For breath is life, and if you breathe well, you will live long on earth.” – Sanskrit Proverb
Yoga has become a popular form of Ayurveda and is often advocated for a wide range of conditions. The aim of this overview is to critically evaluate all systematic reviews of Yoga for the symptomatic treatment of any condition. Yoga is increasingly used in clinical settings for a variety of mental and physical health issues, particularly stress-related illnesses and concerns, and has demonstrated promising efficacy. Yet the ways in which Yoga reduces stress is poorly understood.
Whether you practice Yoga daily or have just taken your first Yoga class, you’ve probably noticed some benefits – relaxed state of mind, better sleep, or more energy. Although we are still learning and measuring Yoga’s benefits, Western science is uncovering clues about this ancient practice and its effect on longevity and life span.
The Yoga Poses That Will Improve Your Health
Yoga is all about the union of the mind, body and soul, so it should come as no surprise, it has also been shown to improve health.
Scientists have shown that following Yoga with deep relaxation protects one against stress and stress related disease. Their research has also found that specific Yoga poses may target, and ultimately improve, certain health concerns.
We provide a list of the five Yoga poses that will improve your health.
Ardha Matsyendrasana – For Diabetes
At the end of a study conducted by scientists on 20 diabeteic patients for 40 days it was found that the participant’s waist to hip ratio was significantly reduced. They also noted that there was a positive change in their insulin levels. They concluded that the specific Yogic abdominal stretching involved in this exercise was responsible for the above result. It helped to regenerate the participant’s pancreas and increase their metabolism of glucose in the organ tissue.
Manibandhana – For Joint Health
Those suffering from arthritis too can benefit from Yoga exercise. In one study, 64 arthritis sufferers participated in a Yoga program to discover whether or not joint bending Yoga poses improved hand grip strength. The scientists discovered that at the end of the study there was significant improvement in joint function. One of the poses used here was Manibandhana.
SuptaVirasana – For Stress
This pose was used to re-balance downward moving energy and relax the muscles that had become tense from stress. As a general rule, Yoga poses where you stretch passively are the best for stress relief.
Bhujangasana – For Menstrual Pain
Scientists conducted a study which indicated that Yoga reduced menstrual pain. The researchers studied participants through three of their menstrual cycles. They found that a number of Yoga poses assisted in reducing pain. Of these, cobra pose was the most potent.
Surya Namaskara – For The Heart
A study found that practising surya namaskar improved heart health. This is a sequence of poses which stretches almost all the muscles and organs in the body. Scientists measured heart rate and oxygen intake in participants who performed Surya Namaskar in four sequences. They found improved heart rate and increased oxygen intake after each round. Thus, it proved that sun salutations were good for the heart.
Yoga improves longevity
- Prevents cartilage and joint breakdown
Yoga takes joints through their full range of motion, which helps joint cartilage receive fresh nutrients, prevents wear and tear, and protects underlying bones. This also helps prevent degenerative arthritis and mitigates disability.
- Increases bone density and health
Many postures in Yoga require weight bearing, which strengthens bones and helps ward off osteoporosis. Specifically, Yoga strengthens arm bones that are particularly vulnerable to osteoporotic fractures. Many studies have shown that Yoga practice increases overall bone density.
- Increases blood flow
Yoga gets your blood flowing! Relaxation helps circulation, movement brings more oxygen to your cells (which function better as a result), twisting brings fresh oxygenated blood to organs, and inversions reverse blood flow from the lower body to the brain and heart. Additionally, Yoga increases haemoglobin levels in red blood cells, helping prevent blood clots, heart attacks, and strokes.
- Cleanses lymph and immune systems
Yoga movements aid in draining lymph, allowing the system to better fight inflection, destroy diseased cells, and rid toxic waste in the body. Furthermore, meditation appears to have a beneficial effect on the functioning of the immune system, boosting it when needed (i.e. raising antibody levels in response to a vaccine) and lowering it when needed (i.e. mitigating an inappropriately aggressive immune function in an autoimmune disease like psoriasis).
- Ups your heart rate
Many classes such as power Yoga can boost heart rate into the aerobic range. Studies found that Yoga can lower resting heart rate, increases endurance, and improves maximum uptake of oxygen during exercise—all reflections of improved aerobic conditioning. Studies have also found that those who practice pranayama or “breath control” are able to do more exercise with less oxygen. Regularly moving heart rate into the aerobic range lowers risk of heart attack and can relieve depression.
- Regulate your adrenal glands
Yoga lowers cortisol levels. If high, they compromise the immune system and may lead to permanent changes in the brain. Excessive cortisol has also been linked with major depression, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, and insulin resistance.
- Lowers blood sugar
Yoga lowers blood sugar and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and boosts HDL (“good”) cholesterol. In people with diabetes, Yoga has been found to lower blood sugar by lowering cortisol and adrenaline levels, encouraging weight loss, and improving sensitivity to the effects of insulin. Lowering blood sugar levels decreases your risk of diabetic complications such as heart attack, kidney failure, and blindness.
- Improves your balance
Regularly practicing Yoga increases proprioception (the ability to feel what your body is doing and where it is in space) and improves balance. Better balance could mean fewer falls. For the elderly, this translates into more independence and delayed admission to a nursing home or never entering one at all.
- Calms nervous system and helps you sleep deeper
Stimulation in our modern society can tax our nervous system. Yoga and meditation encourage turning inward of the senses and removal of stimuli, providing much needed downtime for the nervous system and better sleep—meaning you will be less tired, stressed, and less likely to have accidents.
- Gives your lungs room to breathe
Yogis tend to take fewer breaths of greater volume, which is both calming and more efficient. Yogic breathing has been shown to help people with lung problems due to congestive failure and improve measures of lung function, including maximum volume of breath and efficiency of exhalation. Yoga promotes breathing through the nose, which filters, warms, and humidifies air. This helps prevent asthma attacks while also removing pollen, dirt, and other things you would rather not take into your lungs.
- Improved digestion.
Yoga promotes healthy digestion by moving the body in ways that facilitate more rapid and efficient transport of food and waste products through the bowels. Healthy digestion helps lower the risk of colon cancer and diseases of the digestive track.
- Encourages self-care and healthy lifestyle.
Perhaps the greatest benefits of Yoga are its ability to inspire and improve self-care and healthy living. As yogis tend to be more involved in their own health and care, they discover they have the power to effect positive change in their lives and tend to adopt more healthy habits. Over time, healthy living has a large impact on life expectancy.
Enjoy your “post-yoga bliss” and know that it’s making your body happy!
‘Strength, grace, health and wisdom’
Madhavi H. Rabadia
Lecturer Dept. Dravyaguna,
Indian Institute of Ayurvedic Pharmaceutical Sciences,
Gujarat Ayured University,