Yoga practice is popular as a way of balancing the mind, body, & spirit. Other paths are out there for sure, both new and ancient, all good but simply not as all pervading as the yoga practice. Yoga, many times is associated with religion, and somehow discredited. Hinduism, actually Hindu refers to a location on the Indus River where yoga practice originated.To be somwhat clear withhout getting diverted into the history, yoga does not originate out of religion, it can be thought more of as a "practice", based on a simplified way of life.
The current form of yoga practice today lends itself more and more toward the physical benefits. With a focus on using yoga as therapy(which it always has been used for), there is an urgency to bring medical professionals into the teaching practice to further validate its use and benefits, as well as new licensing and status. Traditionally yoga has always been a pivotal tool in empowering individuals toward taking responsibility for personal health. Unlike western medicine, yoga and Ayurvedic medicine is a way to identify pre cursors to disease, and not the diagnoses of full blown conditions.
This can become a monster of a topic so I will look at today's aging population and the desire to maintain vitality. As we age over 40 individuals can see a loss of 40% of their muscle mass, as well as decreased bone density. If you have ever had an injury or a physical and the doctor tells you to join the gym or start a wieght lifting program to increase muscle mass and bone density, you might know that the options are endless and the finding a practice that suits the need is difficult.
Sarcopenia is the loss of muscle mass and strength. "Exercise is critical in preventing and managing sarcopenia, by stimulating the hormones that promote healthy muscle mass". Lean muscle mass is the most desireable and to increase lean muscle mass-resistance training is the preferred method.
Yoga helps support 3 key areas of longevity. 1) Resistance to maintain lean muscle mass and bone density(don't see too many over developed yogis), 2) Psycho-emotional support of Mindful Movement, and meditation providing mental & spiritual health useful for treating hypertension, and 3) Pranayama, breathing control to promote proper gas exchange and support to the nervous system.
These practices are all taught in traditional yoga. Yoga is more than an "exercise", not a religion, but a science. Practice in a safe environment with qualified instruction can and will enhance the quality of life, building strength, agility, and flexibility. Yoga is an ancient art and science, it is easy to say that much if not all the fitness programs popular in the last century are partially derived from yoga. The vastness of yoga is nothing short of amazing. For example, Hatha Yoga incorporates 840,000 poses, but we regularly access about 84 of these poses. When I hear someone say, "Yoga doesn't offer me what I need". I think of the vastness of yoga and know that yoga is not a quick fix program but a long challenging road, and possibly the most rewarding.
ref. University Hospital frankfurt, Germany
Professional Yoga Therapy, Yoga as Medicine