University Hospitals Offers Yoga as Part of the Integrative Medicine Program
The practice of yoga can offer many health benefits, such as reduced stress, increased fitness and management of chronic conditions.
Quick Facts About Yoga
- The practice of yoga is between 5,000 and 6,000 years old and originated in India.
- It is estimated that 16 million Americans currently practice yoga and the number is increasing an average of 20 to 25 percent every year.
- The great majority, 73 percent, of yoga practitioners are female.
What is Yoga?
Though yoga has become an extremely popular and even trendy form of exercise in the U.S., the practice of yoga originated in India, and has existed for thousands of years. Today, yoga is considered a mind-body form of complementary|integrative medicine. Yoga brings together physical and mental disciplines to achieve peacefulness of body and mind, as well as increased strength, flexibility, balance and coordination.
Yoga has many styles, forms and intensities. Hatha yoga is one of the most common styles, and some beginners find it easier to practice because of its slower pace and easier movements, though most people can benefit from any style of yoga.
The core components of most yoga classes are:
- Poses: Yoga poses, also called asanas, are a series of movements and postures that are held for brief periods of time. Poses range from lying on the floor while completely relaxed, to difficult postures that may take time and consistent practice to master. The postures and stretches help to lubricate the body’s joints, send nutrients and oxygen to the muscles, reduce muscle tension and relieve stress.
- Breathing: Controlling breathing and breath awareness is an important part of yoga practice. In yoga, breath signifies vital energy. Yoga teaches that controlling one’s breathing can help control the body, as well as release tension and calm the mind.
- Meditative and relaxation techniques: Yoga classes often start and end with time spent bringing attention to the present moment and becoming aware of feelings, thoughts and body sensations. This focused attention helps quiet the mind and promotes deep relaxation and inner peace.
Benefits of Yoga
The potential health benefits of yoga are numerous and include:
- Stress reduction: With its quiet, gentle and precise movements, yoga draws focus away from the busy mind toward calm as the student moves through poses that require balance and concentration.
- Increased fitness: As poses are learned and refined, the student may experience improved balance, flexibility, range of motion and strength. This also reduces the risk of injury in other physical activities.
- Management of chronic health conditions: Yoga might help with a variety of health conditions such as cancer, depression, pain, anxiety and insomnia, by helping with sleep problems, fatigue and mood. Yoga can also help reduce heart rate and blood pressure.
- Weight loss: Yoga may help the student make healthy lifestyle changes necessary to gain control of eating and drop excess weight, it also helps tone and tighten muscles.
While not a cure, yoga can help some health conditions when combined with standard treatment, or can be an enjoyable supplement to a regular fitness routine.
Conditions Yoga Can Help Treat
Yoga’s therapeutic benefits are currently being studied by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. NCCAM is investigating yoga’s effects on many conditions, including:
- Blood pressure
- Chronic low back pain
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Immune function
- Inflammatory arthritis
- Knee osteoarthritis
- Multiple sclerosis
- Smoking cessation