What is yoga and how does it work?

Yoga has become popular as a way of promoting physical and mental well-being.

Although classical yoga includes other elements, as practiced in the United States typically emphasizes physical postures (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama), and meditation (dyana).

There are many different yoga styles, ranging from gentle practices to physically demanding ones. Differences in the types of yoga used in research studies may affect study results. This makes it challenging to evaluate research on the health effects of yoga.

Yoga Health

Health benefits

  • Release stress
  • Improves mental/emotional health
  • Better sleep
  • Balance
  • Pain management
  • Weight loss
  • Quit smoking
  • Helps manage anxiety or depression
  • Relieve menopause symptoms
  • Help people with chronic diseases manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life


Can yoga help with pain management?
Research has been done on yoga for several conditions that involve pain. Studies of yoga for low-back pain and neck pain have had promising results, and yoga is among the options that the American College of Physicians recommends for first-line treatment of chronic low-back pain. Preliminary evidence suggests that yoga may also be helpful for tension headaches and knee osteoarthritis pain.


How does yoga affect mental health?
There’s evidence that yoga may be helpful for anxiety associated with various life situations, such as medical conditions or stressful educational programs, and for depressive symptoms.


Is it recommended to practice yoga during pregnancy?
Physical activities, such as yoga, are safe and desirable for most pregnant women, as long as appropriate precautions are taken. Yoga may have health benefits for pregnant women, such as decreasing stress, anxiety, and depression.


IMG 4595 OriginalIs it safe?
Yoga is generally considered a safe form of physical activity for healthy people when performed properly, under the guidance of a qualified instructor. However, as with other forms of physical activity, injuries can occur. The most common injuries are sprains and strains, and the parts of the body most commonly injured are the knee or lower leg. Serious injuries are rare. The risk of injury associated with yoga is lower than that for higher-impact physical activities.


Safety tips:

  • Practice yoga under the guidance of a qualified instructor.
  • If you’re new to yoga, avoid extreme practices such as headstands, shoulder stands.
  • Be aware that hot yoga has special risks related to overheating and dehydration.
  • Pregnant women, older adults, and people with health conditions should talk with their
    healthcare provider and yoga instructor about their individual needs.


Sing up for upcoming classes


For more information and special request contact Krysta Norris-Garth at:
krystal.norris-garth@houstontx.gov or wconnection@houstontx.gov


Learn more:

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

NCCIH Yoga for Health PDF