The Practice Of Yoga And Your Health
Yoga is the ancient practice of combining simple yet complex posturing and exercise patterns. The goal of yoga in its natural form is to connect the body and mind to reach both physical and spiritual consciousness.
Originating in India thousands of years ago, it was only introduced into the western world in the 19th century. This has led to modifications being introduced to the original yoga forms and some of the supposed benefits scrutinised, mostly in the media and popular culture. Scientists in the medical world have also conducted several types of research to examine the purported effects of yoga on the health of practitioners.
While it has several different steps and elements in its natural form, yoga as practised in the western world mostly consist of physical postures or asanas, breathing techniques or pranayama and meditation or dhyana. These combinations are sometimes called hatha. Some of the most popular poses or postures around the world today include the following: the mountain, downward facing dog, plank, the triangle, tree, warrior 1 and 2, forward bend (seated), bridge pose, and child’s pose.
Benefits of Yoga
The position of Yoga as a tool to help cure or prevent disease conditions such as obesity, mental stress, postural problems, hypertension and diabetes has been reported for decades. Practitioners have maintained that yoga in itself is a great way to keep in shape mentally, physically and spiritually. However, most of the benefits so far are yet to be examined scientifically – to support or refute these claims. While yoga remains a means by which practitioners can attain spiritual consciousness, it has also been noted for its effects on the health of practitioners in some regard.
Yoga is touted as a preventive method for effectively curbing or halting the development of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. It is also thought to be effective when combined with other forms of treatment. Regular yoga practice for upwards of an hour daily continuously for three months is thought to help with both blood pressure control and blood sugar control.
Yoga may also be employed in the management of anxiety disorders or depressive disorders due to its notable effects on the body’s stress levels. It also helps increase one’s “feel-good factor” due to the nature of yoga as a group exercise, causing people to bond and make new friends. It is, however, advisable to be used in combination with established orthodox methods of treatment.
Regular yoga practice for upwards of an hour daily continuously for three months is also effective in achieving weight loss. This is due to the cumulative effect of physical exercise and mindful eating. It has also shown to be effective in enhancing overall fitness and physical health of practitioners. People who engage in yoga are able to exercise for longer and generally have the greater muscle strength and endurance than people who don’t. As obesity is a principal factor in the development of many diseases, being in a healthy shape is paramount for optimum health.
Yoga encourages mindfulness at yoga sessions and at other aspects of life, including eating habits. Research has shown that people who practised yoga not only pay more attention to what they eat and the periods at which they eat, they were also more satisfied with their body image.
Yoga may also be beneficial for people with sleeping disorders. The different physical postures and breathing patterns help reduce stress levels by lowering stress hormones. Meditation also helps clear one’s head, enabling you to get into sleep easier.
The breathing techniques employed in yoga (called pranayama) are thought to help with chronic respiratory diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (a long-term disease affecting the lung) by reducing the frequency and severity of symptoms. Through the breathing exercises, it is thought to help improve respiration, relaxation and to develop the respiratory muscles.
People with back pain also report greater relief after practising yoga. The stretching exercises and postures undertaken are thought to improve flexibility and back functioning.
Finally, it is important to note that yoga must not be used as an adjunct to proper consultation with a doctor. If you have any symptoms of ill-health, please see your doctor. Most of the studies done to unravel the health benefits of yoga were carried out in a small number of participants and may be limited in application.