Yoga Benefits Health Essay

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Mythology- Eastern

Health Benefits of Yoga

Often when people hear the word yoga they picture people coiled up painfully like pretzels or sitting with their legs crossed and chanting. Twisting and meditation are all part of the 5,000-year-old practice of yoga, but are really only small pieces of the yoga pie. The term yoga originates from the ancient Sanskrit word yuj, which means union. Those who practice yoga believe that in order to live in harmony, people must balance their minds, bodies, and breathe. They attempt to achieve that balance through a combination of stretching, breathing, and meditating. Yoga strengthens and lengthens muscles along with providing a total body workout. It has also been shown to enhance overall fitness, boosting strength, flexibility, and even heart health. Yoga helps tame lower back pain and improves overall bone health, according to studies by the American College of Sports Medicine (Mikulski, 2009).

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Yoga has been in practice for more than 5,000 years, and today, close to 11 million Americans enjoy its health benefits. Because of this Yoga can hardly be seen as a trend. Most yoga classes focus on learning different physical poses, which are called asanas. They also usually include some form of breathing technique along with a meditation technique. Some yoga classes are designed purely for relaxation, while other styles of yoga will teach one how to move their body in new ways. Choosing one of these styles offers the greatest health benefits by allowing one to develop flexibility, strength, and balance (the Health Benefits of Yoga, 2009).

TOPIC: Essay on Yoga Benefits Health Assignment

There is limited data available on the characteristics of yoga users in the U.S. According to data from the 2002 National Health Interview Survey in 2002, yoga users were predominately Caucasian (85%) and female (76%) with a mean age of 39.5 years. Musculoskeletal conditions, mental health conditions, severe sprains in the last 12 months and asthma were reported as being associated with higher yoga use. A majority of yoga users (61%) felt yoga was important in maintaining health, though only 25% disclosed yoga practice to their medical professional. It was found that yoga users are more likely to be white, female, young and college educated. Overall yoga users reported benefits for musculoskeletal conditions and mental health, indicating that further research on the efficacy of yoga for the treatment and prevention of these conditions is warranted (Birdee, Legedza, Saper, Bertisch, Eisenberg, Phillips, 2008)

Research has found that yoga improves the quality of life and reduces pain for many people with a variety of health issues. Conditions such as multiple sclerosis, carpal tunnel syndrome, asthma, physical pain and restrictions, high blood pressure, emotional distress, and chronic fatigue syndrome have been found to respond positively to yoga practice. Some hospitals have begun to incorporate yoga for both patients and staff. It should be remembered that Yoga should not be used to replace medical treatment without the supervision of a physician (Ramquist, n.d.).

Findings

Over the past several years, yoga has experienced a rise in popularity in the western world among medical professionals. While many people associate yoga with new age spirituality or the latest fad at the gym, yoga is actually an ancient practice that connects the mind, body, and spirit through body poses, controlled breathing, and meditation. The practice of yoga has been found to have many health benefits associated with it. It has been found that yoga provides patients with many physical benefits including: flexibility, strength, muscle tone, pain prevention, and better breathing. There are also mental benefits that can be realized that include: mental calmness, stress reduction, and body awareness (Pizer, 2008).

From lowering blood pressure to increasing pain tolerance, the following health benefits have all been discovered within the body while practicing yoga. A consistent yoga practice has been found to decrease blood pressure through better circulation and oxygenation of the body. Regularly practicing yoga tends to provide a lower pulse rate. Yoga has been found to improve blood circulation, by better transporting nutrients and oxygen throughout the body. Yoga decreases a person's respiratory rate through a combination of controlled breathing exercises and better fitness. Gastrointestinal functions have been shown to improve in both men and women who practice yoga on a regular basis. Yoga practice has frequently been correlated with a stronger immune system while pain tolerance is much higher among those who practice yoga regularly. Consistent yoga practice has been found to help people find a balance that creates a more efficient metabolism (Walker, 2007).

Just as many health benefits occur within the body, there are many benefits that can actually be experienced from outside the body as well. Yoga has been found to stimulate the detoxification process within the body and detoxification has been shown to delay aging, among many other health benefits. The very nature of yoga teaches one how to hold and control one's body in a more healthful position. Through consistent practice, a person's posture will improve so that they look more confident and healthy. One of the premises of yoga is that one uses the weight of one's own body for overall strength. Regular yoga practice provides a person with consistent energy. Most people who practice yoga state that when they perform yoga correctly they feel more energized (Walker, 2007).

Discussion

An integral part of the yoga practice is balance and control over one's body. With consistent practice, a person will find that their overall balance will improve outside the yoga class. Yoga is derivative of Sanskrit and means to join together and direct one's attention. People find that their body works together much better, resulting in more graceful and efficient body movements. Doing yoga will give one an increased awareness of their own body. Over time, this will increase the level of comfort that one has with their body, which can lead to improved posture and greater self-confidence (Walker, 2007).

Due to the strong mind-body connection of yoga, there are many emotional benefits that can be gained from a consistent yoga practice. The combination of creating a strong mind-body connection, creating a healthy body, and focusing inward can all lead to improvement in a person's mood. The concentration required during yoga practice tends to focus one's attention on the matter at hand, thereby reducing the emphasis that may have been putting on the stress in their lives. A benefit to the controlled breathing that is used in yoga is a reduction in anxiety. Some believe that any negative feelings that a person may be repressing are brought to the surface during some types of yoga exercise. It is believed that when this happens, the negative energy is no longer there, but released through exercise. Regularly releasing this negativity can lead to a reduction of depression in many people. A person who focuses inward realizes through yoga practice that perfection is not the goal and self-acceptance begins to take over. The controlled movements of yoga teach a person how to translate that self-control to all aspects of your life. There are few other exercises that offer the same mind-body connection that yoga does. Continued practice of yoga results in a balance of many hormones in the body which brings about a more stable and positive approach to life. Most people report a huge reduction in the amount of hostility they feel as well as a sense of control when anger flares. This calm effect is likely from the relaxation and meditation that is incorporated in the yoga practice that leads to an overall calming of the nervous system. Less hostility means lower blood pressure and stress and a healthier approach to life (Walker, 2007).

Research has shown that as little as eight weeks of yoga practice can result in better concentration and more motivation. Enhanced blood circulation to the brain as well as the reduction in stress and improved focus often results in a better memory. The attention that is required in yoga to maintain the structured breathing in conjunction with yoga poses sharpens a person's ability to keep focused on tasks. In yoga, one learns the interconnectedness of all of life. Having to concentrate so intently on what the body is doing has the effect of bringing about calmness (Walker, 2007).

Several aspects of body chemistry such as glucose levels and red blood cells are often affected by yoga. Yoga practice has been seen to lower cholesterol through increased blood circulation and the burning of fat. Yoga practice has been found to be a great tool to fight against harmful cholesterol levels. One's lymphatic system boosts immunity and reduces toxins in the body and the only way to get the lymphatic system flowing well is by movement. The specific movements that are involved in yoga are particularly well-suited for promoting a strong lymphatic system. There is strong evidence to suggest that yoga may lower blood glucose levels. Like a lot of other good exercise programs, yoga also reduces the sodium levels in the body. In today's world of processed and fast… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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