Yoga, which originated in India, is a form of physical, mental and spiritual discipline with the aim of achieving internal peace. It is suggested that the practice of yoga can be traced to as far back in prehistory about 3,000 years BC during the Indus Valley Civilization. Today, modernity has adopted yoga as a means of mind-body-spirit exercise. Modern medicine regards this as a complementary or an alternative form of medicine.
Through the media, the promotion of yoga as a form of exercise is being highlighted for its role in promoting wellness. This age-old practice has been under the careful scrutiny of science to confirm claims regarding the health benefits of yoga. Findings establish the fact that indeed, it is valid to say that yoga does promote wellness.
A comprehensive literature review comparing the effects of yoga and exercise suggest that in both healthy and ill populations, yoga may be as effective, if not, better than exercise at improving a variety of health-related outcomes. Let’s take a closer look through the many benefits of yoga.
- Prevents and helps in the management of cardiovascular disease – Yoga has demonstrated to relieve stress, lower blood pressure and heart rate and improve cardiovascular endurance by improving blood circulation and oxygenation.
- Helps address mental health problems – Doctors and researchers compared adults who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder (a potentially disabling condition that causes an individual to act compulsively in odd ways such as excessive washing of the hands) and found that there was a marked improvement among those who used the technique called “Kundalini yoga” than those who employed standard meditation after one year. Still connected to mental health, researchers studied the effects of yoga among veterans and uncovered the result that yoga can help decrease depression, a problem common among this group of population.
- Decreased pain – In a comparative study of two groups individuals who suffer from chronic back pain, a significant improvement of 80% of those who were made to exercise using yoga reported at least half of the pain reduction compared to those who were treated with pain medications. In the same light, a study was carried among US veterans and yielded similar result. This is a welcome result as people and medical practitioners are trying to resolve the issue long-term use of pain medications.
- Prevents aging – The mechanism of yoga on the maintenance of youth is believed to be based on the capacity for yoga to hasten the detoxification process within the body. Detoxification has been shown to delay aging.
- Improves metabolism and controls weight – A balanced metabolism results to proper maintenance of ideal weight and hunger control which are two benefits derived from the practice of yoga.
Collectively, yoga contributes a lot to the promotion of health and prevention of diseases. As one particular study carried out in Washington DC by Brittanie DeChino, a graduate student and instructor at The George Washington University in the School of Public Health and Health Services among recruits from fitness centers revealed: “We surveyed the participants on psychological well-being, as measured by anxiety, depression, coping, mindfulness, perceived stress and general health symptoms… Interestingly, the two groups – yoga practitioners and habitual exercisers – were similar with regard to self-reported symptoms of anxiety and depression. However, the yoga practitioners reported lower prevalence of joint pain and headaches than those who engaged in cardiovascular exercise and weight training. They also had higher scores for mindfulness and coping skills, and lower scores for perceived stress, compared with the exercise group.”
Ross, A., Thomas, S. (“The Health Benefits of Yoga and Exercise: A Comparative Study” (abstract). PubMed.gov. NCBI, National Institutes of Health. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20105062
“Study Compares Health Benefits of Yoga and Exercise”. Medical News Today (June 3, 2011). http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/227363.php
Tara Parker-Pope. “Doctors Study the Health Benefits of Yoga” July 23, 2002. website: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/news/archive/2002/07/23/financial1008EDT0072.DTLcited in http://www.hvk.org/articles/0702/212.htmlhttp://www.sfgate.com/cgi-
Walker, M. “77 Surprising Benefits of Yoga” Nursing Degree.net. http://www.nursingdegree.net/blog/24/77-surprising-health-benefits-of-yoga/
“Yoga Finds Mix of Health Benefits of Yoga” Research and Development, Veterans Health Administration (December 1, 2008). http://www.research.va.gov/news/research_highlights/yoga-120108.cfm