In any city you live in, you will be able to find a yoga studio with 10s of people in a room earnestly following an instructor, guiding the class with their soothing tone, as women (and men) go through movements and breaths. The United States alone has gone from 20.4 million practitioners in 2012 to 36 million in 2016, with 28% of Americans having participated in a yoga class at least once in their life. With the continuous growth of participating in yoga, do we understand the true benefits of this ancient practice?
Though in recent years there has been a rise of novelty yoga sessions as goat yoga and beer yoga, the core of yoga, as originated in India can not be taken away. As noted to BBC News by Dr Jim Mallinson, a yoga history researcher and senior lecturer at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, “Yoga in India was first practised only by religious ascetics, and clear references to it can be found in texts from 2,500, years ago. For them yoga was totally about steadiness and stillness.” When digging into the history of yoga, one finds that the practice of yoga has always been centered on the mind rather than the physical, as reflected in the famous text of Yoga Sutras, where the mention of the physical aspect of yoga is seen all but three times out of the 196 sutras while elements of meditation, breathing, visualization and others elements are seen throughout.
The mental and emotional benefits of yoga can not be downplayed. With doctors completing research on the impact, the original texts emphasizing the power of the mind and people, instructors and students alike, taking on the practice resulting in finding the peace of mind they have been searching for.
“I had never been introduced to yoga; no one I knew practiced it. It changed everything for me and my mental stability, allowing me to find peace.”
– Angelica Lews, Yogi and Founder of Curvy Chick Yoga
In exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga, Dr. Catherine Woodyard, University of Mississippi notes:
“Regular practice of yoga promotes strength, endurance, flexibility and facilitates characteristics of friendliness, compassion, and greater self-control, while cultivating a sense of calmness and well-being. Sustained practice also leads to important outcomes such as changes in life perspective, self-awareness and an improved sense of energy to live life fully and with genuine enjoyment. The practice of yoga produces a physiological state opposite to that of the flight-or-fight stress response and with that interruption in the stress response, a sense of balance and union between the mind and body can be achieved.”
With the increasing availability of yoga, whether attending classes or following youtube videos at home, participating in this practice is just within reach. And as much as it provides a means of regular exercise, we can not deny the mental and emotional stability it provides.
 Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance, “The 2016 Yoga in America Study,” 2016, https://www.yogaalliance.org/Portals/0/2016%20Yoga%20in%20America%20Study%20RESULTS.pdf.
 Catherine Woodyard, “Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life,” International Journal of Yoga, 2011 Jul-Dec; 4(2): 49–54. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3193654/.
 Cindy Kuzma, “Chicago Yogi Angelica Lewis Champions Yoga for All Bodies,” Chicago Times, February 18, 2019, http://www.chicagomag.com/city-life/February-2019/Curvy-Chick-Yoga-Angelica-Lewis/.
 Woodyard, “Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga.”