Yoga has become increasingly popular over the last few decades, but while many simply view it as a gentle form of exercise that will keep them limber and strong without feeling overtaxed, others have come to the practice for more serious reasons. Whether to help treat depression and anxiety, balance out chemotherapy side effects, or reduce back pain, yoga has a surprising number of proven medical applications. It can even help ease a hangover.
While anyone with serious health problems should consult their doctor before starting a new fitness regimen, for most people, yoga is a great way to enhance both physical and mental well-being. If you’re dealing with one of these health problems, consider integrating yoga into your life for a gentle boost.
Get Blood Pressure Benefits
We live in a high stress world, so it’s no surprise that many Americans are living with high blood pressure. The constant tension strains our bodies and we develop hypertension. Of course, hypertension can also be a result of health factors like being overweight or having a poor diet, and those things should be appropriately addressed, but yoga can help your body make the necessary downward shift to healthier blood pressure.
What studies indicate is that yoga helps the body reset its baroreceptor sensitivity – basically the internal system that measures and regulates your blood pressure. This, in turn, reduces the overall risk of a future cardiac event.
Achieve Better Bone Health
Osteoporosis – or loss of bone density – is a common condition among American women, and can result in dangerous bone breaks and falls, especially in our senior years. What many people don’t know about osteoporosis, however, is that while you need to be cautious when exercising, you still need to stress the bones.
Putting stress or pressure on the bones can stimulate new bone formationres and protect against future breaks. Just like you need to use and even create small rips in muscles to build them, the same principle applies to bone health.
If you have osteoporosis, make sure you talk to both your doctor and your yoga instructor about what activities are safe. An experienced instructor should be able to adapt poses so that you don’t overextend yourself and get hurt. Generally, you want to work with poses like the balancing table pose and chair pose that emphasize stability while putting gentle pressure on the bones.
Quiet The Mind And Sleep Soundly
Anxiety and poor sleep go hand in hand. The mind races, keeping you awake, and when you do sleep, it’s fitful and disrupted by bad dreams. Then, with less sleep, the mind has less time to calm and renew itself, increasing anxiety. You end up trapped in a cycle – but yoga can help.
When it comes to attaining better sleep, a study out of Harvard showed that practicing Savasana, or corpse pose, a supine position in which you relax into the ground and focus on your breathing, has been shown to help people sleep better and reduce anxiety. The key here is to practice diaphragmatic breathing, in which you take full breaths, expanding your diaphragm to fill your entire body with air.
Not sure you want to lie on the floor? Feeling anxious at work or in another public place? One way to calm that anxiety is by focusing specifically on the breathing aspect of yoga – remember, yoga isn’t just about the poses but about the full, meditative experience. Experts at the Art Of Living Retreat Center recommend a breathing style called Sudarshan Kriya to calm the mind. It’s a simple technique that can help you recenter yourself in the face of anxiety, no matter where you are.
Reduce Chemo’s Toll
Chemotherapy may be a very effective way to treat cancer and other serious illnesses, but it can take a serious toll on your body, causing pain, nausea, hair loss, and a range of other side effects. Combine these symptoms with weakness and weight loss and practicing yoga doesn’t seem like the most intuitive response to undergoing chemo.
According to Yoga Journal, however, a gentle yoga practice has a lot to offer in terms of reducing chemotherapy side effects. Approached with caution, yoga can reduce pain, help rebuild strength, and generally reduce the stress and anxiety that many patients experience. Yoga is a holistic response to this health crisis.
Yoga has something to offer to people with a wide variety of temporary or long-term health ailments, from osteoporosis and arthritis to memory problems and depression. Instead of thinking about yoga as a practice of the fit and flexible, it’s time to reframe it as a valuable tool for those trying to manage illness with grace.