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During the 1st and 5th century CE, the Hindu sage Patañjali started to codify the meditative traditions practised throughout India into 196 manuals called the Yoga Sutras.
These texts described yoga as 'yoking' (restraining) the mind from concentrating on external objects to reach a state of pure consciousness. With time, yoga became part of physical activities, from gymnastics to wrestling.
Although there are many approaches to modern yoga, three core elements of Patañjali's practice remains:
The combination of physical and mental exercise is believed to have a unique set of health advantages, such as increased strength and flexibility, improved heart and lung function, and psychological well-being.
Like other low-impact exercises, yoga's physical postures stretch multiple muscle groups.
Stretching can make these muscles, ligaments, and tendons more elastic by changing the water content. Regular stretching stimulates stem cells which change into new muscle tissue and other cells that generate elastic collagen. Regular stretching also reduces the body's natural reflex by constricting muscles, improving pain tolerance.
Studies show that yoga reduces pain and improve mobility in patients with a variety of musculoskeletal disorders.
Adding yoga to other exercise routines can improve strength and flexibility for conditions like chronic lower back pain, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoporosis.
Yoga's combination of physical exercise and regiment breathing is therapeutic for lung health. It relaxes the muscles constricting lung passageways and improve oxygen diffusion.
One big claim is that yoga improves symptoms of depression and anxiety disorders, but there's little conclusive evidence of how yoga affects mental health.
However, there is evidence to suggest that yoga can reduce stress and help with relaxation.
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