Article written by Christine Arulappen.
Many people think that yoga is just about stretching but it is much more. Yoga actually translates to the word “union”, meaning the union between the mind, body and spirit. There are also a number of different types of yoga, from the gentle poses (asanas) of Hatha yoga to the more physically demanding poses of Ashtanga yoga. Let’s explore the physical and health benefits of including yoga in your health routine.
Increase flexibility and muscle tone
It’s true, yoga does involve stretching. But over time the series of stretches, as you move from one pose to another, can help increase a person’s overall flexibility as well as strengthen and increase the tone of weak muscles.4
Reduce stress and anxiety
Some research shows that yoga can be used as a self-help technique for anxiety. Yoga is thought to help by drawing your attention away from daily stressors through the breath (Pranayama), or by giving the participant a renewed sense of wellbeing through mastery of challenging postures.3 This may have a positive flow on affect into other areas of your life. You may even find that this helps you to better handle situations at work or in your home life. Certainly it’s important to find healthy ways of relieving stress, as stress can affect your physical health and weight loss.
Yoga to improve symptoms of certain diseases and conditions
Some research has shown that yoga may provide beneficial health outcomes in certain health conditions such as:
- Reducing blood pressure,1
- Reducing the pain associated with carpal tunnel syndrome2
- Reducing depression.5
If you intend on taking up yoga for its therapeutic qualities, then it’s a good idea to emphasise caution and find a qualified and experienced yoga instructor.
When taking up yoga there are a few things to avoid, these include:
- Avoid fatigue4
- Avoid pain and stress on the body4
- Avoid doing yoga when you are coming down with an acute illness, such as a cold/flu4
Yoga creates a sense of balance in the body by progressively developing your individual strength and flexibility. Along with activities such as boxing and dancing, it is a great way to keep fit. However by doing yoga not only do you get the added benefit of keeping fit and toned but it also helps you to relax. So if you’ve been thinking about doing a yoga class then don’t hesitate, start today!
- Desai, Falguni, 2001. A Study to determine the effectiveness of Yoga, Biofeedback and Music Therapy in Management of Hypertension. The Indian J Occupa Therap [Online] 33(2) p.3-8. Available athttp://medind.nic.in [Accessed 4 February 2010].
- Garfinkel, Marian S. et al, 1998. Yoga-based intervention for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: A Randomized Trial. The J Am Med Assoc [Online] 280(18): 1601-1603. Available at http://jama.ama-assn.org[Accessed 4 February 2010].
- Morgan, Amy J. and Jorm, Anthony F., 2009. Outcomes of Self-help Efforts in Anxiety Disorders. Expert Rev Pharacoeconomics Outcomes Res [Online] 9(5) p.445-459. Available at http://www.medscape.com[Accessed 28th January 2010].
- Nayak, Nirmala N. MD and Shankar, Kamala MD, 2004. Yoga: a therapeutic approach. Phy Med Rehabil Clin N Am [Online] 15 p.783-798. Available at http://www.med.nyu.edu [Accessed 28th January 2010].
- Shapiro, David et al, 2008. Yoga as a Complementary Treatment of Depression: Effects of Traits and Moods on Treatment Outcome. Evid Based Complement Alt Med [Online] 4(4) p.493-502. Available athttp://www.medscape.com [Accessed 4 February 2010].