Yoga has been practiced for more than 5,000 years, so despite its current popularity, it’s hardly a faddish fitness trend. The many real, ongoing benefits yoga provide account for this remarkable longevity.

At yoga’s basic level is the premise that body, mind and spirit are one. Practicing yoga helps you become more aware of your body’s posture, alignment and patterns of movement. It makes the body more flexible and helps you manage stress with a sense of calm assurance. Many who have practiced yoga over the long term report feeling more connected to others and having a higher sense of purpose in life. All are among the reasons people start practicing yoga – to be more physically fit, energetic, content and peaceful.

Also, new research suggests a regular practice of yoga may lower an inflammatory protein that is linked to aging and stress. The study, done by Ohio State University researchers and reported in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, showed that women who routinely practiced yoga had lower amounts of the cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) in their blood.

The women also showed smaller increases in IL-6 after stressful experiences than did women who were the same age and weight but who were not yoga practitioners. IL-6 is an important part of the body’s inflammatory response and has been implicated in heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, arthritis and a host of other age-related debilitating diseases.

While the popular assumption about yoga is that it is the only form of exercise its practitioners engage in, yoga can be an enjoyable supplement to your regular fitness routine. It has many styles, forms and intensities, but most people can benefit from any style of yoga – it’s all about your personal preferences.

Despite the numerous videos and books offering yoga instruction, however, don’t try learning it on your own. Work with an experienced and credentialed instructor to learn the proper way to perform the exercises and avoid injury. Also, know your limits and stay within them. Before beginning any type of yoga, ask the instructor about its physical demands to be sure it’s suitable for you.

All Future Fitness locations offer classes in five different yoga styles. These styles range from being appropriate for all fitness levels to recommended only for those who have already achieved a high fitness level and are longer-term yoga practitioners. Every class is led by experienced instructors who can help motivated members get the most out of each session. Classes also offer a sense of camaraderie, which increases the feeling of overall well-being.

So invest in a yoga mat and check out a class! You may find the piece of the fitness puzzle – and the peace of mind – you’ve been looking for.