How it works

Yoga is an ancient form of exercise and relaxation that focuses on strength. Similar to pilates, yoga exercises also build on posture and flexibility to boost physical and mental wellbeing. The main difference is that yoga has a more spiritual element. It’s popular for numerous conditions, despite a lack of strong research into a lot of them.

What it could help:

Anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, aches and pains.

Evidence base:

Despite a lack of studies looking specifically at its effect on stress, many trials of varying quality have been published on yoga. A recent review looked at reports of its effect on patients with hypertension and concluded that, not only does yoga reduce high blood pressure, but also effectively reduces blood glucose level, cholesterol level, and body weight. The majority of evidence suggests that yoga has some health benefits associated with exercise, including improved strength, flexibility and balance, and previous reports have also shown yoga exercises to be effective in improving symptoms of mood, fatigue, back pain and asthma, although further research is needed to verify them.

What to expect:

There are many different styles of yoga. They vary in vigorousness, cater for different abilities and focus on different areas, such as posture or breathing. You can attend group classes or see a private teacher. The key is to choose a class appropriate to your fitness level. A session usually lasts between 60 and 90 minutes, and involves a series of postures with breath work (pranayama), and relaxation time at the end of the class. Wear clothing that you find easy to move and stretch in. There are also instructional DVDs for home if you prefer or do not have time to attend classes.


There are very few negative effects of yoga, other than possible cramp or strain if you have not exercised in a while. Pregnant women or those having a period may find some exercises difficult and should stop doing that posture. Ensure you join a class that is suitable to your requirements and tell the instructor about any health concerns.

Find out more:

Find a therapist:

Many local authority leisure centres offer yoga classes, so it is worth looking on their websites. Currently in the UK there is no single organisation that regulates teachers, who do not require any specific training. The majority, however, will be voluntarily registered and accredited by one of the following bodies:


Some hospitals offer free yoga therapy, so do ask if you are being treated, or ask for local suggestions. Group sessions can range from from £4 to £12 for 60 to 90 minute sessions whilst private sessions can cost up to £60 for the same time.

How does yoga work? – VIDEO

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