Friday, April 3, 2009

Body: The Benefits of Yoga

The Benefits of Yoga

By Andrew Mitchell

You may have noticed that over the past five years, there has been a great surge of interest in non-western practices to dealing with health issues. Today's bookshops are lined with sections of self-help bestsellers discussing how traditional eastern approaches such yoga, meditation, reiki, or tai chi are the key to leading a healthy, balanced life. We shall examine yoga in greater detail, particularly looking at why osteopaths recommend yoga to people with chronic physical ailments.

But what exactly is yoga, and how does it work? Yoga is a traditional Indian practice that has existed for more than 5000 years. The word yoga literally means to join, integrate, or unite in Sanskrit, its purpose being to integrate all aspects of the individual - body with mind and mind with soul. In order of this unity to occur, a balance needs to be achieved between our actions, emotions and intelligence; that's where yoga comes in.

Yoga uses a combination of body postures (or asanas) and breathing exercises (pranayama) to help us achieve our full potential and improve our quality of life. It isn't necessarily a completely spiritual practice; many westerners use this technique as a way of centring themselves, relaxing, and soothing their pain. Yoga is still embedded in spiritual origins, but anyone can learn it if they are willing, because regardless of your reasons to practice yoga, everyone experiences a similar result: it makes you feel better.

Let us now look at yoga in more detail, in terms of what it does for the body, and why so many osteopaths recommend it:

Yoga makes you fitter and gives your stamina a boost. It tones your muscles, strengthens them, and makes them more flexible.

Each pose in yoga improves circulation, sending blood to all the areas that need it most.

It purifies your abdominal system, strengthens your immune system, and cleans any unwanted toxins from the body.

Chronic conditions that do not respond to conventional medicine have been known to improve because of yoga

It helps prevent and treat symptoms that osteopaths have to deal with on a regular basis, including back pain, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, asthma, epilepsy, carpal tunnel syndrome, heart disease, and many others.

Yoga also has many benefits for your psychological well-being. It improves concentration, making it easier to stay focused during long hours at work. The breathing techniques help to combat stress and help you stay calm. And, if yoga is done regularly, you'll start to notice changes in your mood, energy levels, and your overall health.

The books say it, osteopaths are saying it, and Indian Yogis have said it for thousands of years: yoga makes you feel better. So regardless of whether you are suffering from headaches or sacroiliac joint problems, yoga is a useful practice you might want to try.

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