It is a given that flexibility is an important aspect of yoga.Many people have mental images of yogis with their arms and legs wrapped aroundlike pretzels. While flexibility is one of the physical benefits gained by yogapractice, there are several others equally important to overall well-being.Balance, strength and stamina should be considered as additional physicalassets and contributors to health that can be improved through yoga.

While strength may not be the top trait usually associated withyogis, it is certainly one of the results of regular yoga practice. Standingposes increase strength in the legs. Downward facing dog, one of the mostpopular yoga poses, and inversions are effective ways to make the armsstronger. Many yoga classes and sequences focus on improving core strengththrough the abdominal muscles.

Due to the variety of poses, many of which are different fromeveryday movements, yoga works well to improve balance. There are simplebalancing poses like tree pose that can be practiced by beginners and a numberof more advanced balancing asanas. Balance is an important ability to maintain,especially as we age.

A regular yoga practice will increase your stamina and endurance.Some yoga styles and individual classes are very aerobic. Even slower pacedclasses will help to improve stamina. One way to do this is by increasing thelength of time you hold poses. Depending on the asana, anywhere from 30 secondsto 10 minutes may be appropriate.

Joint health and range of motion is also improved through yoga.Learning how to correctly align the limbs and effectively use adjacent musclescan help to treat or avoid common problems with shoulders, knees and hips.Increased strength and flexibility takes pressure off of the actual joints.

In addition to improving aspects of general health, yoga caneffectively address a number of specific health issues. This an area that usedto rely primarily on anecdotal evidence. In recent years, numerous researchstudies have been completed regarding yoga and a variety of health conditions.Yoga can have a positive effect with problems such as low back pain,depression, blood pressure, stress, insomnia, osteoporosis and heart disease.

It is important to talk to your yoga teacher if you have aspecific health issue or concern that you hope to address. Make sure they havethe experience or understanding needed to help you. While many yoga teachersare trained to deal with a variety of injuries and health problems, some arenot.

Even if you are in perfectly good health, a yoga practice can bebeneficial to the physical body. The general aspects of overall healthdescribed above can all be improved safely and effectively with yoga. You mayalso find increased body awareness; understanding the physical body is animportant aspect of health. By the way, lack of flexibility is not a validexcuse for not trying yoga! Rigid and inflexible types can, perhaps, benefitthe most from yoga.