Although yoga has been around for centuries, reaping its rewards doesn’t take long at all: Just a few minutes of practice at the end of a long day can help stretch and relax sore muscles. Practiced regularly, yoga can be a powerful way to relieve anxiety and cope with everyday stress. Over time, it also can transform your body, building stronger muscles while it improves flexibility and joint mobility.
Though many people think of yoga as a fitness exercise, it actually is a comprehensive life philosophy that originated more than 5,000 years ago in India. The word “yoga” means “to unite” and refers to the fusion of body, mind and spirit through meditation, breathing and physical postures. The postures, also called asanas, belong to a branch of yoga called hatha yoga. They were developed to strengthen the body, improve health and prepare for meditation. In a modern yoga practice the postures may serve any or all of these purposes. Many different styles exist within the hatha branch of yoga, ranging from gentle, meditative forms like kripalu yoga to the fast-paced ashtanga style.