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Yoga is a physical and mental discipline which originated in India some 5,000 years ago. Its aim is to strengthen the relationship between the mind and body, using a combination of body postures and breathing exercises. It offers an holistic approach to the mind, body and spirit, helping the individual to cope with the stresses and strains of everyday life. It can be used to treat a variety of conditons or simply as a means of relaxation.
Yoga is suitable for all, regardless of age, sex or ability. It can be used as a means of relaxation or to treat various conditions, including depression, headaches/migraine, high blood pressure, anxiety, arthritis and respiratory problems. It is also suitable for use whilst pregnant, encouraging flexibility, easing back pain and helping to reduce labour pains.
There are various types of yoga but the most common and widely available is Hatha yoga which is relatively low impact. It focuses on flexibility, breathing techniques and relaxation. Ashtanga yoga, on the other hand, is more powerful and dynamic, aiming to build strength and endurance.
Loose clothing should be worn for classes, which generally begin with warm-up exercises, followed by a series of asanas or yoga postures, which aim to improve body tone and improve energy flow. Other exercises are used to develop breathing techniques. Some yoga classes also offer meditation and visualisation.