There’s no denying that yoga is one of the few proven fitness trends out there that works wonders for both your body and mind. Not only does it stretch and tone the entire body, but it is an all-natural way to ease many symptoms of various mental health issues. Few sports or fitness methods can lay claim to being an all-rounder for both the physical body and the ever-complex human mind.

With the influx of new, modern fitness trends claiming to be game-changers, it can often be a challenge for workout newbies to figure out what is the best for them. Cross-fit, MMA, Zumba, boxing, body pump – the multitude of choices can be overwhelming.

The practice of yoga can be traced back to over 5000 years ago. That makes it one of the oldest forms of exercise, and one that has proven benefits. Pre-classical yoga, the oldest documented form originating in Northern India, focused on not only toning the body but also on teaching self-reflection and wisdom. Fast forward through the classical, post-classical and modern eras of yoga and you’ll see all the same principles valued and taught time and time again – introspection and connection of the often-conflicting mind and body through deep stretches and varying speeds of ‘flow.’

Anxiety and depression are increasingly common in today’s world, when technology, long hours in the office and neglect of mental and physical health leads to an understandable breakdown in communication between the mind and the body. Because anxiety is future focused, yoga helps by anchoring oneself to the present moment – drawing attention to the way the body feels during a pose or concentrating on breathing.

Breathing, an automatic anatomical reaction that is often disrupted under stress, is one of the most fundamental aspects of a yoga class. By practising a long, smooth exhale, you are activating what is known as the “relaxation response” of the nervous system. With this core skill, paired with whole-body stretches, it’s impossible not to feel the incredible relief throughout your body as the anxiety dissipates.

Whether you suffer from ongoing mental health issues or are just looking for an escape from the overwhelming stressors of day-to-day life, yoga could be the best choice for you. You will learn breathing techniques and coping mechanisms you can take away from the class to practice at home whenever the mood strikes.

Thanks to yoga, you will not only feel and see impressive and surprising changes throughout your body from early on, but you will also feel more capable of handling stress and anxiety if and when it crops up.