The popularity of yoga continues to increase in many parts of the world, and it is considered a viable way to improve the quality of life of people with both medical problems and healthy people. In the United States, 10% of the population practiced yoga during 2012 as a complementary method to take care of their health. Do you know what it is about and what benefits it has?
What is it?
Let’s start by saying that yoga is a path that can help improve health. In India (and several eastern countries) health is understood in a much more global way and on several levels: mental, physical, spiritual, emotional and, therefore, practicing yoga can provide benefits at different levels.
Yoga means union (from the Sanskrit “yuj”, which means to hold or join) and according to Mahadev Desai (a well-known theorist of yoga) it refers to uniting all the forces of our body, mind and soul to God. It is one of the six orthodox systems of Indian philosophy and was compiled, coordinated and systematized by Patañjali in his classic work: “Yoga Sutras”.
In a simpler way, yoga is a kind of exercise (although it is much more) that coordinates movements with breathing and an attentive and calm state of mind.
All forms of yoga share this principle, some can be calmer, focused on going deeper in each asana (posture) or faster, stronger or in cycles that do not break so that the practice is more fluid.
Some examples are Hatha Yoga, Iyengar Yoga (slower, calmer cycles); Kundalini Yoga (which further accentuates your tendency towards meditation and spirituality); Vinyasa Flow, Ashtanga Yoga (faster cycles, where each posture changes with each inhalation and exhalation) or Bikram Yoga (a stronger way of practicing the postures in a room with high temperatures).
It is important that if you decide to practice yoga, as in any therapy or activity that influences your health, you choose a professional (a qualified instructor). Research well the type of yoga you want to practice (or the one that suits you best) and who teaches it, as it is important that an expert guides you and knows how to guide you through the different postures that are practiced safely, avoiding injury and taking care , above all things, your health. Once you know how to do it, you can do it alone or in a group.
What is it for?
Several studies support the use of yoga to lower blood pressure levels when practicing it from one year onwards, but you have to take into account which positions help you and which ones you should avoid (such as inverted poses) if you have high blood pressure. And although there are several studies that prove this effect, they are not consistent in how much the reduction is, what are the postures that should be performed, what are the relaxation and breathing techniques. According to a recent report in the American Journal of Hypertension, in which Cramer and his colleagues reviewed available studies in relation to yoga and hypertension, they found that on average yoga reduces systolic pressure by 10 mm Hg and diastolic pressure by 7 mm Hg but also found that: Not all yogas were the same and that the decrease in pressure was not the same for those who took medicines, as for those who did not take them (it was more effective for those who took medicine). Although they agree that yoga helps reduce blood pressure, they mention that more studies with greater consistency and better methodology are required.
Several studies suggest that yoga works quite well as a comprehensive and / or complementary therapy to relieve tension and pain in the lower back and although science is always investigating, until today it has been shown that yoga can improve quality of life for people of all ages (from children to the elderly), stress, depression, and the use of medications associated with chronic lower back pain. According to NCCIH, which belongs to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), people with back pain who practice yoga have less disability, less pain, better functioning and less depression after practicing it for 6 months compared to those who practice yoga. patients with traditional treatments. In a systematic review after reviewing 185 studies and selecting 10 of them from people with back pain for at least 3 months, the report published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine concluded that: yoga appears to be effective in relieving back pain, improving disability, stress, depression, and the amount of medication required. Although he mentions that more studies are needed.
From a cardiovascular point of view, a review of 32 studies on the benefits in people who did not do any physical activity compared to those who practiced yoga (based on asana) that included 2,768 participants published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology found that Those who practiced it obtained several benefits for their heart such as: reduction in blood pressure 5.2 mm Hg in systolic pressure (the first number) and to a lesser degree in their diastolic pressure; 12.1 mg / Dl decrease in your bad cholesterol (LDL); 3.2 mg / dL increase in good cholesterol (HDL, for its acronym in Spanish) and also, there was a reduction in total cholesterol, triglycerides and body mass index (BMI). On average, those who practiced yoga lost 2.35 kg (5.18 pounds). And Dr. Paula Chu, principal investigator at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, said that yoga is accessible to patients with less physical tolerance, pre-existing heart conditions, the elderly, and those with muscle and joint pain.
According to a study recently published in Global Advances in Health & Medicine of 25 cases of people with scoliosis, yoga could be effective in reducing the curvature of the spine in patients with scoliosis , it seems that practicing one pose for one or two minutes minimum 4 times a week (for an average of 6.8 months), it is enough for the benefits to be evident, especially (although not exclusively in adolescents). In fact the National Scoliosis Foundation of America ( National Scoliosis Foundation ) recommended 25 asanas specific to alleviate this condition. Obviously more research is required, however it is an interesting area.
Some studies suggest that yoga is helpful (for breathing patterns) with high altitude symptoms; and that it could help improve the quality of life of cancer patients (especially that it helps them reduce stress, depression and sleep better). More studies are required. On the other hand, studies to date suggest that the evidence is unclear as to whether yoga helps with headaches, tiredness, muscle aches, or memory improvement. But, research continues in these areas and others.
Studies on yoga for asthma and arthritis have had mixed results, so more research is required. Some arthritis patients do it because the movements are smooth and slow and sometimes help prevent stiffness (or improve movement ability, flexibility, and muscle strength). Of course, your doctor could recommend the type of yoga that is best for you, since not all of them are adapted to the needs of each patient. And there are some postures to avoid if you have sciatica, for example.
Scientific evidence also supports the use of yoga for people suffering from anxiety and depression.
In general, yoga is safe. You just have to know what type of yoga is best for you and select a qualified instructor and if they have experience, much better. He or she should know if you have any medical problems. And, of course, pay attention to your body that will also tell you what your limit is when practicing each asana . Finally, don’t forget to share with your doctor any complementary therapy you plan to practice or practice, including yoga.
Yoga is not a competition or a demonstration of strength, one of its greatest teachings is to respect each other’s body and its limits … up to this point, it will be the best posture that will give you the best benefits for you and only you. These benefits are of many types and on a physical level they not only stay in the muscles, but also the rest of your body will benefit. Happy practice!