You hear a lot of talk about the health benefits of yoga. As teachers, we see our students change on a daily basis; but the buzz about what we do and what we see can quickly be put in its place by a Doubting Thomas who says, “Prove it.” There is a reason why every yoga teacher needs to know about the proven health benefits in studies, research, trials, and exactly where to find the facts. We can put the next Doubting Thomas back in a closet, and all of this research is good for expanding our minds.
Proven Yoga Health Benefits
Yoga is a system of health maintenance that attempts to combine the body, mind, and spirit into an integrated unit to promote health and increase longevity. The Mysticism yoga positions, called asanas, are combined with breathing exercises and mental concentration, to encourage a state of physical calm and mental clarity. Yogic practice is thought to go back before Vedic times, but today, scientists are learning about its true value as an aid to health.
The practice of yoga can have measurable effects on well-being and mood. A 2012 University of Michigan study showed that yoga can help pregnant women, who were considered at high risk for postpartum depression, benefited from a 10-week period of yoga exercises. Because pregnancy hormones have been linked to the incidence of depression after the birth of the child, the study investigated whether a pre-emptive approach to stress relief, through yoga, would reduce the incidence of women with this condition. Results showed that women were able to manage stress symptoms more easily and were more accepting of non-pharmaceutical methods for controlling depressive symptoms, leading to both healthier mothers and healthier babies. The reduced stress also allowed for better bonding between mother and child.
A study done at Ohio State University, in 2010, found that subjects, who did yoga on a regular basis, had lower levels of a chemical called IL-6, cytokine interleukin, in their bloodstreams. This chemical is implicated in higher incidences of inflammation in the body and is linked to heart disease, type-2 diabetes, stroke and other age-related diseases. The results suggest that yoga exercise can help to reduce inflammation throughout the body and improve health as people age.
Lower Back Pain
Yoga has also been found to significantly improve pain and disability from chronic low back pain. A 2009 study from the Department of Community Medicine, at West Virginia University, found that subjects, who practiced yoga over a 24-week period, had reduced pain symptoms, greater function, fewer symptoms of depression and a trend toward using less medication than the control group. These results suggest that people, who suffer from chronic lower back conditions, should consider yoga classes as a valuable therapeutic alternative.
Emotional Benefits of Yoga Training
In addition to the many ways yoga helps your body, it also has many emotional benefits. People, who practice yoga, usually find that they are more relaxed and centered after a session. Over time, this can carry over into everyday life. Let’s look at some of the emotional and psychological advantages to yoga training.
Stress is one of the biggest problems of modern life. It has been associated with many medical conditions, including obesity and high blood pressure. Yoga is one of the best methods to reduce stress, for several reasons.
Exercise, in general, can be effective for relieving stress, but yoga is especially good for accomplishing this. Yoga postures force the practitioner to focus on the details of each movement. This not only works out the body, but gives the mind a useful task upon which to concentrate.