Yoga has been known worldwide to increase flexibility, reduce stress, and center balance. However, many use yoga to do more than maintain their wellbeing. Yoga’s health benefits can stretch you into health by easing asthma, boosting your immune system, treating chronic back pain, depression, migraines, and even diabetes.

The word yoga finds its roots in Sanskrit, which means “to yoke” the mind and physical body together into one by intertwining breathing practices and exercises. According to the National Institutes of Health’s division for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, yoga is one of the top 10 complementary health practices, and its popularity is rapidly growing. Currently, in the United States, more than 13 million adults practice yoga. Between 2002 and 2007, two million people joined the meditative practice, which includes breath control and can seamlessly be modified to suit various levels of fitness, each type with its own historical background.

Ranging from ashtanga, which is one of the oldest forms and considered the foundation of modern Westernized yoga. As a very athletic form of yoga made up of six intensive series of postures, it’s unlike hatha yoga, which ashtanga takes breathing lessons from. Hatha is a holistic path that includes physical postures but bases itself on breathing and meditation, which makes it a great way to gently introduce yoga practices for people new to yoga.

The number one reason people use yoga for complementary health practices is to treat back pain. In total, 16 percent of yogis practice for medical conditions, while another 10.5 percent use it as a treatment for musculoskeletal conditions. Meanwhile, 22 percent said they use yoga because their doctors recommended it. A majority of those who practice yoga in the United States — 58 percent — do it to maintain their health and wellbeing. It’s well-known that yoga provides many stress management and relaxation benefits, and in some medical centers, such as the cardiac center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angelos, Calif., yoga is used as a primary therapy to decrease stress and high blood pressure in patients with heart disease.

Exercise is a great way to set healthy blood flow throughout the valves, but experts believe yoga’s meditative components may give it an extra boost to help stabilize the endothelium, which is the lining of the blood vessels. When the endothelium becomes irritated, it becomes a contributing factor to cardiovascular disease; however, yoga’s power to reduce stress hormones such as cortisol can help ease tension on the lining to decrease risk of heart attack or stroke.Thanks to the breathing techniques that provide a basis for yoga, asthma sufferers can benefit from the chronic inflammation that causes attacks and dangerous swollen airways.

The NIH highlights yoga’s true health benefits for those with lower back pains, as it is the number one reasons use it to complement their health treatments. Those who used yoga as a treatment approach said it had significantly lessened their disability, pain, and depression after six months compared to chronic back pain patients in standard care.Depression is increasingly being treated with yoga, as researchers from Boston University School of Medicine in collaboration with Harvard’s McLean Hospital found the patients who practice yoga for one hour had a 27 percent increase of an important neurotransmitter, GABA. There are low levels of GABA in depression patients, which means an increase of GABA could be treating an unknown underlying factor, according to the Yoga Health Foundation. The findings support a growing body of research that's proving yoga can significantly improve mood and reduce the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and chronic stress.

Many researchers don’t understand how migraines work, but using breathing techniques in a quiet dark room definitely hasn’t shown to worsen them. Researchers believe that developing migraines is a genetic disease that runs through families. The onset of a migraine could be induced by multiple mental stressors and physical misalignments, which may be treated with certain poses. With 37 million Americans suffering from migraines each year in America, often causing vomiting, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, noise, or odor, moderate to severe pain, loss of appetite, and fatigue, wouldn’t you want to try yoga to ease these debilitating symptoms?

Long-term diabetics suffer from nerve damage due to constant high sugar levels that the body struggles to balance out. The nerve damage leads to the slowing of nerve impulses, decreased sensation, and numbness of the feet. Through the alternative medical approach of yoga 40 minutes a day for 40 days, diabetes patients had improved the nerve impulse in their hands.Yoga simply improves the body’s immune system by improving the body’s overall health. It makes it easier to fend off illness if you’re attuned to your body and in better physical shape, and breathing better helps your circulation move better along with all other organ functions.