Skip to Content

Menu Icon
Menu
Menu Icon

Yoga

Topic Overview

What is yoga?

Hatha yoga includes meditation and exercises to help you improve flexibility and breathing, decrease stress, and maintain health. People have practiced yoga for thousands of years in India. Yoga is based on the idea that the mind and body are one. Practitioners believe that yoga improves health by improving how you see the world, which calms the spirit and decreases stress.

Two basic components of Hatha yoga are proper breathing and exercises, called postures, that stretch the body. You do postures while standing, lying down, sitting in a chair, or in a headstand position. While practicing a posture, you do breathing exercises to help relax your muscles, maintain the posture, and focus your mind.

Hatha is one of many types of yoga. While each type focuses on different aspects of yoga, all share the same goal, which is not only improved physical and mental health, but achievement of "oneness" with a higher being, the self, or some form of higher awareness.

What is yoga used for?

Most people who try yoga for meditation find that it increases their flexibility and reduces stress. If you suffer from a long-term (chronic) medical condition, you can often combine yoga and conventional medical treatment.

Several studies have shown that yoga helps lower blood pressure, improves a person's sense of well-being, and can help people who have asthma learn to breathe more easily. A study determined that a 6-month yoga program improved fatigue in people with multiple sclerosis (MS).1

Is yoga safe?

Experts consider yoga to be safe.

Always tell your doctor if you are using an alternative therapy or if you are thinking about combining an alternative therapy with your conventional medical treatment. It may not be safe to forgo your conventional medical treatment and rely only on an alternative therapy.

Like any physical activity, yoga can cause muscle strains or sprains. Gentle stretching before a yoga session can help prevent injuries.

References

Citations

  1. Oken BS, et al. (2004). Randomized controlled trial of yoga and exercise in multiple sclerosis. Neurology, 62(1): 2058–2064.

Other Works Consulted

  • Miryala R, et al. (2011). Yoga. In MS Micozzi, ed., Fundamentals of Complementary and Integrative Medicine, 4th ed., pp. 482–494. St. Louis: Elsevier Saunders.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Marc S. Micozzi, MD, PhD - Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Last Revised June 29, 2011

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2013 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

Decision Points

Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.

You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:

Interactive Tools

Get started learning more about your health!

Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.

Symptom Checker

Feeling under the weather?

Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.