At the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, doctors have been studying the results of yoga practice on stress levels for years.
The Happy Result: yoga works!
Especially Hatha Yoga, these physicians discovered. Hatha yoga combines poses--downward dog, plank, cobra, triangle, etc.--with controlled breathing for the net result of stress management and relaxation. Left unchecked, stress can lead to:
weight gain -- probably due to eating comfort food!
With its quiet, precise movements, yogic practice draws your mind away from your busy, chaotic day. Breathing also demands extra attention in this healthy living exercise.
Would you like to look around a yoga studio? A click on photo above will lead you to Eileen's studio in Abbotsford, British Columbia.
It's Important to Breathe
In this practice, breath signifies your vital energy. You learn to control your breathing...which in turn helps you control your body and gain control of your mind.
How? Some instructors will ask you to take deep, loud breaths, forcing you to concentrate on what you would otherwise take for granted. Others will ask you to simply pay attention to your breath as it moves into your body, filling your lungs...
... In fact, try filling your lungs right now. I know you're sitting, so it won't be a full breath, but inhale deeply, let your belly expand, and drop your shoulders back as you release that breath. Feel that? We often take our breathing for granted and breathe shallowly. Yoga challenges that.
To see such breathing demonstrated, as well as the "corpse pose" and "mountain pose" view this 4 1/2 minute video from New Zealand.
But there's more benefit than breathing deeply...
Gaining a Healthy Body through the Postures
Flexibility. That definitely improves with the practice of yoga! I found that after over 14 years of struggling with chronic low back pain, the slow, gentle, precise movements of yogic postures finally ended my pain. When I feel the old tightness and ache, I treat my spine to a series of planks, lunges, warriors and downward dog poses. (Although I still hate downward dog; it does work!)
Additional chronic health conditions found to improve with yoga:
carpal tunnel syndrome
osteoarthritis of the knees
...and when combined with a vegetarian diet, aerobic exercise and medication, yoga has reduced cardiovascular disease rates and blood pressure levels.
Especially useful for Healthy Aging
Specific concerns for aging adults respond to this practice. Those coping with cancer--and their caregivers--find that they have an improved quality of life, and sleep better at night! Balance improves, helping older adults stay steady on their feet and avoid falls and hip fractures. Alzheimer's caregivers find that this practice boosts their mood, increasing their ability to cope with the stress and fatigue inherent in their situation.