor at BEND – Hot Yoga Prescott, has found once people start incorporating yoga into their schedule, they tend to carry lessons they learn from it off their yoga mats and into their daily lives.
“When you come to your yoga mat, you move in ways that you may not have moved in 10 years; then your mind can begin to connect back to how your body feels,” Johnson said. “The more that connection grows, the more you are able to move in ways that are good for your body.”
The practice also does not discriminate.
“There is literally no requirement for you to step onto the mat,” Johnson said. “You can be an infant, you can be 90 years old. You don’t need to be flexible, you don’t even need to be able to see your toes. There’s nothing that says you can’t do yoga.”