What are the health benefits of yoga?

Yoga is an ancestral practice of well-being and relaxation based on the liberation of the chakras to resolve psychophysical tensions. Its benefits on mental and physical health are numerous. Benefits, dangers, prices, different types of yoga, price of a class… We take stock with an expert.

The term yoga means “union” in Sanskrit . This ancestral practice originating from India advocates the union of body and spirit and the union of the individual soul (ours) and the universal soul (the Creator) . This practice was originally transmitted from master to students.

Definition: what is yoga? What does it consist on ?

According to traditional Indian medicine, a healthy body and a healthy lifestyle are necessary for the proper development of the soul and spirit. Yoga exercises combine meditation , gentle gymnastics, postures and breathing . Objective: to release psychophysical tensions accumulated in the chakras.

The chakras are centers of spiritual energy, located in the body, corresponding to certain vital, mental and spiritual functions. There are generally seven, from the lower end of the spine to the top of the skull . The liberation of the chakras would allow a better union of body and mind and better health for the practitioner.

In the West, yoga is considered a practice of well-being and relaxation. Although it is originally a spiritual concept, it is in no way a religious practice. It is therefore accessible to everyone , from children to adults, believers or not.

More than 10 million people practice yoga in France

The practice of yoga concerns very diverse audiences, and can even be  recommended for children , the elderly or those suffering from disabilities. But we know very little about the practice in France: how many followers can we count on the territory in recent years? A study carried out with 20,000 respondents gives the answer (source 1), and reveals that  no less than one in five French people  have practiced yoga in the last three years. Thus, in 2010, there were 3 million French people practicing and 10 years later, there are 10.7 million (or 20.5% of the population).

In 2020, nearly  3/4 of practitioners (i.e. 15% of French adults, 7.9 million) practice yoga regularly  : 52% every week and 22% once or twice a month. Among these regular practitioners, it is  those over 50  who are more diligent, while those aged 18-24 do yoga more “occasionally”. The Covid-19 epidemic and successive confinements have contributed to this craze since 26% of practitioners (2.8 million) started  doing yoga  less than a year ago .

Men take up yoga

They  now represent 31% of practitioners in France. Their essential motivations? Improving flexibility and deepening self-knowledge. Here too, these are diligent practitioners who tend to do sessions of 2 hours or more. The survey reveals that men tend to remain faithful to the same style of yoga, and are very sensitive to the educational approach proposed by the teacher.

Doing yoga: what are the benefits? What's the point ?

According to Indian tradition, yoga is a practice that acts on the overall health of the individual. For Western doctors, its benefits are linked to well-being, relaxation or the improvement of certain disorders. Yoga is recommended for:

  • Treatment of stress and anxiety ; 
  • Improved lung capacity and respiratory disorders such as asthma  ;
  • Improved blood circulation  ;
  • Diabetes ; 
  • Treatment of musculoskeletal disorders .

Does yoga slim the figure?

Thanks to the series of postures, yoga helps to tone and strengthen the muscles, and therefore refine the silhouette. Some more dynamic types of yoga are particularly physically demanding. Not to mention, yoga improves the overall health of the individual, which plays a significant role in weight management . However, it is necessary to practice regularly to see the effects!

What are the different types of yoga?

Yoga sessions are generally practiced in small groups on floor mats , once a week at least. The practice is essentially based on the realization of postures (asana) , the mastery of the breath (pranayama), the learning of meditation techniques.

Yoga hatha, brikram, nidra, vinyasa, kundalini, dynamic, yin…

  • Hatha yoga (most practiced in France and the West): the yoga of body-mind balance;
  • Prenatal yoga ( exercises and postures suitable for pregnant women);
  • Bikram yoga :  hot yoga;
  • Yoga nidra  : the yoga of sleep;
  • Facial yoga ;
  • Finger yoga ;
  • The yoga of sound and the yoga of voice;
  • Sexual yoga ;
  • Fertility yoga ;
  • Kundalini yoga  ;
  • Laughter yoga  ;
  • The yoga of hormones  ;
  • Dynamic yoga;
  • Aerial yoga  ;
  • Vinyasa yoga;
  • Ashtanga yoga  ;
  • Yin yoga…

Little is known, but yoga is not necessarily an individual practice. It can be practiced in pairs ( acroyoga ), most often as a couple, or even in groups, between friends or family.

What are the risks associated with practicing yoga?

Certain yoga postures are not recommended or inaccessible  :

  • For people suffering from serious hip problems;
  • For people suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS);
  • For people suffering from epileptic seizures .

Finally, in the context of a recent surgical procedure (less than six months), the practice of yoga is strongly discouraged.

In all cases, it is recommended to choose yoga adapted to your age , physical condition , state of health and level in order to limit the risk of injury. If you have any doubt, ask your doctor for advice!

How does a yoga session take place?

The course takes place in five successive phases, more or less long.


When you arrive at yoga class, the first few minutes are devoted to relaxation . This relaxation allows you to put your worries aside and take a few minutes to let yourself be emptied (pratyahara) .

Breathing exercises (pranayama)

This involves observing your breathing rhythm and its changes . These exercises are essential for learning to control your breathing, concentrate better and listen less to your mind. Breathing is very important in yoga to perform postures in full awareness, purifying the body and mind.

Preparing for postures

This is a part dedicated to warming up the body through a series of fluid and easy-to-access postures . The best known is that of the sun salutation (suryanamaskara), a succession of twelve postures.

Body postures (asana)

The postures are of course at the heart of the session. They are performed standing, lying down, sitting with progressive levels of difficulty. It is essential to concentrate on your breathing and to seek the letting go necessary for meditation (dhyana) .

For example, the triangle position is performed standing with your legs apart. The student inhales deeply while raising the outstretched arms horizontally in line with the shoulders. The hips rotate gently so that the right hand rests on the left foot. We maintain the pose, then after several breaths, we return to the initial position to repeat the movement with the other arm. There are over 80,000 different postures in yoga.


Integration, at the end of the session, with rest

At the end of a yoga session, the body needs a period of respite and mental calm before resuming its usual activity. Lying or sitting, the student can relax the muscles used during the practice one last time and experience a peaceful body and mind before diving back into their daily lives.

How to choose the right yoga teacher?

Before choosing a yoga teacher, you must first determine what type of yoga is right for you. Do not hesitate to ask for the right to attend a class or take a trial class. In general, the centers provide this possibility at a preferential access rate. During this session, you will be able to see if the teacher's way of teaching and the practice itself are in line with what you are looking for.

In France, there is no official title for yoga teachers . The practice is therefore open to several types of training, of varying quality. It is advisable to use a teacher with a minimum training of two or three years and even four years. Also make sure that he has personally practiced yoga for at least five years at least three times a week.

The UNY, FNEY and FIDHY associations provide a directory of certified teachers in which you may be able to find your future teacher. Good to know: FIDHY and FNEY are ordinary members of the UEY (European Yoga Union bringing together seventeen federations from European countries). The UEY guarantees a common basic program for yoga teaching, a true quality criterion for the profession.

What are the duration and price of a yoga session?

A yoga session costs between 20 and 70 euros for an hour to an hour and a half of practice, depending on the type of class. Some centers offer flat rates over several sessions, monthly, quarterly or annually to reduce the cost per session, but regional disparities remain strong. For yoga classes at home or online , count between 40 euros and 70 euros per hour.

Yoga is considered a practice halfway between relaxation and gentle sport. It therefore does not fall into the category of disciplines or therapies reimbursable by Social Security and complementary mutual insurance companies.