A Brief History of Yoga and its Benefits
Yoga has been practiced since ancient times, but it has evolved greatly in recent decades. How was yoga introduced to the West? What makes it a popular practice today? What are the different types of yoga and the overall benefits? Read on to find out.
The definitive beginning of yoga is debated and still inconclusive. It mostly likely started off in India around the 5th and 6th centuries BC as a way to connect the heart and soul before achieving enlightenment. It has grown and changed in the two and a half millennia since, but the focus on mind-body harmony remains the same.
Yoga was relatively unknown to the Western world until the early 20th century, and didn't gain household notoriety until the 1980s. The modern, posture-based yoga became widely used during this era. Nowadays, even though there are still different schools of yoga, most focus on holding specific poses along with breathing to strengthen the mind and body.
Over 20 million people practice yoga in the United States, and the number continues to grow. It wouldn't be so popular if the practitioners didn't see clear benefits. These include:
- Decreases stress and anxiety. Studies say that doing yoga weekly can lead to substantial decreases in the stress hormone cortisol. Other studies conclude that it can reduce anxiety and depression. In today's fast-paced world, taking some time to decompress and get your body and mind centered can have far-reaching effects on overall mental health.
- Increases flexibility. Whether you're a young athlete or older person trying to stay mobile, improving flexibility is important. Yoga has been proven to promote flexibility and balance, which helps increase performance and quality of life.
- Alleviates chronic pain. With the United States in the middle of an opioid crisis, many are turning to yoga to help with chronic pain. For instance, a study found that yoga was more effective at pain management than wrist splints for carpal tunnel syndrome. While more research is necessary, it is a promising potential benefit for yoga.
There are many more reasons to practice yoga, from learning more efficient breathing techniques to improving the quality of sleep. Consistent practice often results in an increase in overall wellness.
There are many styles that enjoy varying degrees of popularity. Most of the styles practiced in the United States derive from the Hatha style. These variations include:
- Bikram. You've probably seen or heard about Bikram yoga. It is quite popular at the moment and utilizes set poses in a specific sequence in a 100-110 degree room.
- Ashtanga. This is faster paced and aims for the practitioner to synchronize their poses with their breathing.
- Iyengar. This well-known variation incorporates tools such as blocks, cushions and more.
- Ananda. A gentler form more focused on the meditative aspects of yoga.
This is not a comprehensive list by any means, and researching the various forms of yoga requires quite the time commitment! Most classes you'll find at your local gym won't spend much time delving into the specific style they're teaching, and that'sokay. Every style has benefits for the body and mind.
HYLETE offers high-quality performance apparel that keeps you comfortable while practicing yoga, so you can focus on striking the perfect pose.