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Physical health and mental health often go hand-in-hand. Yoga has been practiced since likely around 5,000 years ago as a study of the soul and enlightenment in northern regions of India. Ancient sacred texts mention the older form of yoga and its spiritual purposes, however, the yoga we practice today is less than 100 years old. The development of yoga over the past few thousand years and the phases of how, where and when it has been practiced has maintained a focus on overall well-being.


The modern practice of yoga that is practiced teaches healthy habits that can be incorporated in everyday life. Yoga helps build strength, improve balance and manage stress amongst other benefits for the mind and body. There are many different types of yoga classes and practices, all ranging from beginner to advanced, so it is easy to get plugged in and find which works best for you.

Types of modern yoga:

  • Iyengar
    • A combination of standing and seated postures with some use of props.
    • Useful for individuals who want to focus on alignment and posture.
    • Benefits: increased muscular power and range of motion
  • Ashtanga
    • A sequence of poses practice in the same order with an emphasis on breath.
    • Useful for individuals who are prone to a more sedentary life and are looking for a fast-paced and physically challenging class.
    • Benefits: stronger muscles, decreased stress
  • Viniyoga
    • A focus on breathing and meditation.
    • Useful for individuals who have limited mobility range and want to work from the inside out.
    • Benefits: body awareness, better posture and relaxation
  • Jivamukti
    • A sequence that incorporates meditation, deep listening, compassion and chanting.
    • Useful for individuals who want to explore a more spiritual side to yoga and its ancient teaching.
    • Benefits: body awareness, relationship improvement, a chance to learn Sanskrit
  • Hatha
    • Slower-paced classes with the potential for physically demanding poses.
    • Useful for individuals who are looking for a grounded style that focuses on standing poses and developing mind and body awareness.
    • Benefits: calming of the body, mind and spirit
  • Vinyasa
    • A style with more freeform than Ashtanga, poses determined by the instructor
    • Useful for individuals who want a more athletic feel in yoga.
    • Benefits: builds lean muscle, light cardio endurance
  • Bikram
    • 26 poses and two breathing exercises performed in the same order for 90 minutes in a room set at 105ºF.
    • Useful for individuals who can exercise in heat, endure extreme exertion and enjoy repetition.
    • Benefits: improved circulation, sweat out toxins
  • Kundalini
    • A form that incorporates complex breathing techniques, meditation, repetition, mantras and chanting.
    • Useful for individuals who are looking for a combination of spiritual and physical.
    • Benefits: energizes points at the base of the spine, opens channels
  • Yin
    • A slower paced style in which poses are held for three to five minutes.
    • Useful for individuals wanting to slow down, have chronic pain, stress or tight muscles.
    • Benefits: releases tension, improves range of motion for muscles and connective tissue, rejuvenates and energizes
  • Restorative
    • A gentle approach to yoga with poses held for 10 minutes or more and may use props such as blankets, bolsters and straps.
    • Useful for individuals living with chronic pain or stress.
    • Benefits: calms the nervous system

There is a misconception that you must be able to come in already flexible and able to manipulate your body into the most exotic poses, but that is not the goal. The goal is to test your limits, explore what your mind and body is capable of, and overcome some barriers you believe your body and/or mind has limited your ability to. 


Overall physical benefits include:

  • Increased muscle strength and tone
  • Improved balance
  • Cardio and circulatory health
  • Improved athletic performance
  • Maintaining a balanced metabolism
  • Increased flexibility
  • Improved respiration, energy and vitality
  • Protection from injury


Mentally, yoga is a great method to help relieve stress and its negative effects such as tension in the back or neck, sleeping problems, an inability to concentrate, headaches, and drug abuse. Learning new breathing methods to cope with stress along with meditative practices assists in increasing focus, awareness and relaxation. 


Understanding how your body and mind work together is a key factor in yoga, and one that could make all the difference in bettering your health holistically.

READ MORE: Wellness Wednesday: The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise