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The Benefits of Yoga

Does science back the use of yoga as a complementary therapy?   

With the current debate on the evidence supporting complementary medicine, and mainstream doctors declaring that all "alternative therapy" is bunk and should not be taught in Universities, it’s encouraging to note the strong evidence available for the benefits of yoga practice. Here are some recent examples. These are all open access articles and can be read in full on the web. 

  

Utilization of 3-month Yoga Program for Adults at High Risk for Type 2 Diabetes: A Pilot Study.

Yang K, Bernardo LM, Sereika SM, Conroy MB, Balk J, Burke LE.  

School of Nursing, University of Pittsburgh, 415 Victoria Building, 3500 Victoria Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15261, USA. yangk@pitt.edu.

Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2009 Aug 18.

Abstract

Various modes of physical activity, combined with dieting, have been widely recommended to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes. Among these, yoga holds promise for reducing risk factors for type 2 diabetes by promoting weight loss, improving glucose levels and reducing blood pressure and lipid levels. This pilot study aimed to assess the feasibility of implementing a 12-week yoga program among adults at high risk for type 2 diabetes. Twenty-three adults (19 Whites and 4 non-Whites) were randomly assigned to the yoga intervention group or the educational group. The yoga group participated in a 3-month yoga intervention with sessions twice per week and the educational group received general health educational materials every 2 weeks. All participants completed questionnaires and had blood tests at baseline and at the end of 3 months. Effect sizes were reported to summarize the efficacy of the intervention. All participants assigned to the yoga intervention completed the yoga program without complication and expressed high satisfaction with the program (99.2%). Their yoga session attendance ranged from 58.3 to 100%. Compared with the education group, the yoga group experienced improvements in weight, blood pressure, insulin, triglycerides and exercise self-efficacy indicated by small to large effect sizes. This preliminary study indicates that a yoga program would be a possible risk reduction option for adults at high risk for type 2 diabetes. In addition, yoga holds promise as an approach to reducing cardiometabolic risk factors and increasing exercise self-efficacy for this group.

  

Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life

Catherine Woodyard

Department of Health, Exercise Science and Recreation Management, The University of Mississippi, The Center for Health Behavior Research, 215 Turner Center, University, MS, USA

Address for correspondence: Catherine Woodyard, PO Box 1670, University, MS 38677, USA. E-mail:cdwoodya@olemiss.edu

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

The objective of this study is to assess the findings of selected articles regarding the therapeutic effects of yoga and to provide a comprehensive review of the benefits of regular yoga practice. As participation rates in mind-body fitness programs such as yoga continue to increase, it is important for health care professionals to be informed about the nature of yoga and the evidence of its many therapeutic effects. Thus, this manuscript provides information regarding the therapeutic effects of yoga as it has been studied in various populations concerning a multitude of different ailments and conditions. Therapeutic yoga is defined as the application of yoga postures and practice to the treatment of health conditions and involves instruction in yogic practices and teachings to prevent reduce or alleviate structural, physiological, emotional and spiritual pain, suffering or limitations. Results from this study show that yogic practices enhance muscular strength and body flexibility, promote and improve respiratory and cardiovascular function, promote recovery from and treatment of addiction, reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain, improve sleep patterns, and enhance overall well-being and quality of life.

Keywords: Alternative therapy, depression, pain, quality of life, therapeutic yoga

  

Yoga breathing, meditation, and longevity.

Brown RP, Gerbarg PL.  

Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, New York, USA.

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009 Aug;1172:54-62.

Abstract

Yoga breathing is an important part of health and spiritual practices in Indo-Tibetan traditions. Considered fundamental for the development of physical well-being, meditation, awareness, and enlightenment, it is both a form of meditation in itself and a preparation for deep meditation. Yoga breathing (pranayama) can rapidly bring the mind to the present moment and reduce stress. In this paper, we review data indicating how breath work can affect longevity mechanisms in some ways that overlap with meditation and in other ways that are different from, but that synergistically enhance, the effects of meditation. We also provide clinical evidence for the use of yoga breathing in the treatment of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and for victims of mass disasters. By inducing stress resilience, breath work enables us to rapidly and compassionately relieve many forms of suffering.  

A brief but comprehensive lifestyle education program based on yoga reduces risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes mellitus.

Bijlani RL, Vempati RP, Yadav RK, Ray RB, Gupta V, Sharma R, Mehta N, Mahapatra SC.  

Integral Health Clinic, Department of Physiology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India. rambij@hotmail.com. J Altern Complement Med. 2005 Apr;11(2):267-74.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

The objective of the study was to study the short-term impact of a brief lifestyle intervention based on yoga on some of the biochemical indicators of risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes mellitus.

DESIGN:

The variables of interest were measured at the beginning (day 1) and end (day 10) of the intervention using a pre-post design.

SETTING:

The study is the result of operational research carried out in our Integral Health Clinic (IHC). The IHC is an outpatient facility which conducts 8-day lifestyle modification programs based on yoga for prevention and management of chronic disease. A new course begins every alternate week of the year.

SUBJECTS:

The study is based on data collected on 98 subjects (67 male, 31 female), ages 20-74 years, who attended one of our programs. The subjects were a heterogeneous group of patients with hypertension, coronary artery disease, diabetes mellitus, and a variety of other illnesses.

INTERVENTION:

The intervention consisted of asanas (postures), pranayama (breathing exercises), relaxation techniques, group support, individualized advice, lectures and films on the philosophy of yoga and the place of yoga in daily life, meditation, stress management, nutrition, and knowledge about the illness.

OUTCOME MEASURES:

The outcome measures were fasting plasma glucose and serum lipoprotein profile. These variables were determined in fasting blood samples, taken on the first and last day of the course.

RESULTS:

Fasting plasma glucose, serum total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, very- LDL cholesterol, the ratio of total cholesterol to high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and total triglycerides were significantly lower, and HDL cholesterol significantly higher, on the last day of the course compared to the first day of the course. The changes were more marked in subjects with hyperglycemia or hypercholesterolemia.

CONCLUSIONS:

The observations suggest that a short lifestyle modification and stress management education program leads to favourable metabolic effects within a period of 9 days.

  

 

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