Can Yoga Help…?
Here’s a look at how yoga can affect some specific health conditions…
(As always, consult with your health care professional before beginning any new exercise program.)
A Stanford University study suggests that mind-body techniques (including yoga) are effective complementary therapies for musculoskeletal disorders, including osteoarthritis. For both arthritis and fibromyalgia, the stretching can temporarily relieve stiff joints, improve flexibility and circulation and stimulate the release of endorphins. The deep breathing and meditative aspects can help you deal with the stress of illness, especially something as frustrating as fibromyalgia.
The breathing exercises that are an integral part of yoga seem to give some people an element of control over their breathing, thus reducing the symptoms of asthma. It also strengthens the respiratory system.
Yoga can provide temporary relief from back pain. It can also help you avoid certain kinds of back pain by making your back stronger. Yoga stretches and strengthens back muscles — some of the movements are like those used in physical therapy. Some postures strengthen abdominal muscles, which help support the back. Moreover, through regular practice, yoga will help you learn to spot potential trouble spots. For instance, you may be able to identify tense muscles and relax them before they become tight and sore.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Research indicates that yoga is an effective treatment for this repetitive stress injury. One study, reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, revealed that carpal tunnel sufferers who regularly attended yoga classes experienced less pain, greater flexibility and a stronger grip than those who used the usual treatment — a wrist splint.
Yoga, like some other relaxation and meditative techniques, seems to provide some women with relief from the pain associated with endometriosis.
Preliminary studies reported in the Indian Journal of Physiology & Pharmacology suggest that yoga may help patients manage epilepsy. It may come down to stress reduction; stress can be a precipitating factor for some seizures, and yoga promotes relaxation and stress reduction. But researchers haven’t drawn any conclusions yet, contending that more studies are needed.
Yoga and other relaxation techniques have been shown to help reduce chronic pain. They are especially effective for chronic headache and muscle tension.
Yoga is well suited for diabetics in that it improves circulation and promotes a regular exercise regimen.
Heart/Coronary Artery Disease
Yoga improves circulation and, as a stress-reducing or stress-management technique, it may play a role in halting or reversing heart disease. Health care professionals often recommend yoga or something similar for their heart patients.
High Blood Pressure
Evidence suggests that yoga reduces stress and increases relaxation, which may have a favorable effect on blood pressure rates. And there are studies suggesting that yoga may be effective in controlling hypertension, but more research needs to be done.
Yogic breathing techniques seem to help some women reduce hot flashes and other symptoms. And according to the American Yoga Association, some yogic exercises stimulate the glandular and reproductive systems, helping balance body chemistry.
According to the National Institutes of Health, relaxation therapies, including yoga, can help alleviate insomnia.
Migraines & Other Headaches
Yoga seems to help some headache sufferers control their headaches, lessening both frequency and severity.
Yoga may help women with MS to increase physical functioning. Some chapters of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society offer yoga classes.
Since yoga is a low-to-no-impact exercise, some of the gentler postures may be appropriate even if you already have the condition; yoga may help lessen the pain associated with osteoporosis.
Premenstrual syndrome and menstrual cramps Yoga, when practiced regularly, can reduce symptoms of severe PMS, including anxiety and depression in some women. Some postures can reduce pressure on the uterus, relieving cramps, and yoga’s gentle stretching can ease stiffness and tension in the lower back. According to the American Yoga Association, irritability, depression and moodiness can be eased by regular meditation, which is a part of many yogic practices. The association also explains that some yogic exercises stimulate the glandular and reproductive systems, helping balance body chemistry. And, of course, a regular exercise program of any sort helps lessen the severity of cramps for many women.
Prenatal yoga classes are generally more gentle than regular classes, and there’s a greater focus on breathing and relaxation. Mild-to-moderate exercise during pregnancy is important for both you and your baby, and yoga’s gentle, relaxing movements are ideal. And it can help you deal better with the stress associated with pregnancy. Consider looking for a course designed for pregnant women.