Yoga is a group of practices that stems from ancient Indian religion and tradition. It is a popular form of exercise, but today, it can also be a form of meditation and relaxation as well. Read more below to learn about yoga.
- Introduction to Yoga
- Health Benefits of Yoga
- 1) Yoga Helps Patients with Autoimmune Diseases
- 2) Yoga Reduces Both Pain and Inflammation
- 3) Yoga Improves Mental Health
- 4) Yoga Reduces Stress
- 5) Yoga Strengthens Muscles and Bones
- 6) Yoga Protects the Heart
- 7) Yoga Improves Sleep Quality
- 8) Yoga Aids Fertility
- Side Effects
- The Yoga That I Do
Introduction to Yoga
Yoga is not just good for your mental health but has also proven to be helpful with musculoskeletal issues, especially lower back pain. It has even shown to provide release from asthma. Yoga is beneficial for everyone but it is especially good for women.
The roots of yoga go back to ancient India, but it has recently been gaining increasing popularity all over the world. Yoga is a Sanskrit word which means ‘union’. It combines physical postures, deep breathing techniques, meditation, and relaxation.
There are many different forms of yoga, including Hatha, Pranayama, Ashtanga Vinyasa, Kundalini, Bikram, etc.
The most popular form of yoga today is the type called Hatha Yoga, which focuses on physical and mental strength building postures. There are many westernized types of Hatha Yoga that are used today to improve overall health and wellbeing.
One variation of Hatha yoga is Iyengar, which focuses on the detail, precision, and alignment of posture and breath control. It helps develop stability, strength, and stamina (R).
Another Hatha variation called Pranayama, also known as breathing exercises teaches you to take deep breaths that are beneficial for your entire body. Pranayama has shown to increase the blood flow and release toxins from your body. Releasing toxins through deep breathing has shown to promote better sleep (R).
Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is a practice that involves sequences of yoga postures that are synchronized to breathing. It is more physically demanding than other forms of yoga (R).
Bikram yoga is an intense form that is practiced in a room heated to 105°F with a humidity of 40%. Although it can improve strength and balance in healthy adults, beginners should not immediately try it due to the intense nature (R).
Yoga, the Vagus Nerve, and Heart Rate Variability
The vagus nerve is a part of the autonomic nervous system, and it plays an important role in metabolic homeostasis. Vagus nerve stimulation can be used to help treat or mediate various heart and brain diseases, as well as reduce inflammation (R).
Yoga can stimulate the vagus nerve through the heart and respiration. The cardio-respiratory stimulation of the vagus nerve may be responsible for some of the positive effects yoga has on the brain and emotions (R).
Yoga increases parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) activity by stimulating the vagus nerve. The increased PNS activity then results in an increase of γ-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) levels in the brain (R).
Heart rate variability (HRV) is used for health and fitness and is an indicator of autonomic regulation. High HRV is associated with fitness, strength, and resilience to stress.
Yoga can affect HRV in a positive way. Since it affects the vagus nerve, yoga helps enhance heart function, mood, and energy states. All of these effects help increase HRV and keep you healthy (R).
Yoga and Adipokines
Adipocytes (fat cells) and adipose tissue (fat) can accumulate in the bodies of obese patients. Fat tissues release adipose-derived secreted factors, or adipokines, that have either pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory activities. Dysregulated secretion of adipokines can cause many diseases (R).
Losing weight can help decrease adipokine levels in the body. Practicing yoga can help you lose weight, which then decreases the amount of fat in your body and protects it from obesity and heart disease (R).
Health Benefits of Yoga
1) Yoga Helps Patients with Autoimmune Diseases
-Yoga Has Beneficial Effects in Cancer Patients
In cancer resource centers, non-pharmaceutical intervention to pain, stress, and anxiety relief are crucial to the wellbeing of patients. Included in this treatment is yoga, which reduced stress and anxiety, improved mood, and increased patients’ perceived health (R).
Women undergoing treatment for breast cancer had improved psyche functions after participating in a Bali yoga program. Depression in patients decreased and perceived the quality of life increased over continuous yoga participation (R).
In patients undergoing chemotherapy for colorectal cancer, chronic side effects include fatigue, nausea, and muscle weakness. Individual yoga post chemotherapy is an unconventional method that alleviated side effects of the treatment in patients, boosting their motivation to continue with chemotherapy (R).
Children suffering from purpose fatigue due to chemotherapy and blood stem cell transplantation had increased mobility and strength after participating in yoga that involved breathing exercises, warm-up exercises, yoga poses, and balancing poses (R).
Men suffering from prostate cancer undergoing 6 to 9-week radiotherapy had decreased fatigue, increased sexual health, decreased levels of urinary incontinence, and increased quality of life (R).
Vivekananda Yoga has beneficial effects on both patients suffering from lung cancer and family members of those patients. The mental health and sleep quality of patients increases, which in turn leads to decreased sleep disturbances of family members (R).
-Yoga Improves Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms
Integrated yoga and physical therapy improve auditory and visual reaction times, alongside improving depression and anxiety symptoms in patients suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS) (R).
Yoga improves cognitive dysfunction disabilities in patients suffering from MS. It involved exercising their body and their mind through yoga poses and meditation (R).
20 minutes of daily yoga activities improved the moods of those suffering from MS (R).
Patients who suffer from MS and participate in yoga activities had increased physical function, emotional functions, energy, and overall hygiene. Meanwhile, they also had decreased pain, fatigue, and necessary hospital stay length due to MS symptoms (R).
Yoga improves the gait and walking capabilities of patients suffering from MS by increasing their lower limb strength and core balance (R).
-Yoga Helps Relieve Asthma
Asthma is an inflammatory disorder that can be affected by the autoimmune system. Breathing, posture, and relaxation exercises during yoga can help asthma patients (R).
In a review of studies conducted in India and the United States, yoga helped improve asthma symptoms and reduced medication usage. Practicing yoga, especially the variations that focus on breathing techniques, can help improve asthma symptoms (R).
-Yoga Reduces Diabetes Symptoms
2) Yoga Reduces Both Pain and Inflammation
Patients who suffer from chronic pain due to back pain, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, neck pain, or severe migraines who do not wish to take conventional painkillers find that yoga and similar practices have pain-relieving effects when done properly (R).
Patients suffering from fibromyalgia had improved strength, balance, and pain coping strategies during yoga therapy and 3 months after treatment (R).
Multiple sclerosis patients suffering both physical and mental issues due to muscle pain and fatigue. Yoga decreases fatigue severity, pain while increases strength, balance, and social functioning of patients (R).
Females suffering from sexual pain have a tough time finding relief through normal channels. Yoga is beneficial to alleviate pelvic pain and to also reduce the stress and anxiety females get from sexual pain (R).
In patients who have become addicted to opiate pain killers, pain relief during withdrawal is relieved through group medical visits and yoga participation. Over time, the opiate need will be nonexistence and pain relief can be handled through yoga (R).
Practicing yoga can also reduce inflammation. High TNF-α and IL-6 levels are pro-inflammatory cytokines and can indicate an inflammatory response. Patients that practiced yoga had lower TNF-α and IL-6 levels both before and after exercise (R).
Regular practice can protect against the rise in cytokine levels and protect against inflammation (R).
3) Yoga Improves Mental Health
Yoga poses often require small, subtle movements to get your body into alignment. Being aware of your body may help improve your posture and self-confidence.
Yoga programs implemented in schools for children aged 6-8 increased child development in social behavior (R).
Patients suffering from PTSD had reduced anxiety and stress when participating in a group yoga therapy program (R).
Women suffering from PTSD, primarily interpersonal violence involving intimate partners, had reduced symptoms of PTSD, depression, and anxiety after participating in Trauma-Sensitive Yoga (R).
Long-term participation in yoga reduced chronic symptoms of PTSD in young adults. Yoga also decreased the chance of obtaining a PTSD diagnosis from a doctor (R).
Children suffering from trauma due to abuse or neglect in an urban setting found relief when participating in yoga-based psychotherapy over the course of 12-weeks. Their yoga focused on improving mental health alongside physiological health (R).
Yoga increased mindfulness and resilience and decreased PTSD symptoms in soldiers returning from and currently serving in war (R).
Patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease had increased physiological and psychological function after participating in an 8-week yoga program (R).
4) Yoga Reduces Stress
Stress can affect the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis and the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). Physical or psychological stress can trigger the HPA axis, which in turn causes a cascade of physiological, behavioral, and psychological effects. This can lead to depression, heart disease, autoimmune disorders, and more (R).
Yoga includes meditation, relaxation, and exercise. It reduces stress and anxiety and helps control the stress response systems. Yoga reduces heart rate, improves breathing, and lowers blood pressure. All of these effects help control the HPA axis and SNS, thus reducing stress (R).
Yoga practices successfully reduce stress among students who have high workloads and increases their overall perception of joy (R).
5) Yoga Strengthens Muscles and Bones
Learning the proper way to perform yoga poses strengthens your bones and muscles. It increases your flexibility and coordination and all of this can help protect you from the injury.
Hatha Yoga is physiologically beneficial to any age group, as long as it is performed properly to reduce any chances of injury. It improves core stability and balance over the course of a 21-day program by improving standing-stork form and side plank form (R, R).
Young women participating in yoga programs had increased upper limb strength and increased abdominal muscle endurance (R).
Women suffering from increased bone deterioration had improved bone mineral density and bone formation without medication solely due to participation in a group yoga setting focused on improving strength and stability (R).
In sedentary healthy adults and older adults, daily yoga practices improved functional fitness outcome over normal strength and conditioning exercises without the need for extra equipment (R).
In healthy adults, a 12-week Hatha Yoga program increased lung function, decreased resting heart rate, increased muscle strength and endurance, and overall flexibility without any serious muscle strain (R).
Patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease had increased physiological and psychological function after participating in an 8-week yoga program (R).
After a stroke, patients who undergo eight weeks of yoga related rehabilitation have improved brain and muscle function (R).
Continued yoga practice improves the flexibility of the muscles and connective tissues surrounding the bones and joints. Yoga helps build and maintain muscle strength (R).
Yoga also improves balance in male college athletes, which helps them with sports practice (R).
6) Yoga Protects the Heart
As stated earlier, yoga can stimulate the vagus nerve and enhance heart function. It also reduces fat levels in the body, which can help prevent heart disease. Yoga also reduces heart rate, improves breathing, and lowers blood pressure (R).
Total cholesterol levels also lower in adults that practice Bikram yoga (R).
Practicing yoga can also increase blood flow and red blood cell levels in the body. This allows for more oxygen to flow through the blood and helps prevent blood clots. All of these lower the risk of heart attack (R).
7) Yoga Improves Sleep Quality
Yoga can regulate the body’s circadian rhythm, which helps with improving sleep quality. The circadian clock system is synchronized throughout the body and affects physiological and behavioral outputs (sleep, heart rate, etc.) (R).
Yoga can help treat insomnia and sleep difficulties in cancer patients. In a review of different researches and surveys, yoga helped treat insomnia symptoms and reduce tiredness (R).
In a survey of older adults, the ones who practiced yoga regularly reported better overall sleep quality, less disturbed sleep, less use of medications, and they also felt more rested compared to the controls (R).
8) Yoga Aids Fertility
Some causes of infertility in men include low sperm quality, anxiety, and obesity.
Yoga can improve sperm quality and motility. Practicing yoga can help improve the health of the prostate and other reproductive organs. It can also reduce anxiety levels, which can improve sex life and help treat mild erectile dysfunction (R).
Obesity can be a contributor to male infertility. By practicing yoga, it can help regulate weight (R).
Mood can also affect fertility and sexual function. After three months of yoga, women reported improvements in stress, anxiety, energy, fatigue, and depression. They also reported less back pain and headaches (R).
In combination with fertility treatments, yoga can help women by improving mental relaxation. By practicing yoga, women can lead a healthier lifestyle to help with fertility (R).
Practitioners can get injured during yoga, even when they are under supervision by experts. Yoga teachers, who practice more intense stands, are more likely to suffer from adverse events (R).
In one survey of 110 Ashtanga Vinyasa practitioners, 62% of them reported at least one yoga-related injury, which was mainly muscle sprains and strains (R).
In traditional yoga, voluntary vomiting is a common cleansing technique. This technique can cause acid reflux symptoms or dental erosion. However, this style is rarely practiced in North America or Europe (R).
Pranayama, which focuses mainly on breathing techniques, is not appropriate for beginners. There are extreme breathing techniques that resemble hyperventilation which can cause problems in people who do not know how to control their breathing (R).
Bikram yoga is practiced in a room heated to 105°F with a humidity of 40% and is physically intense. The intensity and extreme heat during Bikram make it inappropriate for the elderly and people with medical conditions to practice (R).
Finally, people with high blood pressure, glaucoma, lower back pain, and pregnant women should modify or avoid some yoga poses as they may cause injuries or aggravate some conditions (R).
The Yoga That I Do
Watch and perform this video, which I find very helpful to do at night.