According to many yoga masters, yoga benefits the body, mind and spirit. Yoga movements stretch and strengthen the body. Some yoga practices contain a meditative element, incorporating chants and mantras intended to create greater spiritual awareness. There are many different types of yoga, ranging from regimens that focus mostly on the body, to practices that combine yoga movements with laughter therapy.
Most yoga classes involve a series of poses that strengthen the muscles. Balancing on one leg and shifting all weight to the forearms are examples of strength building activities in yoga. Many forms of exercise, such as dance or aerobics, focus on first stretching and then strengthening the muscles; in yoga, many of the movements combine poses and postures that simultaneously stretch and strengthen the body.
Yoga benefits individuals who are dealing with muscle stiffness or recovering from injuries. Practicing yoga can provide a consistent approach to increasing flexibility. Yoga teachers usually instruct students to move at their own pace in deepening their muscular stretch. The continual emphasis on breathing deeply during and in between movements is helpful for increased circulation and tissue repair. Depending on the specific class, yoga benefits individuals recovering from sports injuries by providing a controlled environment of stretching and strengthening without aggressive or abrupt movements.
A perceived cleansing of the body is another way yoga benefits its practitioners. The combination of physical movements, focused breathing, and sweating is considered a useful mechanism for increasing circulation and eliminating toxins from the body. Specific types of yoga, such as Bikram yoga, promote toxin elimination as a key benefit. This type of yoga is performed with the heat turned up, to promote increased muscular warmth and sweating.
Some yoga classes integrate a spiritual component that is consistent throughout the class. The yoga class might start with a chant intended to create greater internal focus and relaxation. Breathing exercises are usually combined with this practice, where attention is given to the breath as a mechanism for increasing a sense of presence and relaxation.
Yoga benefits mental health, as argued by proponents of laughter yoga. This type of yoga combines yoga movements and breathing with activities intended to induce laughter. Fake laughter and childlike movements are implemented in laughter yoga to create real laughter. It is believed that the combination of these activities helps to deliver more oxygen to the brain, reduce stress, lighten the spirit and create more joy.