Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Benefits of Yoga

By Andrew Mitchell

You may have noticed a change in attitudes to health-related issues over the past five years. Many bookstores are selling thousands of self-help related books, books that argue that traditional eastern practices such as meditation, reiki, tai-chi and yoga are essential to having a healthy lifestyle. We will look at yoga in greater detail, especially focussing on why osteopaths recommend yoga for people who are suffering from chronic pain.

But what is yoga exactly, and how does it work? Yoga is a traditional Indian practice that dates back more than 5000 years. The term comes from the Sanskrit word Yuj, which means to join, unite, or integrate; yoga would have the purpose of integrating all aspects of the individual - body with mind and mind with soul. In order for these to be united, a balance had to be achieved between our emotions, actions, and intelligence " and thats where yoga comes in.

Through a combination of body postures (or asanas) and breathing exercises (or pranayama), yoga aims to help us reach our maximum potential and to improve our quality of life. Yoga isnt a completely spiritual practice either: many westerners are using this technique as a way to centre themselves, relax, and ease their pain. Yoga might still be rooted in spirituality, but anyone can learn it if they are willing, because regardless of each persons reason for practicing yoga, the general outcome is the same: 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 gets you into shape. It tones your muscles, and makes them stronger and more flexible, while also giving your stamina a boost.

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.

Yoga has been known to improve chronic conditions that do not respond to conventional medicine

It helps treat and prevent the ailments that osteopaths deal with on a daily basis, including arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, asthma, epilepsy, heart disease, back pain, multiple sclerosis, 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, youll start to notice changes in your mood, energy levels, and your overall health.

Indian Yogis have said it for thousands of years, and now the books and osteopaths are saying it: yoga helps you to feel better. So regardless of whether you are suffering from chronic neck pain, or are simply anxious and overworked, yoga is a practice you might want to adopt.

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