Written by Carrie Kubacki, Health & Well-Being Educator, UW-Madison Division of Extension; Certified and Registered Yoga Instructor

Every September, the Department of Health and Human Services designates September as a way to educate the general public about yoga and the many health benefits it offers. Although yoga began over 5,000 years ago as a way to build individual health and well-being, the practice has grown significantly and provides a variety of options to meet everyone’s needs. Yoga is a practice that is accessible to everyone and includes a multi-dimensional approach to wellness—physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.

Some people may still be skeptical or unsure about what yoga really is or isn’t.  Below are some facts about the practice:

  • Yoga is not a religion or a religious practice.
  • Yoga is a way to combine movement with breath to bring awareness to the connection between our mind and body.
  • As a physical practice, yoga builds strength, flexibility and balance.
  • As a mindfulness practice, yoga helps to calm the mind and build focus and concentration.
  • Many different styles of yoga exist to meet everyone’s individual needs—from power yoga for athletes to build strength and endurance to gentle chair yoga for seniors to maintain range of motion and balance.

A growing list of research has shown the effectiveness of practicing yoga to meet overall health and wellness goals.  Universities, including UW-Madison, Harvard, Duke and UCLA, have demonstrated the following positive benefits of yoga:

  • Reducing stress
  • Improving sleep
  • Decreasing anxiety and depression symptoms
  • Reducing chronic inflammation
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Improving eating patterns
  • Reducing chronic pain
  • Improving concentration and memory

No, you do not need to be able to touch your toes to do yoga.  However, being open and willing to explore the different styles of yoga are the first steps to building our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. For more information about yoga, please visit https://www.yogajournal.com/.

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