Yoga is not good for the body, mind and soul, but it is also proven to help our brain function, back pain, arthritis, mood and sleep; we investigate alongside the experts.
An ancient practice which has seen a huge resurgence during this and the end of the last century, yoga these days is a part of practically everyone’s lives – whether you practice yourself or not you’ll be aware of the notion of it and will recognise that there’s a reason for its current popularity.
When practiced regularly (and correctly) yoga can not only create a mental, physical and spiritual balance within us, but also has significant healing benefits that are not always recognised in the mainstream. More and more studies are being carried out noting the incredibly positive results that yoga can provide, we take a look at some of the latest revelations and discoveries.
Science has proven for decades that when a person exercises aerobically the brain benefits due to new neuron growth stimulated by the activity. Recently this science has been reviewed in terms of how yoga can affect and enhance the brain’s function and structure. Some of the research focussed on people who had never tried yoga and monitored them as they began to practice consistently over the course of six months. The other studies measured the difference between those who practice regularly and those who don’t. All studies used Hatha yoga as their focus, and measured brain activity using MRI scans or single-photon emission computerised tomography. The results were unanimous in that those practicing yoga showed similar brain activity to the effects of aerobic exercise – the hippocampus increases in volume over time with regular practice. This is the part of the brain which processes our memories, it decreases with age and is affected in dementia and Alzheimer’s. As well as the hippocampus, the amygdala (just behind the ear) which regulates our emotions, also increases due to regular yoga practice. Also the prefrontal cortex responsible for our decision making and planning, cingulate cortex which focusses on emotional regulation, learning and memory, and brain networks such as the default mode network which helps us to concentrate on our self, planning and memory, all increase in function and efficiency through regular yoga practice.
There are more studies to be done to concrete the findings but the effects of regular yoga sessions seem to be associated with significantly improved cognitive performance and emotional regulation. Stress is also believed to be reduced as when the areas of the brain listed above are subject to shrinkage this causes us to struggle with decision making, suffer with emotional imbalances, become forgetful, find difficulty in multi-tasking or focussing. All of which can cause us to feel stress. Those who practice yoga regularly seem to prevent this shrinkage, and rather cause these brain functions to increase, and therefore stress, anxiety and depression are minimised or at least manageable.
PAIN & SLEEP
The two come hand in hand at times; if we fail to sleep well, our pain may well become elevated. And of course those suffering with chronic pain may not be able to sleep well because of it. Thankfully it is possible that yoga can help to relieve both issues. A research study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, showed that participants who took part in a twelve week yoga programme showed significant improvement in their sleep patterns as well as pain relief. People suffering with chronic lower back pain are often subject to lack of sleep, the prescribed medications for which are strong and often come with serious side effects. To identify a holistic approach to these afflictions is incredibly positive for such sufferers as it decreases the need for medication in a natural way.
Arthritis in all its forms can be a crippling problem, one that many people struggle to find relief from and that there is no current cure for. Recent trials have shown that yoga can be a safe and effective practice for those suffering with it. One study in particular focussed on individuals with either knee osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis; two common forms, and was the largest randomised trial ever conducted examining the effects of yoga on the physical and mental health of people living with arthritis. In the Journal of Rheumatology the results of the study were published where Susan J. Bartlett, Ph.D., associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins and associate professor at McGill University stated that, ”There’s a real surge of interest in yoga as a complementary therapy, with 1 in 10 people in the U.S. now practicing yoga to improve their health and fitness, yoga may be especially well suited to people with arthritis because it combines physical activity with potent stress management and relaxation techniques, and focuses on respecting limitations that can change from day to day.”
Yoga can serve to compliment the treatment of arthritis as it is an affliction which can affect and limit mobility as well as damage our psychological capability to live with it, thus affecting our overall wellbeing and quality of life. Activity can prove to be the most difficult thing to manage when suffering with arthritis but at the same time the most important and vital for keeping suffering to a minimum. During the study in question both physical and mental wellbeing were monitored in all participants and the findings showed that those who practiced yoga reported a 20% improvement in pain, energy levels, mood and physical function. Not only did these results occur during the trial but continued up to a year afterwards. This is incredibly positive for those who are seeking relief from the difficulties of living with arthritis, the emphasis must be stressed however that the correct style of yoga must be appointed according to the level and type of the arthritis. Therefore it is essential that a professional must be consulted to work out the right type of exercises for each individual.
Distance learning diploma course in Yoga
Here at the School of Natural Health Sciences we have over 60 holistic health therapies, all carrying accreditation for 26 countries worldwide. Our popular yoga course covers the basic benefits for obtaining relaxation through the principle of Yoga teaching different techniques and postures, together with stretching exercises, that will tone the body and enhance the mind. The course includes an easy to follow detailed routine, bringing the benefits of relieving stress and clearing the mind.