Yoga is the poster child for peace and relaxation but the practice also offers a number of challenging poses that can greatly improve physical health. It comes in various forms but all highlight the importance of balancing physical, emotional and psychological well-being.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, yoga is the most common of mind and body practices, with 21 million adults having used it.

That number represents 9.5 percent of adults in the United States, a jump from 6.1 percent in 2007 and 5.1 percent from 2002. Out of those who do yoga, 58 percent said they do it to maintain health and well-being while 16 percent used the practice to address specific conditions.

Yoga may appear to many as a form of alternative medicine but do away with the "Us vs. Them" kind of mentality. Instead, the better way to look at the practice is as a complementary health approach.

Doctors recognize the benefits of yoga, what with 22 percent of those who turned to yoga to take care of certain conditions doing so at the recommendation of their physician, so it shouldn't clash with healthcare methods.

Interested in what yoga can do for you? You should be, as these infographics show:

Like anything, to make the most out of doing yoga, it must be done properly. Not only will this ensure that all poses done are completed as they should be to reap their benefits but that you are kept safe as well at all times. This is why it's integral to start the practice with the guidance of a teacher.

Yoga is highly popular, so there should be no shortage of classes for every fitness level out there. There are different kinds of yoga classes too so choices are varied. Once a good grasp of the basics have been attained, there should be no problem completing the practice at home, if that is preferred.

Like any kind of exercise, yoga requires continuity to be beneficial. While immediate effects can be enjoyed after just one session, the benefits are best observed after long-term practice. The good thing about yoga is that it is not just defined by a preset number of poses. Every person is unique, and this means as well that every pose can be uniquely carried out, mastered over time to reflect progress in the practice.

Photo: Andreas Ivarsson | Flickr

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