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Benefits of Yoga

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As discussed, yoga has profound benefits on our body and mind. Several studies have been conducted in various normal and patient populations to study the effects of yoga. This article attempts to enumerate a few of these studies, especially those conducted on patients with common ailments.

  • Physical health benefits
  • Mental health benefits
  • Benefits in pregnancy

Physical Health Benefits

Some of the major benefits of yoga on physical health are:

  • Increase of immunity level
  • Muscular strength and flexibility
  • Energy level
  • Endurance
  • Cardiovascular efficiency
  • Respiratory efficiency
  • Breath-holding time
  • Weight normalization
  • Improvement of sleep and posture
  • Decrease in pain
  • Pulse rate
  • Blood pressure etc.

It has been shown that there is a significantly reduced basal metabolic rate, probably linked to reduced arousal, with the long-term practice of yoga using a combination of stimulatory and inhibitory yogic practices.6

Hatha yoga

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In a study to determine the effects of Hatha yoga practice on the health-related aspects of physical fitness including muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, cardio-respiratory fitness, body composition, and pulmonary function, all the parameters showed an improvement, indicating that regular Hatha yoga practice can elicit improvements in the health-related aspects of physical fitness.7

  • Isokinetic muscular strength for elbow extension, elbow flexion, and knee extension increased by 31%, 19%, and 28%, respectively.
  • Isometric muscular endurance for knee flexion increased 57%.
  • Ankle flexibility, shoulder elevation, trunk extension, and trunk flexion increased by 13%, 155%, 188% and 14%, respectively.
  • Absolute and relative maximal oxygen uptake increased by 7% and 6%, respectively.

Yoga training also leads to a milder cardiovascular response with a given level of exercise, suggesting better exercise tolerance.8 In a study on the effect of yoga on the physiological, psychological well-being, psychomotor parameter and modifying cardiovascular risk factors in mild-to-moderate hypertensive patients, it was seen that yoga caused a decrease in blood pressure and drug score modifying risk factors, that is, blood glucose, cholesterol and triglycerides decreased overall improvement in subjective well-being and quality of life. There was also a decrease in sympathetic activity and oxidant stress. These findings suggest that yoga can play an important role in risk modification for cardiovascular diseases in mild-to-moderate hypertension.9

Benefits of yoga for diabetic patients

In patients with type 2 diabetes, who were subjected to yoga therapy for a period of 40days, it was seen that there was a significant decrease in the fasting and postprandial blood glucose levels. A significant decrease in waist-hip ratio and changes in insulin levels were also observed, suggesting a positive effect of yogasanas on glucose utilization and fat redistribution in type 2 diabetes. The investigators suggest that yogasanas may be used as an adjunct with diet and drugs in the management of type 2 diabetes.10 The findings from the study by Gordon et al. also second these findings. Their study demonstrated the efficacy of hatha yoga exercise on fasting blood glucose, lipid profile, oxidative stress markers and antioxidant status in patients with type 2 diabetes and suggest that hatha yoga exercise and conventional physical therapy exercise may have therapeutic preventative and protective effects on diabetes mellitus by decreasing oxidative stress and improving antioxidant status.11

Benefits of yoga for cancer patients

Yoga also seems to beneficial effects in cancer patients, when it is used as an adjunct to the regular treatment regimen. In a study of breast cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy, it was seen that yoga intervention modulates the stress and DNA damage levels during radiotherapy.12 Metastatic breast cancer (MBC) remains a terminal illness for which major treatment advances are slow to appear, and hence it is crucial that effective palliative interventions be developed to reduce the cancer-related symptoms of women with this condition during the remaining years of their lives. Women on home yoga practice experienced significantly lower levels of pain and fatigue, and higher levels of invigoration, acceptance, and relaxation.13 Results from the emerging literature on yoga and cancer, provide preliminary support for the feasibility and efficacy of yoga interventions for cancer patients. Further research is required to determine the reliability of these effects and to identify their underlying mechanisms.

A simplified yoga-based rehabilitation program is a complementary, safe and effective clinical treatment modality in patients with end-stage renal disease on hemodialysis. It was shown to decrease pain intensity, fatigue, sleep disturbance, blood urea, creatinine, alkaline phosphatase and cholesterol, and improve grip strength, erythrocyte levels and hematocrit count. No side-effects were seen.14 Yoga has also shown positive effects in stroke rehabilitation.15

Mental Health Benefits

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A few benefits of yoga on mental health are:

  • Improvements in concentration,
  • Memory,
  • Attention,
  • Learning efficiency,
  • Mood,
  • Depth perception,
  • Increases in well-being,
  • Self-confidence,
  • Social skills
  • Decrease/elimination in depression, anxiety, hostility, etc.

Yoga is helpful in reducing in stress

Emotional distress is an increasing public health problem and yoga has been claimed to induce stress reduction and empowerment in practicing subjects. Yoga therapy has been shown to be associated with improved mood, and is possibly a useful way of reducing stress in patients admitted for psychiatric treatment.16 Michalsen et al. showed in a study that women suffering from mental distress participating in a 3-month Iyengar yoga class show significant improvements on measures of stress, anxiety, well-being, vigor, fatigue and depression. Physical well-being is also increased, and those subjects suffering from headache or back pain reported marked pain relief.17

Yoga practice has also been shown to improve different aspects of sleep in the elderly population.18 Treatment of schizophrenia has remained unsatisfactory despite the availability of antipsychotics. A study by Duraiswamy et al. examined the efficacy of yoga therapy as an add-on treatment to the ongoing antipsychotic treatment. Patients were randomly assigned to either yoga therapy or physical therapy. Subjects in the yoga therapy group had significantly less psychopathology than those in the physical therapy group at the end of 4 months. They also had significantly greater social and occupational functioning and quality of life. Both nonpharmacological interventions contributed to reduction in symptoms with yoga therapy having better efficacy.19

Beneficial Effects in Pregnancy

An integrated approach to yoga during pregnancy seems to be safe. It improves birth weight, decreases preterm labor and decreases intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) either in isolation or associated with pregnancy induced hypertension (PIH), with no increased complications.20

Written by: healthplus24.com team

Date last updated: January 18, 2015