Health Hub

by Robin Gaudette

Yoga…the word stirs intense love of the mindful practice, fear of the unattainable or uncomfortable postures, or a misunderstanding of what yoga is and how even minutes a day can benefit mind, body and spirit.

A National Health Interview Survey in 2012 found 70 percent of those practicing yoga focus on whole body approach — mind, body and spirit. Respondents also listed general wellness, mood improvement, increased physical activity, improved eating habits and stress reduction as outcomes of practicing yoga.

Embracing a “yoga lifestyle” goes beyond practicing the postures. A yoga lifestyle is living a meaningful and purposeful life. It includes self-exploration of how you interact with your external environment — situational issues, environmental stressors, other people and global issues, for example.

It also provides a heightened awareness on how you are honoring your internal self — eating, smoking, alcohol, stress, etc. The yoga postures or positions create work to prepare the body for meditation and rest. Practicing enhanced breath control and concentration are woven with the postures to positively affect the life force.

Ongoing research shows that a regular yoga practice tends to decrease inflammatory markers, increases chemicals that fight inflammation and enhances immune system health.

Something that would provide even a small bump to health-related quality of life improvements is huge positive. These changes are improvements we can make in our daily life or change in our environment, over time may have a positive physiologic effect on overall health. Whether focusing on the meditative aspect or the physical postures of a yoga practice surveys show improvements in health-related quality of life.

A study of a yoga practice customized for mild-to-chronic low back pain was effective in helping participants manage pain. Yoga practice improved physical pain, general well-being, balance and improved activities of daily living in participants with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, with benefits continuing after practice was discontinued.

Yoga has shown to be helpful in enhancing medical treatment of heart conditions, not for the physical exercise requirements but improving mental and emotional well-being. With embracing the yoga lifestyle, meditation, breathing techniques and dietary modifications, improvements in the ability to handle stress and regulate emotions may lead to an improvement in blood pressure, lung capacity, heart rate and circulation.

Initial studies have shown improvement in lowering fasting blood sugar, and positively influencing glucose tolerance, glucose resistance, and cholesterol levels in those with type 2 diabetes. Across the spectrum, yoga has a positive influence on anxiety, depression and possibly PTSD.

Yoga practice involving modulating breathing, movement and relaxation help people regulate responses to stress and pain.

Immune system health and inflammatory responses seem to be on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Growing research shows a decrease in inflammatory markers and an increase in chemicals that fight inflammation in people practicing yoga. A study of women with breast cancer who did yoga for 12 weeks showed less fatigue, more vitality and fewer inflammatory markers.

Dissecting yoga and differentiating it from other forms of exercise centers around the body, mind and spirit philosophy. A yoga practice should contain breathing practices.

Connecting the mind to the breath is the first step in self-awareness. It teaches you to slow down, focus, concentrate and be able to handle situations internally. A practice focusing on precise alignment and movement will foster concentration, control and body awareness.

Mindful movement develops inner awareness, assisting in slowing down our body and mind, builds resilience and control.

Rest, regeneration, a time for quieting the mind and introspection is the reward for the work done in yoga practice. Its simplicity, gentle movement and guided breathing is accessible to almost everyone offering countless opportunities for health improvement.

— Robin Gaudette is the aquatics wellness coordinator at the Redmond Area Park and Recreation District. Contact her at robin.gaudette@raprd.org .

22274599