People have been benefiting from yoga for over 2,000 years and it has become very popular in the west in recent times. It is more than just a physical ‘work-out’; it is a philosophical approach to life which helps to achieve more clarity, greater awareness and a calmer mind.
A yoga practice uses a rhythmical breathing technique that revitalises the body and rejuvenates the mind.
The benefits of a regular yoga practice are that it builds on flexibility, balance, concentration, clarity, endurance as well as greatly reducing stress levels.
It keeps the joints loose and mobile as well as maintaining and building strong muscles.
It tones and massages the internal organs and glands and boosts the blood circulation.
Types of Yoga
This form of yoga was developed by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois in Mysore, India.
It is a set sequence of powerful, dynamic postures which are synchronised with the breath in a flowing method.
This form of yoga builds heat in the body which detoxifies the whole system and at the same time, builds tone, strength and flexibility in the body.
Developed by B.K.S. Iyengar, this form of yoga emphasises precise postural alignment in addition to the marrying of movement and breath.
A more gentle style of yoga compared to other types.
More calming with a stronger focus on developing awareness of the breath while at the same time developing flexibility, tone and mental concentration.
A flowing class which links the breath with the postures in a stronger and more physically challenging manner.
This practice with its faster flow, is designed to build heat, flexibility, strength and concentration.
Ailments that Yoga helps with
The American College of Sports Medicine found a 43% improvement in patients’ symptoms after ten weeks of yoga practice. Yoga’s emphasis on posture and deep, lengthened breaths improves lung capacity, efficiency, and overall airflow, which can reduce the frequency and severity of asthmatic attacks.
The slow, controlled movements of a yoga practice have been shown to decrease chronic pain and joint swelling in both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis sufferers at Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center.
A study at the West Virginia University School of Medicine found that, after practicing yoga for three months, people reported 70% less lower-back pain, and 88% of them reduced or stopped taking pain medication. Alignment and body awareness during yoga practice has been shown to reduce numerous types of acute and chronic back pain, including scoliosis, sciatica, and herniated discs.
Yale School of Medicine found “significantly reduced” systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels in hypertension patients who practiced yoga and meditation therapies—results that were comparable to drug therapy. Increased circulation and oxygenation of the blood are important outcomes of a continuous yoga practice.
Boston University’s School of Medicine discovered a 27% increase of the neurotransmitter GABA within the brain after just one sixty-minute yoga practice. Low levels of GABA have been tied to anxiety, depression, and Alzheimer’s. Yoga’s mood-enhancing benefits are similar to those for asthma—slowing the breath and heart rate to reduce the body’s stress response.
Regular physical activity has been proven to improve sleep, and yoga is no exception. Calming for both the body and the mind, restorative yoga poses are often recommended for those finding it difficult to fall or stay asleep. A small study on yoga practitioners at Harvard Medical School’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital found “statistically significant improvements” in all aspects of falling, staying, and awaking from sleep.
The Journal of the American Dietetic Association reported a unique connection between a regular yoga practice and eating healthier. Yoga is believed to increase mindful eating: being aware of why you eat and when to stop. Curiously, no other type of physical activity produced the same mindful eating effects.
Excerpted from 27 Things to Know About Yoga by Victoria Klein ©2010