Yoga, the ancient Indian practice that combines physical postures, breathing techniques and meditation has been around for over 5,000 years and continues to be popular in modern times. While practitioners have long spoken about how a regular yoga practice has improved their lives, it is only in recent years that the scientific and medical community has begun to study and quantify the health benefits of yoga. With an increasing body of evidence showing that yoga can help with managing and alleviating various health issues, it is no wonder that this practice is often recommended as a complementary health approach.
Our Speedoc doctors, who are supportive of methods that bring comfort and wellbeing to our patients, agree there are multiple benefits to a regular yoga practice.
Dr Fahir Khiard, Medical Director of Speedoc says “In principle, yoga offers the same benefits as qigong, taichi and other movement-based low impact exercises that help to maintain the body’s range and movement, as well as joint flexibility and strength. This is especially advantageous to the elderly who may be more frail compared to younger adults. Together with a balanced diet and regular exercise, yoga is helpful for health maintenance.”
Yoga is also useful for managing some chronic symptoms like knee and joint pains. A few studies on the effect of a physical hatha yoga practice on people who suffer from knee osteoarthritis has found that participants experienced a significant decrease in knee pain and could participate in other sports and hobbies with less discomfort.
Many other practitioners also claim that their persistent pains have reduced after practicing yoga. As more research is released, we expect that other benefits will be confirmed by science as well. In the meantime, if the practice of yoga appeals to you and you feel good doing it, there’s no harm in keeping it up!
However, we cannot stress enough the importance of seeking medical advice rather than using yoga to postpone seeing a health care provider. You should also consult with your doctor before embarking on yoga as an integrative health approach. Here are four lesser known, research-backed benefits of yoga.
One of the most common complaints many adults have is lower back pain, often caused by spending hours on end sitting in front of a computer with minimal movement. A promising study found that the practice of yoga is linked to an improvement in back pain, while another found that yoga has a similar effect to physical therapy in helping lower back pain. In particular, postures that focus on strengthening and stretching the back are particularly helpful in alleviating pain in this problem area, making yoga an affordable and convenient alternative to therapy.
Mental health is an essential aspect of holistic wellbeing and while there are medical treatments for depression such as counseling and medication, many sufferers also seek out complementary therapies they can incorporate into their lifestyles. A study found that yoga helps to reduce depressive symptoms in patients. What is interesting is that different types of yoga, including hatha yoga, pranayama breathing and mindfulness meditation all helped to reduce symptoms of depression. This means practitioners may pursue the type of yoga that best resonates with them to experience the wellness benefits of the practice.
If you are seeking ways to get smarter, mindfulness meditation and hatha yoga might just help you achieve your goal. A 2017 study showed that these two practices improved the brain’s executive function and boosted the subjects’ moods. Yoga has also been found to be beneficial for symptoms of ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) by improving attention and reducing hyperactivity and impulsivity. So, the next time you need to prepare for an important meeting or presentation, considering fitting in a morning yoga session to get you in the right frame of mind to ace that event.
It is impossible to avoid feeling pain but research indicates that you may be able to train yourself to better manage and react less to pain through the practice of yoga. Researchers noticed that many aspects of yoga, such as relaxation while breathing and learning to observe without reacting to stimuli, are useful techniques for pain tolerance which helps to explain why regular practitioners better able to cope with pain. This suggests yoga could be good complementary therapy for sufferers of chronic pain.
Yoga should be practiced under the guidance of a certified, experienced teacher. Alternative or complementary therapies should not be used as a substitute for medical treatment. Always consult with a doctor first.