Top 10 Health Benefits of Yoga
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August 13, 2010, last updated December 29, 2012


By Katrina Devine, Contributing Columnist and Susan Callahan,
Health Editor



A celebrity trend? A religious path? A weight-loss exercise? A
life changing practice? Yoga is all of the above. Celebrities like
Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow and Sting swear by yoga’s benefits
and we have followed them in the millions.

Americans are discovering yoga. Data collected by the Harris
Interactive Service Bureau on behalf of The U.S’s premier yoga
magazine "The Yoga Journal", in 2008, found that Americans
spent $5.7 billion per year on yoga and yoga accessories. The
Yoga Journal survey estimates that 6.9% of Americans practice
yoga, which means approximately 15.8 million people practice
yoga everyday. A further 8% of people express an interest in
learning about yoga. What are the specific health benefits of
yoga? How exactly does yoga improve your body and mind?
Are  different forms of yoga better than others in improving
your health?



Yoga Comes in Many Flavors

Yoga is a set of poses that are practiced in sequences. There
are also different types of yoga. Traditionally the different
types would be developed by various religious leaders. This is
still true in some cases but there are also some that are
developed with no religious concern in mind. Some of the most
popular types of yoga include; Hatha, Bikram(Hot Yoga),
Kundalini and Ashtanga. Other types of yoga  include Iyengar,
Anusara, Forrest, Integral and many more. Some place their
importance on different things such as physical strength or
simply breathing.



Yoga is not just an effective way for celebrities like Gwyneth
Paltrow to stay trim. Yoga is a serious ally in your fight against
many lifestyle diseases such as high blood pressure
(hypertension), diabetes, heart disease and anxiety disorders.  

Yoga does not have to be complicated. Think of it as your
body's way to stretch and strengthen itself. In fact, babies and
toddlers seem to practice yoga naturally --stretching their legs
and touching their toes to their noses and mouths. As children,
we naturally assumed many yoga poses throughout the day,
bending backwards and seeing how long we could "hold" a
pose. It was fun to stretch and test ourselves.  Yoga is a way
to re-experience the fun of your body as an adult.


Here are 10 benefits of Yoga, based on medical research:


























1.
Yoga Lowers Blood Pressure.  Hypertension is a silent killer
but it can be helped by yoga. A study conducted by the
Prevention Research Center / School of Public Health, Yale
University in 2007 looked at how yoga can benefit
hypertension (high blood pressure).

The researchers found that yoga reduced systolic blood
pressure (your top number) by 19.07 mm Hg and diastolic
blood pressure (your bottom number) by 13.13 mm Hg.


2.
Yoga Helps You Control Blood Sugar: Yoga controls blood
sugar. A study conducted by the School of Nursing and the
School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, in 2009, found
that yoga actually can help blood insulin levels. The average
age of the 23 participants was 51 and used Vinyasa style yoga
for 3 months. They found that those who were at risk from
type 2 diabetes could reduce their risk factors and symptoms.


3.
Yoga Fights Osteoporosis. A pilot study completed at the
Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, in
2009 found that yoga could help osteoporosis. The subjects
were taught a series of 13 poses that they practiced these
consistently for 2 years. The study concluded that those who
practiced the poses for 10 minutes per day found an
improvement; therefore, yoga could help those suffering with
osteoporosis.


4.
Yoga Reduces Stress: Certain kinds of yoga reduce stress. A
study conducted by the Department of Psychiatry, Institute for
Behavioral Medicine Research, The Ohio State University
College of Medicine, in 2010 found that hatha yoga could
reduce stress.

The research team studied a total of 50 healthy women
between the ages of 30 to 65. The level of yoga experience
was evenly divided between experts and novices -- 25 experts
and 25 novices.

The researchers found that the novices had 41% more of the
chemicals associated with stress. Therefore, they concluded,  
those who had practiced hatha yoga over a longer time were
better able to deal with stressors.  


5.
Yoga Lowers Your Heart Rate. A study conducted by the
Department of Internal Medicine, University of Würzburg,
Germany, in 1994 found a significant lowering of heart rate in
those practicing Hatha yoga. Those with a good aerobic fitness
tend to have a lower heart rate. The lower the heart rate the
less stress there is on your heart.


6.  
Yoga Speeds Up Your Metabolism. An important part of
maintaining a healthy weight or controlling your weight is your
metabolism. A study conducted by the Institute of Medicine,
Research Center Jülich, Germany, in 1990 found that yoga
meditation could change metabolism.


7.
Yoga Helps You Lose Weight. In addition to your
metabolism, yoga can help with weight loss in other ways. A
study conducted by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research
Center, Seattle, in 2007 set out to see if yoga could reduce
weight in breast cancer patients. The women practiced yoga for
a period of 6 months. They found that the women lost around
5 pounds. Therefore, they concluded that yoga can help you
lose weight and at the very least it can help you maintain your
weight.


8.
Yoga Improves Your Posture.  Good posture is important for
many reasons but in particular bad posture can cause severe
back pain. A study conducted by the National Institute for
Health and Medical Research, Faculté de Médecine, Vandoeuvre-
lès-Nancy, France found that 26 women who used yoga as part
of their physical activity had improved posture.


9.
Yoga Helps Your Respiratory System. Yoga helps you
breathe better. A study conducted by the Defence Institute of
Physiology and Allied Sciences, Timarpur, Delhi, India, in 2004,
found that practicing yoga postures can help your respiratory
system. The researchers studied 30 men between the ages of
25 and 35. After 3 months they found a significant
improvement in respiratory health.



10.
Yoga Relieves Pain. Yoga helps to relieve pain.  A study
conducted by the Group Health Cooperative and University of
Washington, Seattle, led by KJ Sherman in 2005 found that
yoga can help lower back pain. The study included 101 patients
with chronic lower back pain who practiced yoga over a 12
week period.

At the end of 3 months, those who practiced the yoga as
opposed to those who used a self-care book had a significant
improvement in symptoms. Moreover, the improvement lasted
for an additional 12 weeks after practicing yoga. Another study
conducted by the Department of Community Medicine, West
Virginia University, in 2009, found that Iyengar yoga in
particular helped to reduce lower back pain.

Update:

11.
Yoga Improves Your Ability to  Get Up from Floor. Getting
up from the floor is so easy when you're young. But as we get
older, decreased flexibility and strength ---and the fact that
most of us stop getting down on the floor in the first place --
start to erode our ability to do this simple exercise. Now,
researchers have found that your ability to rise from the floor
actually can predict how long you will live.  

Researchers from Gama Filho University in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
studies 2.002 men and women over a nearly 7 year period. The
participants were tested on their ability to rise from the floor
on a scale from 1 to 10.  If they could rise without using any
hands or other crutches such as bracing on a hand or a knee or
a table, then no points were deducted and they scored a
perfect "10". If they used a knee or hand or other assistance,
one point was deducted for each extra helping touch used.

What the study found was that each extra point  in your total
score improved your survival rate by 21%. Thus, those who
score a perfect "10" had  a 21% better chance of survival than
those who scored a "9". Those who scored a "9" had a 21%
survival rate than those who scored an "8" and so on.

Yoga can improve your flexibility and strength. Because most
yoga forms also require you to get on the floor an eventually
rise, it can also gradually improve your mechanics for rising
from the floor.

A dose of reality is in order at this point. Just improving your
ability to get off the floor will not automatically guarantee that
you improve your chances of living longer. The Brazilian study
did not draw that conclusion.  As with many studies, the cause
and effect between the result and the disease cannot be
perfectly drawn. It's more likely that people who can rise from
the floor easily also are taking care of their health generally
better than those who remain stiff and sedentary. Thus, those
who can easily rise probably also suffer from less incidences of
cardiovascular disease and other conditions that can shorten
your life. Still, staying flexible and string will improve the
likelihood that you will stay acxtive in general, and that
certainly will improve your chances of living a longer, healthier
life.

Update:

A 2012 study from Kennesaw State University and the Medical
Center of Central Georgia has confirmed yoga's effectiveness in
treating a range of chronic illnesses such as hypertension and
diabetes and high cholesterol. As the study concludes: "
Not
only does yoga reduce high BP but it has also been
demonstrated to effectively reduce blood glucose level,
cholesterol level, and body weight, major problems affecting
the American society.
"

Related: Upside Down -How Inversion Therapy Helps Your
Health / Foods That Shrink Your Waist /  Chakras-Mind Body
Healing/ Exercises to Increase Your Bowel Movements /  Why
Your Waist Size Matters / Normal Waist Size/Bowel Movements
Indicate Your Overall Health  / 3 Keys to Normal Bowels  /  The
Bowel Color Chart--What The Color Means /
Why Americans Read In Bathrooms-The Hidden Epidemic of
Constipation  / Child Constipation -Top 10 Natural Remedies

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