An ages old art that goes back centuries, yoga is a powerful form of exercise that offers benefits such as improved flexibility, posture, breathing, stamina, weight loss, and—to some degree—strength. Through its many forms and postures, yoga can be as challenging as it can be relaxing. Practiced the world over, you are typically no more than a stone's throw from a qualified yoga instructor.
Yoga can do so much for your core fitness and flexibility thanks to its many poses—or asanas—that provide varying levels of difficult. The progressive nature of yoga allows for participants of all fitness levels to find a demanding workout that meets their needs. Beyond this, the many forms of yoga available to choose from expand the possible intensities even further. The full body, holistic approach of yoga ensures training that leads to balanced results, an unfortunate failing of many other forms of exercise.
Speaking of balance, beyond the physical benefits are the mental and spiritual rewards—a bonus offered by few other fitness models. Yoga offers a mind-clearing style of exercise that can reduce stress and relieve tension. Stress releases the hormone cortisol, which signals your body to store fat. How nice is it that there is a workout out there than not only burns calories but also helps tell your body to stop storing all that extra fat to begin with? That's a one-two weight loss punch if there's ever been one!
It was mentioned above that yoga can improve a person's strength, but it is important to note that it was also mentioned that this benefit is limited “to some degree”. Strength is a measure of the force a muscle can produce, and there is a low upper limit to how much force can be produced using only one's own body weight for resistance. That burn felt during yoga is not related to your muscles' strength getting sapped but more their endurance flagging as lactic acid builds up and available fuels run out. Certainly, yoga is an endurance activity that can result in improved stamina, but early on in a participant's yoga career, their strength gains will hit a wall.
Beyond this, yoga can also contort the spine into positions it was not truly designed for. Flexibility is important, but not at the cost of injury. Practitioners of yoga should always be aware of their bodies' limitations and never forcw limbs into spaces they were never meant to go!
According to the Mayo Clinic,
“Yoga might help with a variety of health conditions, such as cancer, depression, pain, anxiety, and insomnia...”
Yoga is an excellent way to improve flexibility as well as the fitness of your core muscles, but if you truly wish to improve your strength and endurance—as well as take off those unwanted pounds—yoga should be used as a supplement, not as the main course.