On International Day of Yoga (IDY), celebrated annually on June 21, people from around the world come together to embrace the ancient Indian discipline and harness its numerous health benefits. An invaluable gift of ancient Indian tradition, Yoga has emerged as one of the most trusted means to boost physical and mental well-being. The word "Yoga" is derived from the Sanskrit root yuj meaning "to join", "to yoke" or "to unite", symbolizing the unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between human and nature, and a holistic approach to health and well-being.
Research conducted by esteemed institutions like The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Harvard Health Publishing has shed light on the transformative effects of yoga on the mind, body, and spirit.
- Yoga improves strength, balance, and flexibility: Practicing yoga postures, known as asanas, can enhance your physical abilities and increase your range of motion.
- Yoga helps with back pain relief: Individuals suffering from chronic back pain may find relief through regular yoga practice, as it promotes spine alignment and strengthens the supporting muscles.
- Yoga can ease arthritis symptoms: People with arthritis can experience reduced pain and improved joint flexibility by incorporating yoga into their routine.
- Yoga benefits heart health: Yoga's focus on deep breathing, relaxation, and stress reduction can contribute to lower blood pressure, improved circulation, and a healthier heart.
- Yoga relaxes you, to help you sleep better: By calming the mind and relaxing the body, yoga can be an effective tool to combat insomnia and promote better sleep.
- Yoga can mean more energy and brighter moods: Engaging in yoga can boost energy levels, uplift mood, and alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Yoga helps you manage stress: Through controlled breathing and mindfulness techniques, yoga provides an effective outlet to manage stress and promote mental well-being.
- Yoga connects you with a supportive community: Participating in yoga classes or joining yoga communities fosters a sense of belonging and support, contributing to overall mental and emotional health.
- Yoga promotes better self-care: Emphasizing self-awareness and self-compassion, yoga encourages individuals to prioritize their physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
According to the NIH, yoga's benefits extend beyond physical health:
- It can improve general wellness by relieving stress, supporting good health habits, and enhancing mental/emotional health, sleep, and balance.
- Yoga has shown promising results in relieving low-back pain, neck pain, tension-type headaches, knee osteoarthritis, and menopause symptoms.
- It may aid in weight loss for people who are overweight or obese and help individuals quit smoking.
- Yoga can also be beneficial for managing anxiety or depressive symptoms associated with challenging life situations and chronic diseases.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) acknowledges yoga as a form of mind-body medicine, highlighting its ability to address the interactions between the brain, mind, body, and behavior. By incorporating relaxation, meditation, visualization, and other techniques, yoga promotes holistic health and well-being.
Harvard Health Publishing states Yoga is not just a physical exercise rather a comprehensive practice that works across multiple systems in your body simultaneously. Here are some of the yoga effects mentioned by the Harvard Medical School.
- Rev up your immunity: Engaging in regular yoga practice can boost your immune system. It raises the levels of natural disease-fighting antioxidants in your body, helping to ward off illness and promote overall well-being.
- Activate areas of the brain: Yoga has been found to activate areas of the brain associated with joy and happiness. Simultaneously, it diminishes the emotions linked to stress, such as anxiety and tension. By stimulating positive brain activity, yoga contributes to improved mental and emotional health.
- Switch on health-promoting genes: Surprisingly, yoga has been shown to affect gene expression. In as little as eight weeks, even for beginners, yoga can switch on genes that promote health and well-being. This highlights the power of yoga to influence our biological makeup positively.
- Decrease the need for diabetes medications: For individuals with diabetes, yoga can be a valuable addition to their treatment regimen. Research suggests that regular yoga practice can reduce the need for diabetes medications by as much as 40%, indicating its potential to support blood sugar regulation and metabolic health.
- Reduce depression, anxiety, and stress: One of the well-known benefits of yoga is its ability to alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress. By combining physical postures, breath control, and mindfulness, yoga promotes relaxation and a sense of calm. It can also increase energy levels, leaving you feeling rejuvenated and revitalized.
- Lower risk of falling and regain balance: As we age, maintaining balance becomes crucial for preventing falls and maintaining independence. Yoga can play a significant role in reducing the risk of falling and even help regain balance if you stumble. The focus on body awareness, coordination, and strengthening the core and stabilizing muscles in yoga can improve balance and stability.
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