What do most people imagine when the word “yoga” comes to mind? They envision twisting up like a pretzel, right? Then they start to feel that they are not fit enough, young enough, or flexible enough to take part in yoga. But nothing could be further from the truth. It’s never too late to improve your strength and flexibility. Inflexibility, soreness, and exhaustion due to lactic acid build up in the muscles are released when you stretch by safely flowing from one yoga pose to another. Yoga also improves the range of motion in joints, stretches ligaments, tendons, and the fascia sheath that surrounds your muscles. Noticeable results can be seen in a short period of time. Some poses, such as plank and downward dog, build upper-body strength, while the standing poses, especially if you hold them for several long breaths, build strength in your hamstrings, quadriceps, and abdominal muscles. Poses that strengthen the lower back include upward dog and the chair pose. Almost all poses build core strength in the deep abdominal muscles. Along with strength and flexibility comes better posture. The ability to uphold each pose requires your deep abdominal muscles. As your core becomes stronger, you develop a better sense of body awareness. This helps you correct your posture when you’re slouching. Aerobic performance, endurance and lung capacity will improve because of the deep, mindful breathing involved in yoga. And, the fluctuation of the release of certain hormone neurotransmitters due to practicing yoga also helps reduce stress. Another advantage students talk about is enhancement of concentration and mood. Most say they feel more relaxed and at ease after practicing yoga. Lower blood pressure and a slower heart rate have been associated with yoga for ages. A slower heart rate can benefit people with high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Yoga was a main factor used in the heart disease program designed by Dean Ornish, MD to improve heart disease through lifestyle and diet rather than surgery. And yoga has been linked with reduced cholesterol and triglyceride levels as well as an increase in the function of the immune system and an antioxidant effect. Medical researchers have begun studying the advantages of therapeutic yoga. It's used as an optional treatment for specific medical conditions, from clinical depression to heart disease. Other yoga benefits include relieving chronic medical conditions such as symptoms of asthma, back pain, and arthritis. Clinical trials are even being conducted on yoga’s health benefits for insomnia and multiple sclerosis. Some studies show that learning and memory may be affected positively by yoga. Other scientists have suggested yoga can slow the aging process, improve a person's self esteem, and increase energy levels. Because some benefits of yoga may be difficult to study scientifically, the only way to be certain of the many benefits of yoga is to try it and see for yourself. I personally couldn't live without it!