THE HEALING BENEFITS OF YOGA

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Yoga is approximately 4,000 years old and is a scientific methodology aimed at uniting the mind, body, and spirit. This bonding that occurs through yoga is said to bring about not only physical benefits, but mental benefits as well, taking the individual to a level that could not be reached by manipulating one factor alone. This unique characteristic has prompted many back pain patients to incorporate yoga as part of their treatment program. Yoga has become an increasingly popular form of exercise not only in the United States, but worldwide. Yoga is a healing system of theory and practice. The purpose of yoga is to create strength, awareness and harmony in both mind and body. Yoga is a great tool for staying healthy. Yoga also delivers many benefits to those who incorporate it into their everyday lives. There are many different types of yoga, each stressing a particular theory or mindset, and each is comprised of numerous postures and areas of focus.

While the actual practice of yoga is extremely extensive and detailed, in its essence yoga focuses on three main components: (1) Body position/posture; (2) Breathing; and (3) Meditation/state of mind. In general, yoga is a very safe form of exercise for most people. While there are more than one hundred different types of yoga, they all incorporate some form of breathing exercises, meditation and postures (asanas) that stretch and flex various muscle groups. The relaxation techniques that are incorporated into yoga can lessen chronic pain, such as lower back pain, arthritis, headaches and carpal tunnel syndrome. Yoga can also lower blood pressure and reduce insomnia. Some of the physical benefits of Yoga include: (a) Increased flexibility; (b) Increased muscle tone and strength; (c) improved respiration, energy and vitality; (d) the maintenance of balanced metabolism; (e) weight reduction; (f) cardio and circulatory health; (g) improved health performance; (h) improved athletic performance; and (i) protection from injury. Aside from the array of physical benefits, one of the best benefits of yoga is how it helps people manage stress, which we all know can have devastating effects on the body and mind. Stress can reveal itself in many ways, including back or neck pain, sleeping problems, headaches, drug abuse and the inability to concentrate. Yoga can be very effective in developing coping skills and reaching a more positive outlook on life. Unlike the more traditional forms of exercise, yoga’s incorporation of mediation and breathing helps a person improve their mental well-being. Regular yoga practice creates mental clarity and calmness; increases body awareness, relieves chronic stress patterns, relaxes the mind, centers attention and sharpens concentration. Body and self-awareness are very beneficial, because it can help with early detection of physical problems or ailments and allow for early preventative action.

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Yoga can be practiced to enhance overall health, to improve balance, to heal and prevent injuries, to strengthen muscles and to open up the body for meditation. I find it a great way to get in tune with your body and your inner self. Yoga’s increasing popularity is proof that many people value an exercise system that engages the mind, body and spirit in equal measures. Over the past several years, yoga has experienced an upsurge in popularity in the western world among medical professionals and celebrities alike. While many associate yoga with new age mysticism or the latest fad at the gym, yoga is actually an ancient practice that connects the mind, body, and spirit through body poses, controlled breathing, and meditation. People who suffer from ongoing or recurrent bouts of back pain often have to try a number of different forms of exercise to find the most appropriate therapy to manage their pain. For many, yoga has proven to be a safe and effective way to finally alleviate many forms of back pain or neck pain and help prevent ongoing problems. Yoga can provide several healing benefits for people with various types of back pain.

Yoga can help by: (a) Healing injured back muscles; (b) Speeding time to recover from an injury; (c) Preventing re-injury; and (d) Helping maintain a regular level of daily activities and avoid disability. Among other things, yoga helps ease lower back pain by gently stretching and strengthening the muscles of the lower back and legs and increasing blood circulation, which in turn brings healing nutrients to the injured tissues. From lowering blood pressure to increasing pain tolerance, some of the following health benefits can all be discovered within the body: (1) Blood pressure. A consistent yoga practice decreases blood pressure through better circulation and oxygenation of the body: (2) Pulse rate. A slower pulse rate indicates that your heart is strong enough to pump more blood with fewer beats. Regularly practicing yoga provides a lower pulse rate; (3) Circulation. Yoga improves blood circulation. By transporting nutrients and oxygen throughout your body, yoga practice provides healthier organs, skin, and brain; (4) Respiratory. Like the circulatory system, a lower respiratory rate indicates that the lungs are working more efficiently. Yoga decreases the respiratory rate through a combination of controlled breathing exercises and better fitness; (5) Cardiovascular endurance. A combination of lower heart rate and improved oxygenation to the body (both benefits of yoga) results in higher cardiovascular endurance; (6) Organs. Yoga practice massages internal organs, thus improving the ability of the body to prevent disease. becomes better attuned to her/his body to know at first sign if something isn’t functioning properly, thereby allowing for quicker response to head off disease; (7) Gastrointestinal. Gastrointestinal functions have been shown to improve in both men and women who practice yoga; (8) Immunity. Yoga practice has frequently been correlated with a stronger immune system; (9) Pain. Pain tolerance is much higher among those who practice yoga regularly. In addition to pain tolerance, some instances of chronic pain, such as back pain, are lessened or eliminated through yoga; and (10) Metabolism. Having a balanced metabolism results in maintaining a healthy weight and controlling hunger. Consistent yoga practice helps find the balance and creates a more efficient metabolism. Just as many health benefits occur within the body, there are many benefits that can actually be experienced from without the body. From better sleep to more energy and strength, here are some benefits found on the outside of the body;

images (4)(11) Aging. Yoga stimulates the detoxification process within the body. Detoxification has been shown to delay aging, among many other health benefits; (12) Posture. The very nature of yoga teaches the practitioner how to hold and control one’s body in a more healthful position. Through consistent practice, your posture will improve so that you look more confident and healthy; (13) Strength. One of the premises of yoga is that you are using the weight of your own body for overall strength; (14) Energy. Regular yoga practice provides consistent energy. When you perform your yoga correctly, you will feel energized after your yoga session rather than tired; (15) Weight. The benefits of a better metabolism along with the exercise of yoga work to keep your weight in check. Additionally, the stretching of muscles longwise helps to reduce the amount of cellulite that can build around muscles; (16) Sleep. Because of the many benefits to both body and mind that a yoga routine can provide, many find that their sleep is much better.; (17) Balance. An integral part of the yoga practice is balance and control over your body. With a consistent practice, you will find that your overall balance will improve; (18) Integrated function of the body. Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit and means “to join together and direct one’s attention.” This is exactly what happens to your body after you start practicing yoga; (19) Body Awareness: Doing yoga will give you an increased awareness of your own body. You are often called upon to make small, subtle movements to improve your alignment. Over time, this will increase your level of comfort in your own body. This can lead to improved posture and greater self-confidence; (20) Core strength. With a strong body core, you receive better posture and overall body strength. A strong core helps heal and reduce injuries. This is why a lot of athletes do yoga as cross training; (21) Sexuality. Yoga can improve your sexuality through better control, more relaxation, and more self-confidence. Due to the strong mind-body connection of yoga, there are many emotional benefits to be gained from a consistent yoga practice. Find out how yoga can help improve emotional health with some of these ideas: (22) Mood. Overall well-being improves with yoga practice. The combination of creating a strong mind-body connection, creating a healthy body, and focusing inward can all lead to improvement in your mood;

(23) Stress Reduction. The concentration required during yoga practice tends to focus your attention on the matter at hand, thereby reducing the emphasis you may have been putting on the stress in your life; (24) Anxiety. One benefit to the controlled breathing used in yoga is a reduction in anxiety; (25) Mind-body connection. Few other exercises offer the same mind-body connection that yoga does. As you match your controlled breathing with the movements of your body, you retrain your mind to find that place of calm and peace; (26) Positive outlook on life. Continued practice of yoga results in a balance of many hormones and nervous system, which brings about a more stable, positive approach to life; (27) Memory. Improved blood circulation to the brain as well as the reduction in stress and improved focus results in a better memory; (28) Attention. The attention required in yoga to maintain the structured breathing in conjunction with yoga poses sharpens the ability to keep a sharp focus on tasks; (29) Calmness. Concentrating so intently on what your body is doing has the effect of bringing calmness. Yoga also introduces you to meditation techniques, such as watching how you breathe and disengagement from your thoughts, which help calm the mind. Several aspects of body chemistry such as glucose levels and red blood cells are affected by yoga. Here are some ways that yoga can help; (30) Cholesterol. Yoga practice lowers cholesterol through increased blood circulation and burning fat. Yoga practice is a great tool to fight against harmful cholesterol levels; (31) Lymphatic system. Your lymphatic system boosts your immunity and reduces toxins in your body. The only way to get your lymphatic system flowing well is by movement. The specific movements involved in yoga are 1761584particularly well-suited for promoting a strong lymphatic system; (32) Glucose. There is evidence to suggest that yoga may lower blood glucose levels; (33) Sodium. As with any good exercise program, yoga reduces the sodium levels in your body. In today’s world of processed and fast foods that are full of sodium, lessening these levels is a great idea; (34) Endocrine function. Practicing yoga helps to regulate and control hormone secretion. An improved endocrine system keeps hormones in balance and promotes better overall physical and emotional health; (35) Triglycerides are the chemical form of fat in the blood, and elevated levels can indicate a risk for heart disease and high blood pressure. A recent study shows that yoga can lead to “significantly lower” levels of triglycerides; and (36) Red blood cells. Yoga has been shown to increase the level of red blood cells in the body. Red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen through the blood, and too few can result in anemia and low energy.

Kathy Kiefer

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