Yoga and its benefits
Yoga is one of the six āstika ("orthodox") schools of Hindu philosophy. One of the most detailed and thorough expositions on the subject are the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali. Various traditions of yoga are found in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism
Hindu monks, beginning with Swami Vivekananda, brought yoga to the West in the late 19th century. In the 1980s, yoga became popular as a physical system of health exercises across the Western world. Many studies have tried to determine the effectiveness of yoga as a complementary intervention for cancer, schizophrenia, asthma and heart patients. In a national survey, long-term yoga practitioners in the United States reported musculo–skeletal and mental health improvements.
Generally put, yoga is a disciplined method utilized for attaining a goal. In this sense, the purpose of yoga depends on the philosophical or theological system with which it is conjugated.Bhakti schools of Vaishnavism combine yoga with devotion to enjoy an eternal presence of Vishnu. In Shaiva theology, yoga is used to unite kundalini with Shiva. Mahabharata defines the purpose of yoga as the experience of Brahman or Ātman pervading all things. In the specific sense of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, the purpose of yoga is defined as citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ (the cessation of the transformation of awareness). In contemporary times, the physical postures of yoga are used to alleviate health problems, reduce stress and make the spine supple. Yoga is also used as a complete exercise program and physical therapy routine.
Yoga as medicine. Potential Benefits for Adults
Long-term yoga practitioners in the United States have reported musculoskeletal and mental health improvements, as well as reduced symptoms of asthma in asthmatics. Regular yoga practice increases brain GABA levels and has been shown to improve mood and anxiety more than some other metabolically matched exercises, such as walking. The three main focuses of Hatha yoga (exercise, breathing, and meditation) make it beneficial to those suffering from heart disease. Overall, studies of the effects of yoga on heart disease suggest that yoga may reduce high blood pressure, improve symptoms of heart failure, enhance cardiac rehabilitation, and lower cardiovascular risk factors. For chronic low back pain, specialist Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs has been found 30% more beneficial than usual care alone in a UK clinical trial. Other smaller studies support this finding. The Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs programme is the dominant treatment for society (both cheaper and more effective than usual care alone) due to 8.5 fewer days off work each year. A research group from Boston University School of Medicine also tested yoga’s effects on lower back pain. Over twelve weeks, one group of volunteers practiced yoga while the control group continued with standard treatment for back pain. The reported pain for yoga participants decreased by one third, while the standard treatment group had only a five percent drop. Yoga participants also had a drop of 80% in pain medication use.
There has been an emergence of studies investigating yoga as a complementary intervention for cancer patients. Yoga is used for treatment of cancer patients to decrease depression, insomnia, pain, and fatigue and increase anxiety control. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programs include yoga as a mind-body technique to reduce stress. A study found that after seven weeks the group treated with yoga reported significantly less mood disturbance and reduced stress compared to the control group. Another study found that MBSR had showed positive effects on sleep anxiety, quality of life, and spiritual growth.
Researchers at Washington State University conducted a study in 2007 to see if there was a link between yoga and the health of breast cancer patients. Their results showed that Iyengar yoga could help reduce the inflammation caused by therapy. The ten women in the yoga group participated in 90-minute yoga sessions three times a week for eight consecutive weeks, while the others continued with their normal routines and treatments. At the end of the eight weeks, the researchers compared blood tests and quality-of-life surveys of the yoga group and control group. The researchers noted that the majority of the test subjects were clinically depressed prior to the trial, but after eight weeks of yoga, the yoga group reported less fatigue and better moods.
Other researchers have looked into yoga as a supplementary or alternative treatment for arthritis. Researchers in the United Arab Emirates studied a group of over forty rheumatoid arthritis patients to see if yoga could be effective in treating the disease. The yoga group completed twelve sessions of Raj yoga, which combines exercise and breathing techniques. The yoga group showed improvement in disease activity scores, but there was no statistically significant evidence to show that their quality of life improved.
Yoga has also been studied as a treatment for schizophrenia. Yoga is found to improve cognitive functions and reduce stress in schizophrenia, a condition associated with cognitive deficits and stress-related relapse. In one study, at the end of four months those patients treated with yoga were better in their social and occupational functions and quality of life. The practice of yoga in Hindu tradition also has psychological benefits, allowing one to develop control over one's mind and body. Rather than adapting the sick or mentally ill mind (the primary focus of modern psychology), traditional Hindu psychology focuses on enhancing the normal and healthy mind through the practice of meditative techniques such as yoga.
Implementation of the Kundalini Yoga Lifestyle has shown to help substance abuse addicts increase their quality of life according to psychological questionnaires like the Behavior and Symptom Identification Scale and the Quality of Recovery Index.
A small percentage of yoga practitioners each year suffer physical injuries analogous to sports injuries; caution and common sense are recommended. Yoga has been criticised for being potentially dangerous and being a cause for a range of serious medical conditions including thoracic outlet syndrome, degenerative arthritis of the cervical spine, spinal stenosis, retinal tears, damage to the common fibular nerve, so called "Yoga foot drop," etc. An exposé of these problems by William Broad published in January, 2012 in The New York Times Magazine resulted in controversy and denial in the yoga community in New York City where yoga is popular. Broad, a science writer, experienced yoga practitioner, and author of The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards, had suffered a back injury while performing a yoga exercise. Torn muscles, knee injuries, and headaches are common ailments which may result from yoga practice.
An extensive survey of yoga practitioners in Australia showed that about 20% had suffered some physical injury while practicing yoga. In the previous 12 months 4.6% of the respondents had suffered an injury producing prolonged pain or requiring medical treatment. Headstands, shoulder stands, lotus and half lotus (seated cross-legged position), forward bends, backward bends, and handstands produced the greatest number of injuries.
Some yoga practitioners do not recommend certain yoga exercises for women during menstruation, for pregnant women, or for nursing mothers. However, mediation and breathing exercises are encouraged.
Among the main reasons that experts cite for causing negative effects from yoga, beginners' competitiveness and instructors' lack of qualification are foremost. As the demand for yoga classes grows, many people get trained and certified to become yoga instructors. However, not every newly certified instructor can evaluate the condition of every new trainee in their class and recommend refraining from doing certain poses to avoid injuries. In turn, a beginning yoga student can overestimate the abilities of their body and strive to do advanced poses before their body is flexible enough to perform them.
Vertebral artery dissection, a tear in the arteries in the neck which provide blood to the brain can result from rotation of the neck while the neck is extended. This can occur in a variety of contexts, for example, in a beauty shop while your hair is being rinsed, but is an event which could occur in some yoga practices. This is a very serious condition which can result in a stroke.
Acetabular labral tears, damage to the structure joining the femur and the hip, have been reported to have resulted from yoga practice and engagement in sports.
The American Yoga Association states, "Yoga exercises are not recommended for children under 16 because their bodies’ nervous and glandular systems are still growing, and the effect of Yoga exercises on these systems may interfere with natural growth." However, meditation and simple breathing exercises (without breath-holding) are safe and can help children to manage stress, impulsiveness, and emotional situations.
Yoga teachers and how-to books seldom mention that the discipline began as a sex cult — an omission that leaves many practitioners open to libidinal surprise.
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