More than 20 million Americans...

More than 20 million Americans...

...practice yoga, making it one of the most popular forms of exercise.

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Is yoga good for you? Here's what the science actually says.

vox.com

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Yoga and other forms of exercise

Although the research on yoga is still weak, based on the available findings, Yoga is probably just as good for your health as many other forms of exercise. 

It seems particularly promising for improving lower back pain and — crucially — reducing inflammation in the body.

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Side effects of practicing Yoga

There can be negative consequences if done incorrectly, like any body manipulation, but if you have the right teacher this will not happen. 

Beginners should avoid advanced postures (such as headstands), and people with chronic health conditions (such as glaucoma) should consult their doctors before diving in.

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The challenge in defining Yoga

Yoga is many things to many people. It usually involves some combination of postures and poses (asanas), regulated breathing (pranayama), and meditation and relaxation (samyama). But many classes mix in other elements, from chanting to heating to music. There's also a lot of variation in teaching quality and style. 

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Yoga and anxiety

Yoga might help with mood disorders, but we don't yet know for sure because the studies to date have generally been badly designed and the results are inconclusive. 

And when it comes to anxiety and depression, it can be difficult to untangle whether it's the yoga that's helping or simply the act of going out, moving your body, joining a group on a regular basis, and so on.

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Yoga as a form of exercise

Depending on the type, Yoga could build your muscles. 

It strongly depends on what you do when you do yoga. Classes that involve nothing more than lying around on piles of blankets and breathing aren't likely to strengthen your body. But more strenuous types of yoga-like ashtanga can be surprisingly similar to other forms of vigorous exercise.

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No direct evidence on yoga's long-term benefits

Researchers haven't tracked yogis over a span of 20 years or more and have not followed up to see whether they get diseases at a lower rate than non-yogis. 

There are some randomized controlled trials suggesting that yoga may improve the quality of life for diabetes patients, reduce cardiovascular disease risk factors, and even help people manage high blood pressure.

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Unclear benefits of Yoga

There is no certainty whether some forms of yoga are better than others, whether yoga should be prescribed to people for various health conditions, and how yoga compares with other forms of exercise. 

There's also no good evidence behind many of the supposed health benefits of yoga, like flushing out toxins and stimulating digestion.

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10 Benefits Of Tai Chi According To Research
  1. Reduces mortality for those who self-reported engaging in the practice 5-6 hours per week.
  2. Improves muscle strength, balance and flexibility. Evidence is inconclusive, but it links regular tai chi practice to physiological and psychosocial benefits.
  3. Boosts cognitive and memory functions in older adults, especially verbal working memory.
  4. Reduces chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) symptoms by boosting endurance and peak exercise capacity.
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There are different styles of tai chi, each has a unique set of methods and principles, lineage, and date of origin. Some of these forms of tai chi lean towards health, while others stress competition or self-defense.

  • Chen-style, which started between 1580 and 1660
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Altering the brain

In 2005, studies began to point out that meditation can change the structure of your brain by thickening the cortex. The cortex controls your attention and emotions.

You can reap the benefits if you practice meditation for half an hour a day over eight weeks.

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Are we morally obligated to meditate?

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