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Movement of the Month

JUNE - Yoga

Yoga is an ancient and artistic practice that has been performed for over 5,000 years. The practice originated out of present day India and when translated from Sanskrit means “unity.” Practitioners(i.e. yogis) have long touted yoga’s ability to unify mind and body to promote health and wellness. These anecdotal benefits have been more recently validated by scientific inquiry over the last half century. Studies suggest that yogis are more likely to have longer lives and experience a sense of well-being.

Yoga is more than an exercise but rather a lifestyle. A healthy yogic lifestyle is composed of several components including: ACHAR, VICHAR, AHAR, and VIHAR; respectively, these include physical activities and exercise, rightful thoughts and attitude, nourishing diet, and proper recreational activities.

A complete yoga practice consists of the pranayama (breath work), asanas (yoga postures), and meditation or sense of enlightenment. Yoga is therefore not only considered exercise for the body but also for the mind.

Firstly, yoga as exercise for the body. Yoga practice enhances flexibility, improves strength, increases lean muscle, helps control weight, improves bone strength, and increases balance. Recent studies have also shown yoga can lower heart risk factors, including high blood pressure and cholesterol.

Secondly, yoga as exercise for the mind. Yoga helps correct the underactivity of parasympathetic nervous system (i.e. rest and digest) and GABA (i.e. inhibitory) system through stimulation of the vagus nerve. It directly reduces your allostatic load or personal “burn-out point.”By increasing your body’s ability to slow down, yoga has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression. Through meditative self-reflection, it has been increasingly synonymous with improved self-acceptance, as well as sharpened memory, attention, and concentration.

What else can yoga do?

  1. Protect your spine, ligaments, cartilage
  2. Increase blood flow, drain lymphatics, boost immunity
  3. Regulate stress hormones
  4. Improve self-care and promote healthy lifestyles, which may lead to improved dietary changes
  5. Improve sleep
  6. Relieves tension and pain (i.e. low back pain, chronic pain, fibromyalgia)
  7. Improve carpel tunnel syndrome
  8. Asthma and improved vital lung capacity
  9. Gastrointestinal conditions: IBS, GERD
  10. Painful or abnormal menses
  11. Support for cancer patients
  12. Assist with post-stroke rehabilitation

Is yoga safe? Just like any exercise, it is encouraged that patients go at their own pace. Yoga classes for all levels are abundant and can be found both online and in person. Although mainstream yoga is often a blend of many practices, there are traditional thematic types of yoga. For instance, ashtanga yoga is a more energetic pose that synchronize with the breath. Chair yoga is an alternative option for patients with reduced conditioning, poor balance, or weakness. Yin yoga or yoga nidra is suggested for a more relaxing variation. Many others exist, and you may find it interesting to learn more about the structure of the practice that suits you.

Yoga is a holistic practice that can serve as a cost-effective adjunct to your normal medical therapy. It does have its limitations and it is not a medical cure for all ailments, but the benefits for both mind and body are seemingly endless. Although some patients should still consult a doctor before jumping into new exercise, we recommend that you grab a yoga mat and get flowing. Your body and mind will thank you. Namaste.

  1. Bankar MA, Chaudhari SK, Chaudhari KD. Impact of long-term Yoga practice on sleep quality and quality of life in the elderly. J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2013;4(1):28-32. doi:10.4103/0975-9476.109548
  2. Bastill JV, Gill-Body KM. Phys Ther. 2004 Jan; 84 (1): 33-48
  3. Carlson LT et all. Mindfulness-based stress reduction in relation to quality of life, mood, symptoms of stress...in breast and prostate cancer outpatients. Psychoneuroendocrinology.2004 May; 29 (4):448-74
  4. “Current evidence shows significant short-term benefits from oral steroids, splinting, US, and yoga.” Cochran review, Issue 1, 2004
  5. Effectiveness of Yoga for Hypertension: Systemic Review and Meta-Analysis. Evid Based Complemen Alternat Med. 2013; 2013: 649836
  6. Ethiop J Health Sci. 2010 Jul; 20 (2): 107-112
  7. “How does yoga reduce stress? A Systemic review of mechanisms of change and guide to future inquiry.” Jan 2015. Health Psychology Review 9 (3): 1-30
  8. Sherman et al. Comparison of yoga vs stretching for chronic low back pain: protocol for the Yoga Exercise Self -car (yes trial). Trials 2010; 11-36)
  9. Frawley, David. Yoga and Ayurveda. Self-Healing and Self-Realization. 1999.
  10. “Vagus nerve yoga.” Dr. Arielle Schwartz. https://drarielleschwartz.com/vagus-nerve-yoga-dr-arielle-schwartz/#.YMaiFy2cbLY. Dec 2017

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