Yoga is a mind-body practice that has been around for thousands of years and is considered a practice, an exercise, and also a complementary and integrative approach to healthy living. Yoga combines breathing exercises, meditation and poses, and lifestyle changes for overall good health.
The gentle bending, the stretching, and the breathing. It all seems very peaceful and relaxing, but can yoga have an actual impact on our overall health? According to the American Osteopathic Association, the answer is yes!
Dr. Natalie Nevins, DO, is a board-certified osteopathic family physician and certified Kundalini Yoga instructor who states on AOA website “As an osteopathic physician, I focus a lot of my efforts on preventive medicine and practices, and in the body’s ability to heal itself. Yoga is a great tool for staying healthy because it’s based on similar principles.”
So what can yoga do to help your body? According to the AOA, some of the benefits of yoga include more than the obvious improvements in flexibility. A few of the other benefits also include:
- Lowered blood pressure
- Improved sleep
- Better circulation and cardio health
- Weight reduction
- Improved breathing
- Increased muscle strength and tone
- Lower heart rate
- Reduced muscle tension
- Reduced cortisol levels
- Help with smoking cessation
Can Yoga help reduce stress symptoms?
Hatha yoga is one of the most common types of yoga used to help manage stress. The slow and gentle movements combined with focused breathing work well to help calm the practitioner both physically and mentally during a yoga session.
Hatha Yoga involves three elements:
- Poses (called Asanas)
- Controlled breathing
- Relaxation and meditation
These three elements help our bodies and our minds dial back our responses to stressors. According to a report published by Harvard Medical School “Introduction to Yoga”, studies have shown that people who do yoga use 43% fewer medical services. They also state that yoga can help reduce symptoms of depression and chronic pain, and also lower your risk of falling by improving your balance.
In a study published by the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health 130 individuals experiencing mild to moderate stress levels were asked to do ten weekly 1-hour sessions of Hatha yoga or relaxation. At the end of the 10 weeks, the results showed that yoga was as effective as relaxation – with the conclusion that “yoga appears to provide a comparable improvement in stress, anxiety and health status compared to relaxation.”
How to get started with Yoga
There are several kinds of yoga and most cities have some form of health centre or spa where yoga classes are offered. In fact, check with your local YMCA to see if there are yoga workshops you can attend. Take a class, speak to the instructor, and do what works for your body. Take your time, don’t try to do advanced yoga if you’ve been sedentary for a long time, and of course, for your safety, speak to your doctor before attempting this or any new exercise program.
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This article contains medical information provided to help you better understand this particular medical condition or process, and may contain information about medication often used as part of a treatment plan prescribed by a doctor. It is not intended to be used as either a diagnosis or recommendation for treatment of your particular medical situation. If you are unwell, concerned about your physical or mental state, or are experiencing symptoms you should speak with your doctor or primary health care provider. If you are in medical distress please contact emergency services (such as 911).