Strike a Pose for Health

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Instead of popping pills try postures from yoga to alleviate your ailments.

From constipation to migraine to bad posture to knee ache yoga has the answer to a lifestyle of health and happiness.

Dating back over 5,000 years, yoga is the oldest defined practise of self-development. The methods of classical yoga include ethical disciplines, physical postures, breathing control and meditation. Traditionally an eastern practice from India, it’s now becoming popular all over the world. In fact, many companies in the US and UK are seeing the benefit of yoga, recognising that relaxed workers are healthier and more creative, and are sponsoring yoga fitness programmes.

What’s Involved with Yoga?

The practice of yoga involves stretching the body and forming different poses while keeping breathing slow and controlled. The body becomes relaxed and energized at the same time. There are various styles of yoga, some moving through the poses more quickly, almost like an aerobic workout, and other styles relaxing deeply into each pose. Some have a more spiritual angle, while others are used purely as a form of exercise.

Flexibility

The truth is you’re never too old to improve flexibility. The series of yoga poses called asanas work by safely stretching your muscles. This releases the lactic acid that builds up with muscle use and causes stiffness, tension, pain, and fatigue. In addition, yoga increases the range of motion in joints. It may also increase lubrication in the joints. The outcome is a sense of ease and fluidity throughout your body.

Yoga stretches not only your muscles but all of the soft tissues of your body. That includes ligaments, tendons, and the fascia sheath that surrounds your muscles. And no matter your level of yoga, you most likely will see benefits in a very short period of time. In one study, participants had up to 35% improvement in flexibility after only eight weeks of yoga. The greatest gains were in shoulder and trunk flexibility.

Posture

With increased flexibility and strength comes better posture. Most standing and sitting poses develop core strength. That’s because you’re counting on your deep abdominals to support and maintain each pose. With a stronger core, you’re more likely to sit and stand ‘tall’. Another benefit of yoga is the increased body awareness. This heightened awareness tells you more quickly when you’re slouching or slumping so you can adjust your posture.

Breathing

Because of the deep, mindful breathing that yoga involves, lung capacity often improves. This, in turn, can improve sports performance and endurance. But yoga typically isn’t focused on aerobic fitness the way running or cycling are. Taking an intense power yoga class that gets you breathing hard in a heated room, however, can provide an aerobic benefit.

Most forms of yoga emphasize deepening and lengthening your breath. This stimulates the relaxation response – the opposite of the fight-or-flight adrenaline boost of the stress response.

Less stress

Even beginners tend to feel less stressed and more relaxed after their first class. Some yoga styles use specific meditation techniques to quiet the constant ‘mind chatter’ that often underlies stress. Other yoga styles depend on deep breathing techniques to focus your mind on the breath. When this happens, your mind becomes calm.

Among yoga’s anti-stress benefits are a host of biochemical responses. For example, there is a decrease in catecholamines, the hormones produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress. Lowering levels of hormone neurotransmitters – dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine – creates a feeling of calm. Some research points to a boost in the hormone oxytocin.

Effects on other medical conditions

This is also called integrative yoga therapy or IYT. It’s used as an adjunct treatment for specific medical conditions, from clinical depression to heart disease. Yoga benefits other chronic medical conditions, relieving symptoms of asthma, back pain, and arthritis.

Effects On the Body

The following is only a partial list of yoga’s benefits

Reduced stress

Sound sleep

Reduced cortisol levels

Improvement of many medical conditions

Allergy and asthma symptom relief

Lower blood pressure

Smoking cessation help

Lower heart rate

Spiritual growth

Sense of well-being

Reduced anxiety and muscle tension

Increased strength and flexibility

Slowed ageing process

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