Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Fitness & Exercise

Font Size

Yoga

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.

Citations

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

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerAdam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerMarc S. Micozzi, MD, PhD - Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Last RevisedJune 29, 2011

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 29, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

Healthy Living Tools

Ditch Those Inches

Set goals, tally calorie intake, track workouts and more, all via WebMD’s free Food & Fitness Planner.

Get Started

Today on WebMD

Wet feet on shower floor tile
Slideshow
Flat Abs
Slideshow
 
Build a Better Butt Slideshow
Slideshow
woman using ice pack
Quiz
 

man exercising
Article
7 most effective exercises
Interactive
 
Man looking at watch before workout
Slideshow
Overweight man sitting on park bench
Video
 

pilates instructor
Slideshow
jogger running among flowering plants
Video
 
woman walking
Article
Taylor Lautner
Article