YOGA health benefit
and review of research studies - Assume the Lotus Position -
Ray Sahelian, M.D. (index
November 15 2016
I love the feeling I get after a yoga
session. I feel alert, vibrant, relaxed, energized, and glow with a sense of
balance and vitality. Yoga provides unique benefits not found in
vigorous aerobic exercise. Yoga’s mindful stretches harmonize body and mind, and
can provide a low-impact workout. And because most of us live hectic lives, yoga can be an antidote to
stress, allowing us to release chronic muscle tension and break out of the
“fight or flight” cycle all too common in today’s world. If you have an interest
in yoga DVDs, see a few paragraphs below.
To do yoga properly, a yoga mat is helpful. There are a variety of yoga classes you can take including ashtanga yoga, ayengar yoga, kundalini yoga, bikram yoga (high heat), and other forms of yoga listed below. Each yoga type, and even each yoga class can give you a different feeling, depending on the yoga teacher.
Americans are increasingly relying on dietary supplements and yoga as their preferred forms of complementary health care.
Benefit of Yoga
Ray Sahelian, M.D.
As you can see by the research studies listed below, yoga has a number of benefits that apply to almost every tissue in the body. Each yoga pose influences a different part of the body, and the influence of the nerves in the body by yoga poses reflects back into the central nervous system, influencing the mind in many positive ways. Furthermore, you will notice a different feeling from each yoga class and each yoga instructor.
Helps reduce blood pressure and is therefore beneficial in
those who are diagnosed with hypertension.
Helps those with heart failure
Yoga helps Improves mood
Improves energy level
Yoga helps cancer patients sleep better
Yoga benefits those with diabetes by lowering blood sugar
People with scoliosis who held a single yoga pose called the side plank for 1 to 2 minutes a day for several days a week greatly reduce the curvature of their spines, either idiopathic or degenerative scoliosis.
Yoga is as good as physical therapy in reducing chronic low back pain, the most common pain problem in the United States.
I am a student and doing a school project and hope
you can provide some information. What are the physical benefits of regular yoga
practice? Can they still be gained by practicing yoga only occasionally? What
does yoga provide that other forms of exercise (running, walking) cannot? Are
there any dangers to yoga practice? Are there any types of yoga (for instance,
Bikram yoga) that present more of a risk?
The more frequently yoga is practiced, the more likely the more benefits one is likely to notice. Yoga helps to stretch muscles, ligaments, tendons, improves balance, and helps with peripheral / central nervous system communication. It does not jar the joints or damage them such as running on hard surfaces and has a very low risk for injury although these do occur occasionally particularly in the neck if a person not used to this practice assumes positions their body is not used to. There are instances where people who have done repeated and excessive Bikram yoga have had dizziness, fainting or even seizures from this form of practice.
Yoga Teachers I know
Other favorite yoga teachers in the Los Angeles area that I have taken classes or retreats with include Saul David Raye, Julian Walker, Hala Khouri and Micheline Berry. Shiva Rea, Hala Khouri and Micheline Berry teach at Evolve yoga studio in Venice, California. I took a yoga retreat at Feathered Pipe Ranch in Montana in June of 2007 with Saul David Raye. I truly like his style of teaching, gentle and progressive. Susan Anasuya Raglin has a new dvd for gentle positions at www.artofyogatherapy.com.
Types of Yoga
Ashtanga (Power Yoga) is often used by athletes and those who want a heavy workout and build power and strength.
Bikram Yoga done in a hot room. Bikram Yoga was developed by Bikram Choudhury. There have been incidents where those who have not taken enough rest or drank enough water have had serious health problems including dehydration and seizures. I personally know of one young, healthy woman who took a Bikram yoga training workshop for a week, and on her third day collapsed and had a seizure requiring hospitalization. I personally can't stand this kind of heat when I do yoga, I prefer being cool. But, to each his own.
Hatha Yoga : This form focuses on simple poses that flow from one to the other at a very comfortable pace. Hatha yoga is the most common form of yoga practiced in the West.
Iyengar Yoga is a soft type ideal for beginners. It uses props such as chairs, straps, blocks and pillows, and even sandbags, to compensate for a lack of flexibility. Iyengar is the most widely recognized approach to Hatha Yoga, it was created by B. K. S. Iyengar. Gentle Yoga helpful for low back pain. Yogacharya B.K.S. Iyengar created his own form of yoga, wrote 14 books on the subject, and opened studios across 72 countries, he died at age 95 in August 2014.
Kripalu begins with postural alignment and
intertwining of breath and movement, and the poses are held a short time. The
practitioner progresses to the second stage with meditation included and poses
held for longer. Finally, the practice of poses becomes a spontaneous dynamic
movement. The essence of Kripalu yoga is experienced through a continuous flow
of postures while meditating, for gentle yet dynamic yoga.
Kundalini incorporates mantras (chanting), meditations, visualizations, and guided relaxation. Kundalini yoga consists of poses combined with breath control, hand and finger gestures, body locks, chanting and meditation.
Raja-Yoga in intended for those who wish to undertake intense concentration and meditation.
Sivananda Yoga has a series of 12 poses, with the sun
salutation, breathing exercises, relaxation, and mantra chanting as the basis.
In a typical class the following are done: Relaxation,, Mantra Chanting, Breath
control, Sun Salutation, Leg lifts, Headstand, Shoulder stand, Plough, Fish,
Forward Bend, Cobra, Locust, Bow, Spinal twist, Balancing posture (which is
usually the peacock pose), Standing forward bend, Triangle Mantras, Universal
Prayer, Final Relaxation.
Viniyoga is a slow and gentle form to develop strength, balance and healing. Viniyoga is ideal for beginners, seniors, people with chronic pain or who are in rehabilitation from injury or disease.
Many yoga instructors are becoming well known, including one of my favorites, Shiva Rea. The August, 2006 edition of Fit Yoga magazine, the nation's second-largest yoga magazine with a circulation of 100,000, features a photo of two Naval aviators doing yoga poses in full combat gear aboard an aircraft carrier. I took a week long yoga retreat with Shiva Rea on the island of Santorini in Greece in June 2006. If you would like to purchase the yoga DVDs shown here, click the Shiva Rea link above for more info.
Yoga side effects and danger
Even though in most cases yoga is safe, there are times that certain positions could lead to low back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, hip or knee problems. For instance, should stands could aggravate neck problems. Back bends could aggravate back problems. If you have a musculoskeletal injury, take it slow and don't try to do every position the yoga instructor recommends to the class.
Yoga as Good as Vitamin E?
Could a daily yoga breathing practice be a substitute for antioxidant pills? One such study done at the Department of Physiology, King George's Medical College determined the effect of yogic breathing exercises (pranayama) on oxidatives stress. The study group consisted of 30 young male volunteers, trained for the purpose of this study and an equal number of controls were used. Blood studies were done to measure free radicals and superoxide dismutase levels before the study and at the end of the one month study. The free radicals were decreased significantly in the yoga study group and the SOD was increased insignificantly compared to the control group. The authors conclude that yogic breathing exercises not only help in relieving the stresses of life but also improve the antioxidant status of the individual.
A recent study looked into whether certain yoga postures could improve mood and reduce anxiety levels by increasing brain GABA levels. Researchers have found that GABA levels are lower in people suffering with mood and anxiety disorders. Thirty-four healthy individuals with no significant medical or psychiatric disorders were randomized to either a yoga program or a matched walking intervention for 60 minutes three times per week for 12 weeks. Yoga subjects reported greater improvements in mood and experienced decreased levels of anxiety when compared with the walking group. Streeter CC, Whitfield TH, Owen L, et al. Effects of Yoga Versus Walking on Mood, Anxiety, and Brain GABA Levels: A Randomized Controlled MRS Study. J Altern Complement Med. 2010.
Asthma and breathing
Asthma is a lung condition involving chronic inflammation of the airways (bronchi) which can narrow and go into spasms. During asthma attacks, the smooth muscle cells in the bronchi constrict, the airways become inflamed and swollen, and breathing becomes difficult. Symptomatic control of episodes of wheezing and shortness of breath is generally achieved with fast-acting bronchodilators.
A study of the effect of yoga training on pulmonary functions in patients
with bronchial asthma.
Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 2009. Department of Physiology, Christian Medical College, Ludhiana - 141 007.
One hundred twenty patients of asthma were randomized into two groups i.e Group A (yoga training group) and Group B (control group). Each group included sixty patients. Pulmonary function tests were performed on all the patients at baseline, after 4 weeks and then after 8 weeks. Majority of the subjects in the two groups had mild disease (34 patients in Group A and 32 in Group B). Group A subjects showed a statistically significant increasing trend in % predicted peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR), forced expiratory volume in the first second (FEV1), forced vital capacity (FVC), forced mid expiratory flow in 0.25-0.75 seconds (FEF25-75) and FEV1/FVC% ratio at 4 weeks and 8 weeks as compared to Group B. Thus, yoga breathing exercises used adjunctively with standard pharmacological treatment significantly improves pulmonary functions in patients with bronchial asthma.
A gentle form of yoga helps those with lymphoma sleep better. The investigators found that among 39 patients being treated for lymphoma, those who participated in only seven weekly sessions of yoga said they got to sleep sooner, slept for longer, and needed fewer drugs to fall asleep. Study author Dr. Lorenzo Cohen, of the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, explained that living with cancer can be a very stressful experience, as patients cope with a diagnosis of a life-threatening illness and the side effects of treatment. As is well known, stress can often interfere with patients' sleep habits. Over the years, studies have linked yoga to a number of health benefits, including lowering blood pressure, beating fatigue and easing chronic pain. In the current report, Cohen and his team asked half of the patients to participate in seven weekly sessions of yoga and the results were compared to other patients with lymphoma who did not participate in the yoga program. Some studies have suggested that up to three quarters of cancer patients struggle with sleep. This may have important health consequences since sleep disturbances have been linked with problems with the immune system, and an increased risk of illness or death. Individuals with cancer should be cautioned that while undergoing or recovering from treatment one should adopt a gentle routine, and avoid excessively strenuous routines. This is particularly true for cancer patients who have metastases to the bones which would make the skeletal system more prone to fractures. There is good reason to expect that a gentle form of yoga would be beneficial to not only patients with lymphoma, but those suffering from other types of cancer. Cancer, April 15, 2004.
Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2013. The impact of Yoga upon young adult cancer survivors.
Yoga for cancer patients and
Cancer Control. 2005. Bower JE, Woolery A, Sternlieb B, Garet D.
University of California, Los Angeles Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology, Los Angeles
Nine studies conducted with cancer patients and survivors yielded modest improvements in sleep quality, mood, stress, cancer-related distress, cancer-related symptoms, and overall quality of life. Studies conducted in other patient populations and healthy individuals have shown beneficial effects on psychological and somatic symptoms, as well as other aspects of physical function. Results from the emerging literature on yoga and cancer provide preliminary support for the feasibility and efficacy of yoga interventions for cancer patients, although controlled trials are lacking. Further research is required to determine the reliability of these effects and to identify their underlying mechanisms.
Improved fatigue in cancer survivors
Cancer can be a devastating disease that saps energy often due to radiation and chemotherapy. Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York assigned more than 400 cancer survivors to one of two groups. Most had been treated with chemotherapy for breast cancer. The first group did gentle Hatha yoga and restorative yoga twice a week for a month. The other group did not engage in such activity. The individuals who did yoga were able to cut back on sleeping pills and slept better. Yoga also increased their energy levels and improved their quality of life.
My comments: I think it is a great idea for oncologists to recommend their patients to start a mild restorative yoga program. It can reduce the reliance on sleeping pills and help improve overall vitality.
Effects of yoga on the quality of
life in cancer patients.
Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2010; Ulger O, Yağli NV. Hacettepe University, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation, Ankara, 06100 Samanpazari-Ankara, Turkey.
Twenty patients between 30 and 50 years of age presently under treatment for breast cancer were included in the study. Eight sessions of a yoga program including warming and breathing exercises, asanas, relaxation in supine position, and meditation were done. It was found that patients' quality of life scores after the yoga program were better than scores obtained before the program. After sessions, there was a statistically significant decrease in their anxiety scores. It can be concluded that yoga is valuable in helping to achieve relaxation and diminish stress, helps cancer patients perform daily and routine activities, and increases the quality of life in cancer patients. This result was positively reflected in patients satisfaction with the yoga program.
Sixty-two women who were undergoing radiation treatment for breast cancer were randomly assigned to attend yoga classes twice a week or be put on a waiting list to start yoga after their treatment. The women who practiced yoga reported better physical functioning, such as the ability to walk a mile, climb stairs and lift groceries, said Lorenzo Cohen, director of integrative medicine at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. They also felt better about their overall health and reported less fatigue and problems sleeping. No difference was seen, however, in rates of depression and anxiety. In the study, instructors emphasized breathing and relaxation and excluded positions that would be difficult for patients with weakened range of motion. The average patient in the study was 52 years old.
COPD and lung disease
Yoga therapy decreases dyspnea-related distress and improves functional performance in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a pilot study.
J Altern Complement Med. 2009; Donesky-Cuenco D, Nguyen HQ, Carrieri-Kohlman V. Department of Physiological Nursing, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA.
Elderly patients with COPD participated safely in a 12-week yoga program especially designed for patients with this chronic illness. After the program, the subjects tolerated more activity with less shortness of breath and improved their functional performance.
COPD patients randomized to a 12-week program of yoga
exercises have improvements similar to patients randomized to a standard
pulmonary rehabilitation program.
Heart failure, heart disease
A regimen of yoga is safe for patients with chronic heart failure and helps reduce signs of inflammation often linked with death. Researchers at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta who measured the effects of an eight-week yoga regimen on heart failure patients found the yoga routine improved exercise tolerance and quality of life.
Yoga has long been believed to improve overall health, but a growing body of evidence shows the ancient practice may also help the heart. In fact, the benefits are similar to those of conventional exercise such as brisk walking.
Women diagnosed with fibromyalgia were then randomly assigned to one of two groups. The first group participated in an eight week yoga program and the second group was prescribed standard medications. After completing the yoga program, the results showed that yoga reduced the number of serious fibromyalgia symptoms, including pain, fatigue, stiffness, poor sleep, depression, poor memory, anxiety and poor balance. The improvements were shown to be not only statistically but also clinically significant, meaning the changes were large enough to have a practical impact on daily functioning. It was found that pain was reduced in the yoga group by an average of 24 percent, fatigue by 30 percent and depression by 42 percent. Carson JW, Carson KM, Jones KD, et al. A pilot randomized controlled trial of the Yoga of Awareness program in the management of fibromyalgia. Pain. 2010.
This practice may not ease menopausal hot flashes, but it might help women sleep a bit easier. Sept. 16, 2013, Menopause, online.
Yoga and Diabetes - Speeds Nerve Impulses
Scientists at Guru Tegh Bahadur Hospital, in Delhi, India, studied a group of 20 type 2 diabetic subjects between the ages of 30-60 years. Their aim was to see whether Yoga asanas had any effect on nerve conduction. TheYoga asanas included Suryanamskar Tadasan, Konasan, Padmasan Pranayam, Shavasan, Pavanmukthasan, Sarpasan and Shavasan. The Yoga exercises were performed for 40 minutes every day for 40 days in the above sequence. The subjects continued their normally prescribed medicines and diet. Blood sugar and nerve conduction velocity of the median nerve (in the hand) were measured and repeated after 40 days of the Yogic regime. Another group of 20 type 2 diabetes subjects of comparable age and severity, called the control group, were kept on prescribed medication and light physical exercises like walking. Their initial & post 40 days parameters were recorded for comparison. At the end of the 40 days, those who did the yoga had improved the nerve impulse in their hands. The hand nerve conduction velocity increased from 52.8 meters per second to 53.8 m/sec. The control group nerve function deteriorated over the period of study, indicating that diabetes is a slowly progressive disease involving the nerves. The authors conclude that Yoga asanas have a beneficial effect on blood sugar control and improve nerve function in type 2 diabetics who have mild nerve damage. Dr. Sahelian says: In addition to Yoga, I recommend my patients with diabetes take a nutrient called lipoic acid which has also been found to improve nerve function in diabetics.
Blood Sugar in Diabetics:
Researchers at the University College of Medical Sciences, in Shahdara, New Delhi evaluated 24 patients aged 30 to 60 year old who had non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus, also called Type II diabetes. Diabetics who require insulin are called Type I, while Type II diabetics are treated with diet, exercise, and oral medicines that lower blood sugar. The researchers evaluated the baseline fasting blood sugar levels of the patients, and they also performed pulmonary function studies. These pulmonary function studies measure lung capacity and the amount of air that can be exhaled within the first second of a rapid exhale. After performing these basic tests, yoga experts gave these patients training in yoga asanas. The yoga practice was done 40 minutes a day for 40 days. These asanas consisted of 13 well known and common postures, done in a sequence. After 40 days of yoga asanas regimen, the testing was repeated. The results indicate that there was significant decrease in fasting blood sugar levels from about 190 initially to 140 after the 40 day period of yoga activity. Fasting blood sugar in people without diabetes is usually below 120. The lung studies showed an average improvement of about 10 percent in lung capacity. These findings suggest that better blood sugar control and pulmonary functions can be obtained in type I diabetics when they stick to a daily schedule of yoga asanas and pranayama. The exact mechanism as to how these postures and controlled breathing interact with physio-neuro-endocrine mechanisms affecting blood sugar and pulmonary functions remains to be worked out.
Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2015. A randomized controlled trial of yoga for pregnant women with symptoms of depression and anxiety. Yoga may be well suited for depressed and anxious pregnant women, given reported benefits of meditation and physical activity and pregnant women's preference for nonpharmacological treatments. We randomly assigned 46 pregnant women with symptoms of depression and anxiety to an 8-week yoga intervention or treatment-as-usual (TAU) in order to examine feasibility and preliminary outcomes. Yoga was associated with high levels of credibility and satisfaction as an intervention for depression and anxiety during pregnancy. Participants in both conditions reported significant improvement in symptoms of depression and anxiety over time; and yoga was associated with significantly greater reduction in negative affect. Prenatal yoga was found to be a feasible and acceptable intervention and was associated with reductions in symptoms of anxiety and depression; however, prenatal yoga only significantly outperformed TAU on reduction of negative affect.
Yoga and Stress
Yoga-based guided relaxation reduces sympathetic activity judged from baseline levels.
Psychol Rep 2002. Swami Vivekananda Yoga Research Foundation, Chamarajpet, Bangalore, India.
35 male volunteers whose ages ranged from 20 to 46 years were studied in two sessions of yoga-based guided relaxation and supine rest. Assessments of autonomic variables were made for 15 subjects, before, during, and after the practices, whereas oxygen consumption and breath volume were recorded for 25 subjects before and after both types of relaxation. A significant decrease in oxygen consumption and increase in breath volume were recorded after guided relaxation (paired t test). There were comparable reductions in heart rate and skin conductance during both types of relaxation. During guided relaxation the power of the low frequency component of the heart-rate variability spectrum reduced, whereas the power of the high frequency component increased, suggesting reduced sympathetic activity. Also, subjects with a baseline ratio of LF/HF > 0.5 showed a significant decrease in the ratio after guided relaxation, while subjects with a ratio < or = 0.5 at baseline showed no such change. The results suggest that sympathetic activity decreased after guided relaxation based on yoga, depending on the baseline levels.
Yoga, Meditation, and Consciousness
Increased dopamine tone during meditation-induced change of consciousness.
Brain Res Cogn Brain Res 2002.
This is the first in vivo demonstration of an association between endogenous neurotransmitter release and conscious experience. Here we show increased striatal dopamine release during meditation associated with the experience of reduced readiness for action. It is suggested that being in the conscious state of meditation causes a suppression of cortico-striatal glutamatergic transmission. To our knowledge this is the first time in vivo evidence has been provided for regulation of conscious states at a synaptic level.
Yoga and Pregnancy
Dr. Shamanthakamani Narendran, from the Vivekananda Yoga Research Foundation in Bangalore, and colleagues studied 169 pregnant women trained in the integrated approach to yoga and in 166 "controls" who received routine prenatal care. The yoga training included various loosening exercises, postures ("asanas"), relaxation, deep breathing exercises ("pranayamas"), and meditation, which was practiced for 1 hour daily. Fourteen percent of deliveries were premature in the yoga group compared with 29 percent in the controls. Rates of pregnancy-related high blood pressure were also lower in the yoga group. Possible mechanisms whereby yoga improves pregnancy outcomes include increased blood flow to the placenta, decreased transfer of maternal stress hormones, and decreased premature release of hormones that trigger the onset of labor. Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine, 2005.
Yoga and Fitness
Effects of Hatha Yoga Practice on the Health-Related Aspects of Physical Fitness.
Tran MD, Holly RG, Lashbrook J, Amsterdam EA.
Department of Exercise Science, University of California at Davis, Davis, CA.
Prev Cardiol 2001.
Ten healthy, untrained volunteers (nine females and one male), ranging in age from 18-27 years, were studied to determine the effects of hatha yoga practice on the health-related aspects of physical fitness, including muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, cardiorespiratory fitness, body composition, and pulmonary function. Subjects were required to attend a minimum of two yoga classes per week for a total of 8 weeks. Each yoga session consisted of 10 minutes of pranayamas (breath-control exercises), 15 minutes of dynamic warm-up exercises, 50 minutes of asanas (yoga postures), and 10 minutes of supine relaxation in savasana (corpse pose). The subjects were evaluated before and after the 8-week training program. Isokinetic muscular strength for elbow extension, elbow flexion, and knee extension increased by 31%, 19%, and 28% (p<0.05), respectively, whereas isometric muscular endurance for knee flexion increased 57% (p<0.01). Ankle flexibility, shoulder elevation, trunk extension, and trunk flexion increased by 13% (p<0.01), 155% (p<0.001), 188% (p<0.001), and 14% (p<0.05), respectively. Absolute and relative maximal oxygen uptake increased by 7% and 6%, respectively (p<0.01). These findings indicate that regular hatha yoga practice can elicit improvements in the health-related aspects of physical fitness. (c)2001 CHF, Inc.
Yoga Improves Stamina Better Than Regular Exercise:
In a research project conducted at the Defense Institute of Physiology in Delhi, India, the effect of training in Hatha yogic exercises on aerobic capacity and stamina was performed on 40 young men who were recruited in the Indian army. These soldiers, whose age ranged from 19 to 23, initially worked out to maximal exercise capacity on a bicycle ergometer. The oxygen consumption, carbon dioxide output, pulmonary ventilation, respiratory rate, heart rate etc., at maximal exertion were immediately thereafter recorded. The subjects were then divided into two equal groups. One group practiced Hatha yogic exercises for 1 h every morning (6 days in a week) for six months. The other group underwent conventional physical exercise training during the same period common to what many soldiers are required to do. In the 7th month, tests for perceived physical exertion were repeated on both groups of subjects. The results showed that those who engaged in daily yoga practice noticed that they did not get as tired after heavy physical exertion as those who just did regular exercises. Their aerobic capacity also improved. Therefore, it appears that yoga enhances stamina even better than regular exercise. This would indicate that athletes in many different fields may well improve their endurance and performance by adding yoga practices to their routine workouts. Yoga could also certainly be helpful for those who have fatigue or low energy. I personally notice that regular yoga practice enhances my stamina in terms of how long I can hike, bike, or dance.
Retardation of coronary atherosclerosis with yoga lifestyle intervention.
J Assoc Physicians India 2000; Manchanda SC, Narang R, Reddy KS, Sachdeva U, Prabhakaran D, Dharmanand S, Rajani M, Bijlani R. All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India.
We evaluated possible role of lifestyle modification incorporating yoga, on retardation of coronary atherosclerotic disease. In this prospective, randomized, controlled trial, 42 men with angiographically proven coronary artery disease (CAD) were randomized to control and yoga intervention group and were followed for one year. The active group was treated with a user-friendly program consisting of yoga, control of risk factors, diet control and moderate aerobic exercise. The control group was managed by conventional methods i.e. risk factor control and American Heart Association step I diet. At one year, the yoga groups showed significant reduction in number of anginal episodes per week, improved exercise capacity and decrease in body weight. Serum total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels also showed greater reductions as compared with control group. Revascularisation procedures (coronary angioplasty or bypass surgery) were less frequently required in the yoga group. Coronary angiography repeated at one year showed that significantly more lesions regressed (20% versus 2%) and less lesions progressed (5% versus 37%) in the yoga group. The compliance to the total program was excellent and no side effects were observed. : Yoga lifestyle intervention retards progression and increases regression of coronary atherosclerosis in patients with severe coronary artery disease. It also improves symptomatic status, functional class and risk factor profile.
The overall benefits of yoga on risk factors for heart disease were evaluated by researchers at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Medical Division, in Mumbai, India. (Mumbai is the new name for the city formely known as Bombay. The name was changed in the mid 1990s. The effect of yoga on the body, psychological well being, and cardiovascular risk factors was studied in a group of middle aged patients. Twenty patients (16 males, 4 females) in the age group of 35 to 55 years with mild to moderate high blood pressure underwent yogic practices daily for one hour for three months. High blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and kidney damage. Biochemical and psychological parameters were studied prior and following period of three months of yoga. These biochemical parameters included blood sugar, lipid profile including cholesterol, and blood levels of catecholmines (stress chemicals like epinephrine or adrenaline). The overall results were quite positive. There was a decrease in blood pressure along with a decrease in blood sugar, cholesterol and triglycerides. The patients also reported an improvement in overall well being and quality of life. There was also a decrease in the levels of catecholamines, suggesting a decrease in sympathetic activity. A decrease in sympathetic activity indicates that the patients were calmer and experienced less tension and stress, and that their blood pressure would be lower. The authors of the study conclude that yoga can play an important role in decreasing the risk factors for cardiovascular disease in those with mild to moderate hypertension.
Heart rate variability, a sign of a healthy heart, has been shown to be higher in yoga practitioners than in non-practitioners, according to research in the International Journal of Medical Engineering and Informatics. The autonomic nervous system regulates the heart rate through two routes — the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The former causes the heart rate to rise, while, the parasympathetic slows it. When working well together, the two ensure that the heart rate is steady but ready to respond to changes caused by eating, the fight or flight response, or arousal.
Yoga and Breathing
Oxygen consumption and respiration following two yoga relaxation techniques.
Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback 2000 Telles S, Reddy SK, Nagendra HR. Vivekananda Kendra Yoga Research Foundatio, Appajappa Agrahara, Chamarajpet, Bangalore, India.
The oxygen consumption, breath rate, and breath volume of 40 male volunteers were assessed before and after sessions of cyclic meditation (CM) and before and after sessions of shavasan (SH). The 2 sessions (CM, SH) were 1 day apart. Cyclic meditation includes the practice of yoga postures interspersed with periods of supine relaxation. During SH the subject lies in a supine position throughout the practice. There was a significant decrease in the amount of oxygen consumed and in breath rate and an increase in breath volume after both types of sessions (2-factor ANOVA, paired t test). However, the magnitude of change on all 3 measures was greater after CM: (1) Oxygen consumption decreased 32.1% after CM compared with 10.1% after SH; (2) breath rate decreased 18.0% after CM and 15% after SH; and (3) breath volume increased 28.8% after CM and 15% after SH. These results support the idea that a combination of yoga postures interspersed with relaxation reduces arousal more than relaxation alone does.
More and more doctors specializing in multiple sclerosis note that yoga, with its emphasis on relaxation, breathing, and deliberate movements, is a good choice for people with MS. Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a life-long chronic disease. During an MS attack, inflammation occurs in areas of the white matter of the central nervous system (nerve fibers that are the site of MS lesions) in random patches called plaques. This process is followed by destruction of myelin, which insulates nerve cell fibers in the brain and spinal cord. Myelin facilitates the smooth, high-speed transmission of electrochemical messages between the brain, the spinal cord, and the rest of the body. Symptoms of MS may be mild or severe and of long duration or short and appear in various combinations. The initial symptom of MS is often blurred or double vision, red-green color distortion, or even blindness in one eye. Most MS patients experience muscle weakness in their extremities and difficulty with coordination and balance. A recent study at Oregon Health and Science University indicates that both yoga and exercise help reduce fatigue in people with MS. Researchers divided 69 people with MS into three groups for six months. The first group did weekly Iyengar yoga classes adapted for people with MS. The second group did weekly exercise classes -- including workouts on stationary bikes and home exercise -- that were also tailored to people with MS. The third group maintained their normal activity levels. After six months, they were given the chance to enroll in the yoga or exercise classes. The study participants were monitored for changes in their cognitive function, fatigue and quality of life. Yoga and exercise had no effect on cognitive function. However, the people taking the yoga or exercise classes did show significant improvement in their levels of fatigue. The findings were presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting in Honolulu in April 2003. On the nutritional front, fish oil capsules, a low fat diet, and ginkgo biloba have shown intriguing preliminary evidence of efficacy.
Improvement in hand grip strength in normal volunteers and rheumatoid arthritis patients following yoga training.
Dash M, Telles S.
Swami Vivekananda Yoga Research Foundation, Chamarajpet, Bangalore-560 018.
Indian J Physiol Pharmacol 2001.
The present study aimed at assessing the effects of a set of yoga practices on normal adults (n = 37), children (n = 86), and patients with rheumatoid arthritis (n = 20). An equal number of normal adults, children, and patients with rheumatoid arthritis who did not practice yoga were studied under each category, forming respective control groups. Yoga and control group subjects were assessed at baseline and after varying intervals, as follows, adults after 30 days, children after 10 days and patients after 15 days, based on the duration of the yoga program, which they attended, which was already fixed. Hand grip strength of both hands, measured with a grip dynamometer, increased in normal adults and children, and in rheumatoid arthritis patients, following yoga, but not in the corresponding control groups, showing no re-test effect. Adult female volunteers and patients showed a greater percentage improvement than corresponding adult males. This gender-based difference was not observed in children. Hence yoga practice improves hand grip strength in normal persons and in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, though the magnitude of improvement varies with factors such as gender and age.
Yoga practice is associated with attenuated weight gain in healthy, middle-aged men and women.
Altern Ther Health Med. 2005. Division of Public Health Sciences, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, Wash, USA.
Participants included 15,550 adults, aged 53 to 57 years, recruited to the Vitamin and Lifestyle (VITAL) cohort study between 2000 and 2002. Conclusions: Regular yoga practice was associated with attenuated weight gain, most strongly among individuals who were overweight. Although causal inference from this observational study is not possible, results are consistent with the hypothesis that regular yoga practice can benefit individuals who wish to maintain or lose weight.
Yoga, Weight Loss, and Teenagers
Teens bent on losing weight may want to bend into the downward dog pose -- or any other yoga position. Researchers at Hampton University in Virginia report that a program combining yoga and breathing exercises helped teens shed unwanted pounds. The study included 60 overweight high school girls and boys who were divided into two groups. One group received 40 minutes of yoga and pranayama (quiet, deep and forced breathing) four times a week for 12 weeks, while those in the control group did their normal activities. After 12 weeks, the average body mass index (BMI) in the yoga / pranayama group went from 22.8 to 21.5 (a 5.7 percent decrease), while the average BMI in the control group increased from 22.3 to 22.4. The decrease in the pranayama group could be attributed to two factors: the pranayama and yoga exercises themselves, and a possible decrease in daily caloric intake by the participants in the pranayama group because of decreased stomach size.
Spine curvature with age
Among a group of elderly study participants, those who did yoga for six months saw their upper spine curve lowered by about 5 percent compared to those who did not, Dr. Gail Greendale, at the University of California at Los Angeles report those with greater spinal flexibility showed a 6 percent improvement in their upper spine curve. Dr. Gail Greendale took regular measurements of the upper spine curvature of 118 otherwise healthy individuals with indicators of moderate hyperkyphosis - the medical term for dowager's hump. The study group was mostly -- 81 percent -- female, about 75 years old on average, and reported almost no physical limitations. On 3 days each week for 6 months, 58 individuals took yoga classes using breathing techniques and poses to increase awareness, flexibility, and strength of their back muscles. The remaining 60 participants (the control group) attended 6 monthly informational luncheons. Compared with spinal curve measures at study entry, the yoga group showed decrease spinal curvature, while the control group had increased curvature, after 6 months. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 2009.
I'm a writer working on a story a women's health magazine about yoga and sex—basically, we've seen numerous studies that have found that a regular practice can improve arousal in people with metabolic syndrome. Why does this happen and can yoga be helpful in people without metabolic syndrome?
Yoga could be helpful in sexual enhancement due to these benefits: Improved body image, Better flexibility, Enhanced stamina, Improved moodSince metabolic syndrome -- which includes high blood pressure and high blood sugar -- can lead to fatigue, low motivation to work out and be physically active, poor sleeping habits, suboptimal hormone production, poor circulation leading to interference with optimal blood flow to organs, including pelvic organs, a yoga program can reverse theses processes and lead to an overall enhancement of wellbeing and sexual arousal.
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