Yoga classes abound: traditional yoga, hot yoga, power yoga, yoga for fitness, yoga at church. The list goes on. With so many options, it might be challenging to decide how or if it fits into your personal wellness plan. Understanding its basics can help you decide what’s best for you and how this ancient practice can help you achieve your personal wellness goals.

Yoga principles complement a holistic health approach that addresses multiple wellness factors. The practice stems from a philosophy of mind-body unity. By definition all yoga strives to engage practitioners physically and mentally. It also has other elements that can address other health factors, such as emotional, social, and spiritual well-being.

Knowing your personal wellness goals can help with selecting a class that best suits your needs. Yoga is based on eight key sutras or foundations. Understanding the sutras can also help determine which style and instructor best support your wellness needs.

The Eight Yoga Sutras

  1. Moral behavior (yama): Can help with spiritual wellness.
  2. Healthy Habits (niyama): Can help with physical wellness.
  3. Physical Postures (asana): Can help with physical wellness.
  4. Breathing Exercises (pranayama): Can help with physical wellness.
  5. Sense Withdrawal (pratyahara): Can help with mental wellness.
  6. Concentration (dharana): Can help with mental wellness.
  7. Contemplation (dhyan): Can help with emotional wellness.
  8. Higher Consciousness (Samadhi): Can help with spiritual wellness.

Other principles such as ahimsa (“do no harm”) and satya (“truthfulness”) can help improve social wellness.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) website has an informative overview of yoga. In addition to listing key points, it also lists possible health benefits, side effects, and risks.

When evaluating classes, be mindful that not all classes emphasize the basic principles. In spite of yoga’s holistic philosophy, many classes have popped up that focus primarily on physical benefits. Understanding your health and wellness goals will help you decide which class makes sense for your specific needs.

Be well,

Dr. Donna

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