19 Jun Yoga: A 5000 Year History Can't Be Wrong!
Any time I scan the paid-presentation channels I always see the latest ‘fad’ exercise machines being sold, with bikini clad models or Hollywood tough guys like Chuck Norris sweating away as they use them. I often wonder how many good old 1990s ab crunchers are gathering dust in people’s sheds, products of older ‘fads’ never to be heard of again. Yoga however, with its 5000 year history, is one exercise routine that will never lose popularity, and the reasons for this are now being more fully understood by research.
Exercise is one of the most important facets of optimal health, and there are many ways to get your exercise each day.
Yoga uses a variety of poses and controlled movements that all focus on improving your flexibility as well as your skeletal and muscular strength. Yoga also teaches us to be able to focus our mind and be attentive to the yoga poses, and this way yoga uses can expect to improve the flexibility of their mind as well as their body. In fact it is this mind-body connection, which is now well established and accepted by the medical community, that promotes some of the health benefits of yoga.
A report by the Institute of Science in Society (ISIS) describes how meditative practices such as yoga can alter your own genes, through the calming effects it has on the mind. It appears that 1000s of genes can be directly influenced by your mental state, an amazing finding! It’s no wonder then that mindful practices such as yoga can translate into positive effects on our body.
Sick of taking anti-depressants? A meta-analysis of over 100 studies looking at the effect of yoga showed practicing can improve:
- Mild depression
- Sleep problems
- Schizophrenia (among patients using medication)
- ADHD (among patients using medication)
Some of the studies suggest yoga can have a similar effect to antidepressants and even psychotherapy, by influencing neurotransmitters and boosting serotonin. After doing yoga once a week for 10 weeks, participants reported feeling less stressed, and also scored better on tests of their degree of thoughtfulness and attention to their surroundings.
Yoga has shown a benefit for arterial fibrillation or irregular heartbeat. The study showed that taking yoga classes at least twice a week for 3 months dropped the rate of arterial fibrillation by 50%, while also improving the participant’s heart rate, mood and levels of anxiety.
Another study showed a protective effect in those that had early hypertension (high blood pressure), an early warning sign of heart disease which is largely caused by stress. Two groups participated, one taking yoga classes twice a week for 3 months, while the other group took art or music classes. The study showed that the group who took yoga had lower blood pressure than those who took music or art classes, and was attributed to the specific stress relieving characteristics of yoga.
Some of the other benefits established by research include:
- Improved immune function
- Reduced risk for migraines
- Improved sexual performance and satisfaction in both sexes
- Better sleep
- Reduced food cravings and increased weight loss
In cases where pain impedes your ability to exercise, it’s important to realise that inactivity can actually cause your muscles to become weaker, leading to increased stiffness and pain. Even if you struggle with conditions that can limit your movement or tolerance for exercise, such as chronic back issues, arthritis, osteoporosis or MS, yoga is a great option. As yoga uses low impact movements, you not only get the physical benefits of exercise, but it can also work to reduce stiffness and soreness in many cases. Working with a qualified yoga teacher can give you access to specifically designed routines to perform poses safely and effectively.
In fact I’m going to unroll my mat right now!