Practicing yoga helps a person to regulate and control hormone secretion. Having an improved endocrine system keeps hormones in balance and promotes better overall physical and emotional health. Triglycerides are the chemical form of fat found in the blood. Elevated levels can point toward a risk for heart disease and high blood pressure. A recent study showed that yoga can lead to significantly lower levels of triglycerides. Yoga has been shown to increase the level of red blood cells that are found in the body. Red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen through the blood, and if a person has too few it can result in anemia and low energy. Vitamin C helps boost immunity, helps produce collagen, and is a powerful antioxidant; and a yoga regimen can increase the vitamin C in the body (Walker, 2007).
As a form of exercise, yoga offers benefits that are sometimes not easily found with other exercise routines. Due to the low impact of yoga and the controlled aspect of the motions, there is a very low risk of injury during yoga compared to other forms of exercise. In many forms of exercise, the sympathetic nervous system kicks in, providing a person with fight-or-flight sensation. Yoga does the exact opposite and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic system lowers blood pressure and slows the pace of a person's breathing, which allows relaxation and healing. Yoga consumes less oxygen than traditional exercise routines and thus allows the body to work more efficiently. During yoga, breathing is more natural and controlled than during other exercise. This type of breathing provides more oxygen-rich air for the body and also provides more energy with less fatigue. If a muscle group is worked in one direction, it will also be worked in the opposite direction in order to maintain balance. This balance makes for a better overall workout for the body. The thoughtful and self-building nature of yoga removes any need of competition in the exercise regimen. With the lack of competition, a person is free to work slowly to avoid any undue injury as well as promote a more balanced and stress-free workout. The strong mind-body connection and flexibility gained from yoga lends to increased grace and skill. Research that was done in India shows that reaction time can be improved when specific yoga breathing exercises are used in conjunction with an already established yoga practice. The improvement was credited to the faster rate of processing and improved concentration gained from yoga. In working the entire body, yoga improves endurance and is frequently used by endurance athletes as a supplement to their sport-specific training. Becoming aware of the body and how it moves, as one does in yoga practice, also leads to increased depth perception (Walker, 2007).
These enormous physical benefits are often seen as just a side effect of this powerful practice. What yoga does is harmonize the mind with the body which results in real quantum benefits. Yoga through meditation works amazingly to achieve this harmony and helps the mind work in sync with the body. Furthermore, stress which in reality is the number one killer affecting all parts of our physical, endocrinal and emotional systems can be corrected through the wonderful yoga practice of meditation. In fact yoga is often seen as equaling meditation, because both work together in achieving the common goal of unity of mind, body and spirit, a state of eternal bliss (Benefits of Yoga, 2006).
The meditative practices used in yoga help in achieving an emotional balance through detachment. Meditation creates conditions, where one is not affected by the happenings around them. This in turn creates a significant calmness and a positive outlook, which also has tremendous benefits on the physical health of the body. These are just some of the concrete benefits that can be achieved by using yoga. The ultimate goal of those who use yoga is self-realization or enlightenment (Benefits of Yoga, 2006).
Hatha yoga, the most common form in the U.S., uses controlled breathing and a series of poses, called asanas that can:
Protect the heart- Yoga practitioners in one study where shown to have lower blood-pressure, blood-sugar, and triglyceride levels, and higher levels of HDL (good) cholesterol.
Promote healthy eating - Women who practice yoga have been shown to have healthier eating patterns and are less likely to gain weight.
Control pain in people with arthritis, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome along with other issues.
Ease asthma and chronic bronchitis for many people.
Improve sleep in older people (the Surprising Power of Gentle Exercise, 2009).
Most yoga taught and practiced in this country is a form of hatha yoga, which involves moving into and out of classic poses along with controlled breathing. Yoga may be gaining in popularity partly because, within this basic structure, it's easily modified to suit differing physical abilities. Current physical activity guidelines for older adults emphasize improving balance and flexibility in addition to strength and cardiovascular fitness. Taking a yoga class may help many people meet those guidelines. A recent study looked at the effects of a nine-week program of Iyengar yoga in 24 women between the ages of 59 and 76, none of whom had previous experience with yoga. They performed simple, classic Iyengar poses. At the end of the program, the women walked more quickly, with greater confidence, and had better balance and flexibility. Similarly gentle forms of yoga have been shown to benefit those with multiple sclerosis, osteoarthritis, and even cardiovascular disease or heart failure (Good for the Mind, but How About the Body, 2008).
Over the years, meditation and other stress-reduction techniques have been studied as possible treatments for depression and anxiety. The practice of yoga, has received less attention in the medical literature, although it has become increasingly popular in recent decades. One national survey estimated, for example, that about 7.5% of U.S. adults had tried yoga at least once, and that nearly 4% practiced yoga in the previous year. Yoga classes vary from gentle and accommodating to strenuous and challenging. The choice of what style to use is often based on physical ability and personal preference (Yoga for anxiety and depression, 2009).
Hatha yoga, which is the most common type of yoga practiced in the United States, combines three elements: physical poses, called asanas, and controlled breathing that is practiced in conjunction with asanas and a short period of deep relaxation or meditation. Many studies that have been done evaluating yoga's therapeutic benefits have been small and poorly designed. Available data surrounding a wide range of yoga practices suggest they can reduce the impact of exaggerated stress responses and may be helpful for both anxiety and depression. In this respect, yoga functions like other self-soothing techniques, such as meditation, relaxation, exercise, or even socializing with friends (Yoga for anxiety and depression, 2009).
Although yoga practice in general is safe, some are strenuous and may not be appropriate for everyone. For example, elderly patients or those with mobility problems may want to check first with a clinician before choosing yoga as a treatment option. Many patients that are dealing with depression, anxiety, or stress, find yoga to be a very appealing way to better manage their symptoms. The scientific study of yoga has demonstrated that mental and physical health are not just closely allied, but are essentially equivalent. The evidence is growing that yoga practice is a relatively low risk, high-yield approach to improving overall health (Yoga for anxiety and depression, 2009).
As yoga's health benefits become more evident, many schools across the country are getting in on the act. Over 300 instructors have been trained to teach yoga in schools, and by 2007, more than 100 schools in 26 states had added yoga into their curriculum. The National Association for Sport and Physical Education's president, Fran Cleland, supports yoga in physical education classes as long as it's taught appropriately (Mikulski, 2009).
Studies have shown that meditating 15 minutes twice daily can reduced physician visits over a six-month period and save the health-care system an average of $200 per patient. More companies are beginning to pay for yoga due to the benefits that can be seen from its use in the workplace. Studies have indicated that Yoga can improve absenteeism, disability, and health costs. In regards to lower absenteeism it was shown that high absenteeism was associated with behavioral at-risk statuses in eight of the 10 health areas that were examined. Employees that were experiencing back pain or mental health issues were one and a half times more likely to be absent from work than those who were not (Ramquist, n.d.).
These studies also showed that participating in yoga could help to reduce the medical care and disability costs of several key health conditions. These conditions listed dollars in millions include: Musculoskeletal $59.1, Cardiovascular $39.3, Mental Health $26.8, Gastrointestinal $26.8 and Respiratory $16.2. Reducing these costs benefits both employee and employer…