Thursday, August 4, 2011

Does Yoga Actually Work?

The billion dollar question. It's pretty easy to sell yoga to a yogi, people who practice regularly have already been hooked, even if they just like to practice because they enjoy the way their backside looks in Lululemons. At this point in my life I've obviously been sold on the subject but I find myself asking why everyone else isn't hooked. While not everyone has taken the time to ask themselves "Why don't I try yoga?" one thing that may be holding them back is the question of whether it actually does what it promises. So I'm here to clear that up.

  • A study done in 2005 by the University of Pennsylvania showed a extreme reduction of pain and disability in people with osteoarthritic knees after 8 one week sessions of yoga.
-Pose that helps: Pigeon- This one is good because it works the iliopsoas and stretches the inner thigh muscles, both of which love to pull the knee out of alignment.
  • A 2009 a randomized study funded by the National Institutes of Health for Heart, Lung and Blood Institute showed that 20 minutes of meditation a day caused a 47% reduction in deaths, heart attacks and strokes compared to people just educated about heart health. Later research went on to show that meditation actually decreased artery thickness, allowing more blood flow.
-Pose that helps: Meditation- If you don't feel like reading this just search meditation in YouTube and any number of people will lead you through a quick meditation session.
  • Research at Harvard Medical Center found that long time practitioners of yoga and meditation had more active "disease fighting genes" increasing their fertility, and immunity while decreasing occurrences of irritable bowel syndrome, high blood pressure and inflammation linked to heart disease, arthritis and asthma. And the more you practice the more of these genes you activate.
-Pose that helps: Standing Forward Bend- This one feels real good if you just hold it for a while...

And those are just a few examples. As a health care worker I see the rise in health problems growing exponentially. Areas of health concern that seem to have the most growth are anxiety disorders, heart and breathing problems and chronic pain related to any number of untreatable conditions. While medicine has been so useful in decreasing communicable diseases and deaths due to virus and infection it really can't do a whole lot for chronic illness besides slap a bandage on it.

Maybe a lot of people think yoga looks like too much work, but let me speak from experience when I say so is finding someone to help you get dressed in the morning when your body just can't handle the challenge anymore.