Yoga: Fight stress and find serenity

Is yoga right for you? It is if you want to fight stress, get fit and stay healthy. By Mayo Clinic Staff

Your mobile phone is ringing, your boss wants to talk to you and your partner wants to know what's for dinner. Stress and anxiety are everywhere. If they're getting the best of you, you might want to hit the mat and give yoga a try.

Yoga is a mind-body practice that combines stretching exercises, controlled breathing and relaxation. Yoga can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure and improve heart function. And almost anyone can do it.

Understanding yoga

Yoga is considered a mind-body type of complementary and alternative medicine practice. Yoga brings together physical and mental disciplines to achieve peacefulness of body and mind, helping you relax and manage stress and anxiety.

Yoga has many styles, forms and intensities. Hatha yoga, in particular, may be a good choice for stress management. Hatha is one of the most common styles of yoga, and beginners may like its slower pace and easier movements. But most people can benefit from any style of yoga — it's all about your personal preferences.

The core components of hatha yoga and most general yoga classes are:

  • Poses. Yoga poses, also called postures, are a series of movements designed to increase strength and flexibility. Poses range from lying on the floor while completely relaxed to difficult postures that may have you stretching your physical limits.
  • Breathing. Controlling your breathing is an important part of yoga. In yoga, breath signifies your vital energy. Yoga teaches that controlling your breathing can help you control your body and quiet your mind.

The health benefits of yoga

The potential health benefits of yoga include:

  • Stress reduction. A number of studies have shown that yoga can help reduce stress and anxiety. It can also enhance your mood and overall sense of well-being.
  • Improved fitness. Practicing yoga can lead to improved balance, flexibility, range of motion and strength. And this means you're less likely to injure yourself in other physical endeavors or in your daily activities.
  • Management of chronic conditions. Yoga can help reduce risk factors for chronic diseases, such as heart disease and high blood pressure. Yoga might also help alleviate chronic conditions, such as depression, pain, anxiety and insomnia.
Jan. 15, 2013 See more In-depth