Yoga can be beneficial for men, women and children of all ages. Although it’s been practiced since the sixth century B.C., yoga has recently been gaining an increasing amount of attention across all lifestyles due to its many health benefits. Although some practice yoga for spiritual purposes, many modern participants are most interested in the physical and mental benefits of the activity. Below are just some of the many reasons everyone can benefit from practicing yoga.

1. Mental Calm and Clarity

One of the first positive effects that can be seen from yoga practice is a greater sense of calm and well-being. During a yoga sequence, participants focus on slowly stretching the body, taking deep, steady breaths throughout. This can provide relief from conditions like stress, insomnia, anxiety and depression.

2. Strength, Joint Health and Muscle Tone

Yoga poses force the participant to support the weight of their own body. This is a natural way to strengthen the wrists, ankles, and knees and tone the arms, legs, back and shoulders, resulting in long, lean, healthy muscle mass.

3. Flexibility

Without a proper amount of flexibility, we become increasingly susceptible to injury. As age increases, flexibility tends to decrease, however, yoga can help prevent this process. Moving and stretching in a slow, controlled manner will release tension and give the body a greater range of motion, warding off pain, immobility, and injury.

4. Better Breathing

During the practice of yoga, participants focus on breathing slowly, deeply and “from the stomach.” Breathing “from the lungs” can cause micro-hyperventilation, a condition in which one takes a full breath but does not fully exhale. Practicing controlled breathing during yoga practice can give the participant a greater awareness of breath, warding off micro-hyperventilation and increasing lung capacity.

5. Balance

Due to the coordination required for many yoga poses, the elderly and uncoordinated can work towards better balance. Poses that require participants to stand on one leg are particularly beneficial.

6. Boost Immunity

A Norwegian study determined that the practice of yoga results in changes of gene expression. Amazingly, these changes boost immunity at a cellular level and occur immediately.

7. Prevent and Manage Pain

Many chronic and acute pain sufferers can experience relief with daily yoga practice. Stretching and strengthening the body using a variety of poses counteracts the stress we put on our body during activities like using the computer, travelling or sitting for hours at a time.

8. Circulation

Yoga is meant to stimulate and restore the body as a whole. Regular practice can lead to increased circulation, which wards off blood clots and helps injuries heal.

Whether you are living with chronic health problems or simply wish to work towards better overall health, yoga is a great place to start. Yoga also has many great benefits for kids. Classes, DVDs and online videos can help you get going, while functional clothing from a company like San Francisco City Lights can make you more comfortable. Wherever and however you choose to practice yoga, there’s no doubt that you’ll experience positive effects inside and out.

Photo by Jon Flfe.