For most people ‘Yoga’ when blurted out loud, brings popular images of a lean person folded in a joint-defying pose while balancing on one leg in mind. While impressive, such images often scare people away from trying something new; which is unfortunate, because there are benefits in yoga for everyone, no matter how flexible or stiff. There numerous types and styles of yoga, accentuating different aspects of a human body, some have physical benefits, others help with spiritual aspects!
While Eastern cultures have long recognized healing benefits of yoga, Western medicine is just catching on to it. Just a short while ago, some American medical schools started teaching yoga and meditation as a means of stress reduction. Well-known cardiologist Dean Ornish, MD, now prescribes yoga, along with diet and exercise, as part of his plan for preventing and reversing heart disease. The 2012 National Health Interview Survey reported that around 94% of people in the U.S. who practice yoga do so for wellness reasons. Here are some other health benefits of yoga:
A 2016 meta-analysis found that practicing Hatha yoga (slow-paced style of yoga) had a promising effect on anxiety. Studies indicated this was because yoga improved mood and anxiety levels more than walking. The researchers suggest that this was due to the release of higher levels of the brain chemical gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).
Chronic inflammation can contribute to the development of pro-inflammatory diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. A recent study in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine revealed that practicing yoga regularly decreases chronic inflammation in the body by lowering the level of pro-inflammatory markers, such as cytokines.
The Department of Epidemiology at the West Virginia University School of Public Health together with the Center for the Study of Complementary and Alternative Therapies reviewed 33 different studies that were conducted to prove that yoga can help manage type 2 diabetes. It was found that yoga improved blood sugar levels, lowered cholesterol, and helped with weight loss.
One study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine showed that a 12-week yoga program improved scores for disability and pain intensity and reduced opioid use among military veterans.
Yoga being the safest and simplest way to increase physical activity, but when trying yoga for the first time, it is always wise to join a class for yoga for beginners under the direction of a qualified instructor to avoid injuries. Also, get in touch with your physician to understand which yoga positions for beginners are best suited for your body type.