Health Benefits of Yoga

During the last few decades alternative ideologies and practices for maintaining control over one’s body and mind in order to ensure harmonious and productive life in a rush of modern world have emerged both in the US and many other countries. As it has become known later, these practices also pose visible healing effect when it comes to many health conditions in both physical and mental spheres. This article examines benefits that yoga has proven to bring people.

Being a complex body-and-mind practice that derives from old Indian philosophy, yoga combines physical postures with special breathing techniques, meditation and relaxation. It is quite a new for the US form of fitness that has proven to provide significant therapeutic effects both by its part devoted to exercises involving various muscles and joints, and creation of ‘internally directed mindful focus on awareness of the self, the breath, and energy’.

As Harvard Medical School says, referring to the results of a national survey, about 7,5% of American adults have undertaken at least one yoga class, and approximately 4% of them had practiced yoga within the previous year. According to a 2007 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), yoga placed sixth in the ratings of the most common alternative healing practices among adults in the US. Moreover, the survey has also shown that about 1.5 million children have tried yoga the previous year.

Currently yoga is considered to be of a great help in treatment or alleviation of a number of both physical and mental illnesses. Among proven fields where it can be beneficial for a person are:

Pain reduction and general body functioning improvement.

Recent studies suggest that practicing a number of adapted yoga poses alleviates chronic back pain and also prevents or significantly delays its appearance as we age. Doing yoga involves into work numerous joints, muscles and ligaments of our body that are normally inactive in our daily set of movements.

Lowering of blood pressure and heart rate.

Yoga has shown to increase our blood flow along with levels of red blood cells and hemoglobin, thus enabling better oxygenation of our system and acting as a great preventive measure for strokes, hearts attacks and other cardiovascular diseases.

Relieving depression, anxiety, insomnia or stress.

Regular yoga practicing also positively affects our serotonin levels, leading to improvement in mental health in people suffering from a range of mental conditions such as anxiety, depression etc. Research has even revealed that yoga can be of use in treatment of PTSD among war veterans and has been applied in Australia and at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Improving general well-being, physical and mental flexibility, control over mechanisms responding to stress.

Incorporation of yoga practices into one’s daily routine will contribute to our feeling of control over our body and mind, resulting into better mood on a daily basis as well as better physical functioning. Moreover, though it is not an actual extra method of treatment, yoga is nevertheless recommended to cancer patients as a way to decrease overall amount of stress, support their feeling of control over their bodies and lives, maintain decent body functioning and keep up serotonin levels affecting their mood.

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) is now supporting research on what positive effects doing yoga may have on HIV, risk of diabetes, multiple sclerosis, menopausal symptoms, immune system and smoking cessation.

However, there are some precautions people should take in order to benefit from practicing yoga as much as possible. For example, pregnant women and people suffering from high blood pressure, glaucoma and sciatica should modify or avoid certain yoga poses. Also, it should be done under professional supervision, at least in the beginning for generally healthy people. One’s instructor must be a proven professional with education in respective field and license to teach. They have to be attentive to one’s individual needs and adapt chosen yoga poses to these needs.

Yoga should not be used as a replacement to conventional medical care, without knowledge of one’s health consultant or when certain kind of yoga (e.g., hot yoga) poses a threat to a person with some condition. This way one will gain as much as possible from this extremely helpful and sanative practice.

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