About The Health Benefits Of Yoga Training

You hear a lot of talk about the health benefits of yoga. As teachers, we see our students change on a daily basis; but the buzz about what we do and what we see can quickly be put in its place by a Doubting Thomas who says, "Prove it." There is a reason why every yoga teacher needs to know about the proven health benefits in studies, research, trials, and exactly where to find the facts. We can put the next Doubting Thomas back in a closet, and all of this research is good for expanding our minds.

Proven Yoga Health Benefits

Yoga is a system of health maintenance that attempts to combine the body, mind, and spirit into an integrated unit to promote health and increase longevity. The yoga positions, called asanas, are combined with breathing exercises and mental concentration, to encourage a state of physical calm and mental clarity. Yogic practice is thought to go back before Vedic times, but today, scientists are learning about its true value as an aid to health.

Reducing Depression

The practice of yoga can have measurable effects on well-being and mood. A 2012 University of Michigan study showed that yoga can help pregnant women, who were considered at high risk for postpartum depression, benefited from a 10-week period of yoga exercises. Because pregnancy hormones have been linked to the incidence of depression after the birth of the child, the study investigated whether a pre-emptive approach to stress relief, through yoga, would reduce the incidence of women with this condition. Results showed that women were able to manage stress symptoms more easily and were more accepting of non-pharmaceutical methods for controlling depressive symptoms, leading to both healthier mothers and healthier babies. The reduced stress also allowed for better bonding between mother and child.

Decreasing Inflammation

A study done at Ohio State University, in 2010, found that subjects, who did yoga on a regular basis, had lower levels of a chemical called IL-6, cytokine interleukin, in their bloodstreams. This chemical is implicated in higher incidences of inflammation in the body and is linked to heart disease, type-2 diabetes, stroke and other age-related diseases. The results suggest that yoga exercise can help to reduce inflammation throughout the body and improve health as people age.

Lower Back Pain

Yoga has also been found to significantly improve pain and disability from chronic low back pain. A 2009 study from the Department of Community Medicine, at West Virginia University, found that subjects, who practiced yoga over a 24-week period, had reduced pain symptoms, greater function, fewer symptoms of depression and a trend toward using less medication than the control group. These results suggest that people, who suffer from chronic lower back conditions, should consider yoga classes as a valuable therapeutic alternative.

Emotional Benefits of Yoga Training

In addition to the many ways yoga helps your body, it also has many emotional benefits. People, who practice yoga, usually find that they are more relaxed and centered after a session. Over time, this can carry over into everyday life. Let's look at some of the emotional and psychological advantages to yoga training.

Stress is one of the biggest problems of modern life. It has been associated with many medical conditions, including obesity and high blood pressure. Yoga is one of the best methods to reduce stress, for several reasons.

Exercise, in general, can be effective for relieving stress, but yoga is especially good for accomplishing this. Yoga postures force the practitioner to focus on the details of each movement. This not only works out the body, but gives the mind a useful task upon which to concentrate.

Another reason yoga is so beneficial in this regard is that it promotes deep breathing. Stress is associated with shallow and fast breathing. When you are stressed out, you also tend to breathe higher up, through the chest or lungs, and not the abdomen. Yoga teaches you to slow down your breathing and to breathe through your diaphragm. This can very quickly help you feel more centered and relaxed.

More Research

Yoga can also make you feel more positive and confident. A 2010 study, conducted at the Boston School of Medicine, found that yoga is more effective than walking - when it comes to reducing anxiety and putting people in a better mood. This suggests that yoga might be effective for helping people with depression and other mood disorders, though more research has to be done before this can be stated conclusively.

One indirect way yoga can be emotionally beneficial is in its ability to help you get a better night's sleep. Lack of sleep can cause quite a bit of stress and other emotional difficulties. Yoga training can be useful for giving the body a workout that's stimulating, yet not so stimulating that it interferes with sleep. Unlike many other types of exercise, you can practice many yoga postures close to bedtime.

There are many emotional, as well as physical benefits, to practicing yoga. Many people find that certain postures, or styles of yoga, are particularly helpful for certain purposes, such as relaxing or winding down after a day at work. There is little doubt that practicing yoga can help a person feel better in many ways.

Yoga Calms the Mind

The breathing techniques of yoga are designed to calm the mind, body, and soul. By concentrating on the in and out rhythm of your breathing, you are forced to be in the present moment, as opposed to worrying about the past or future. It helps clear the mind of all the unnecessary worry and preoccupation with everything that is going on in life and what needs to get done. It cleanses the palette of the mind, if you will, and prepares for a new day. That way you can start afresh after your cleansing, instead of continuing to allow those thoughts to compound and clutter the mind.

Yoga Increases Body Awareness

Yoga teaches how to become in tune with your body and to be able to recognize when it is being held in a state of tension or anxiety, both which are dangerous health risks and contribute to the onset of stroke, heart attack, panic attacks and extreme anxiety. Yoga teaches you to recognize when your body is in this state of stress and tension. By knowing what physical warning signs to look for, and how the body reacts physically, you can then use the yoga breathing techniques to calm the body back to its normal state, where you are at peace and feel in control, calm, and balanced. Concentrating on breath and body, through these yoga practices, eases tension and relaxes the mind and body. Some of the physical warning signs that the body is under stress include:

• Clenched fists

• Gritting teeth

• Labored breathing

• Tightened or clinched muscles

• Excessive fidgeting

• Restlessness

Yoga Enhances Overall Well-being

We all know that exercise relieves stress and tension. There are, however, many who cannot do strenuous exercises due to one medical reason or another. For these people, yoga is a welcomed alternative to vigorous exercise routines. Yoga focuses largely on stretching the body and deep breathing. While not a high impact or strenuous workout, yoga is very powerful and has beneficial effects on the body, mind, and soul. The stretching elongates the muscles and limbers them up - making it easier to get around and accomplish everyday tasks in your daily routine. It increases blood circulation, pumping more blood to the heart and brain, which gives you a boost of energy and flexibility. The heavy breathing increases oxygen to the blood and heart, which increases alertness and relaxes the body, while ridding it of negative or toxic thoughts, through visualization. By envisioning the inhaling as taking in positive energy and the exhaling as releasing the negative, yoga invokes a feeling of overall well being and peace.

Not Just for the Body

Yoga is not just for the body, though it does have a positive affect on the limbs and joints. It is designed as a mind, body, and soul experience that enhances overall well being. It has far reaching benefits and is an excellent form of exercise for all ages.

Benefits of Kundalini Yoga

Although the aim of Kundalini Yoga is to awaken the coiled energy at the base of the spine, the practice itself provides a number of benefits that can be enjoyed while striving to achieve a full awakening. With the help of effective breathing techniques and gentle movements, this form of yoga can greatly reduce stress and bring happiness into your life.

Reduced Stress

Kundalini focuses greatly on yogic breathing (pranayama), and there are quite a few techniques that provide varying positive effects on the mind and body. Many of these techniques encourage long, deep breaths, which help to relax the body and melt away stress. The movements that are practiced also help to stretch and loosen muscles. Simply relieving tension in the body can greatly reduce your stress levels and improve your mood.

Strengthened Core

Many Kundalini movements and techniques work the core or abdominal muscles. Breath of fire, in particular, works the navel center. A strong core is essential in yoga and helps to improve your posture in daily life. The navel chakra is also associated with emotions, so strengthening your core muscles can go a long way in helping you better control your emotions and handle life's many triggers to stress.

Present Moment Awareness

Part of the reason why so many people are drawn to this particular type of yoga is the fact that it allows them to easily bring themselves into the present moment. Breath of fire, left nostril breathing, and the movements associated with Kundalini Yoga, all require great concentration and awareness. Practitioners find that they are able to leave their past behind and forget their anticipation of the future during their yoga sessions. Being in the present moment, allows you to appreciate what you already have and worry less about what you do not have.

Improved Lung Capacity

The breathing techniques practiced in Kundalini Yoga greatly improve lung capacity. Most people today do not know how to breathe properly, which can be detrimental to both physical and mental health. When lung capacity is improved, more oxygen can flow through the body. In turn, memory is improved and mental clarity can be achieved. Higher oxygen levels also allow the body to move freely and reduce muscle tension.

A Sense of Peace and Joy

Much like other forms of yoga, Kundalini improves the practitioner's overall emotional well-being. Meditation plays a major role in this practice, which keeps the mind grounded and provides peace of mind. Taking time out of your day, to relax and calm your mind, will bring forth great joy and happiness.

The Safety of Kundalini Yoga

Kundalini Yoga, the "yoga of awareness," which is also known as Laya Yoga, incorporates all branches and aspects of yoga traditions. Some Kundalini practitioners refer to it as "the mother of all forms of yoga." Through the awakening of Kundalini energy, the practice aims to bring individuals, not only personal awareness, but to also unleash the ability to compassionately serve the needs of others. Practitioners feel it is Kundalini's life force energy that can balance the nervous and glandular systems, chakras and meridians. Through a wide range of techniques, students of Kundalini Yoga are often able to arrive at intense physical and emotional states.

It is such powerful experiences that cause some to question the safety of Kundalini Yoga. It has been touted, however, as not only safe, but also therapeutic for complex emotional disorders. This appealing possibility is precisely what David S. Shannahoff-Khalsa, PhD of Bangalore's Sri Vivekananda Yoga University, an expert in both yoga and psychiatry, claims in his 2010 book "Kundalini Yoga Meditation for Complex Psychiatric Disorders." His case histories include examples ranging from ADHD and Autism, to personality and mood disorders, that were all treated with Kundalini Yoga. This drug-free therapy, he claims, has more than proven itself, not only safe for personal growth, but also an effective tool for healing.

Dr. Shannahoff-Khalsa's view of yoga, as a safe therapeutic option, has been supported by numerous scientists, including researchers from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and the Neurology Department at RML Hospital and PGIMER, GGS-IP University in New Delhi. Their 2007 study concluded that patients received statistically greater relief from symptoms by practicing yoga, as compared to controls that received medication.

With so many researchers hailing the safety and therapeutic value of Kundalini Yoga, why is there reason for concern? Lifelong yoga practitioner, William J. Broad, covers the potential problems of Kundalini Yoga in his comprehensive 2012 book, "The Science of Yoga: The Myths and Rewards." He describes that nerve damage, including thoracic outlet syndrome and quadriplegia, has arisen in certain cases during poses such as headstands. Practitioners, however, do not as often mention these rarities as being their primary fear. They instead describe anecdotal evidence, that unleashing the power of Kundalini energy, can be a mentally destabilizing experience, requiring precise breathing to direct this force toward either destruction or healing. Science has shown, however, that guided Kundalini Yoga practice can bring mental clarity, and even mental healing, to its practitioners.

Teaching Yoga To Cancer Patients

Yoga is an art form that is greatly appreciated for its positive effects on the body. Physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health are each enhanced through the practice of yoga and other holistic methods. Yoga is a calm and relaxing method of strengthening the body and ridding it of toxins, making it an ideal exercise for patients who have long-term or terminal illnesses. Cancer is a disease that is growing rapidly in today's world, but few know the benefits of yoga to cancer patients.

The illness itself is not the only thing that negatively affects cancer patients; the majority of treatments, such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy, also have long-term detrimental effects. While the symptoms and signs of the disease can be terrible and debilitating, the treatments can be just as harsh on the body. It is important for these patients to find ways to alleviate some of their pain, without medication and more potentially painful treatments, as these things can sometimes be more harmful than helpful, when considering a long-term period of illness.

Metastatic, malignant cancer cells are not the only toxins circulating in the bodies of cancer patients. The remnants of treatment can remain in the body for long periods of time and may produce illness later. Yoga increases blood flow without increasing blood pressure, and gentle poses will assist in balancing metabolic processes and increasing the activity of the lymphatic system, beginning the elimination of these toxins from the system. The slow movements and deep, therapeutic breathing increase oxygen flow in the body, allowing for further toxin removal.

Not only are there physical benefits to teaching yoga to cancer patients, but the mental and emotional benefits are great. Yoga has been proven to reduce anxiety and stress, alleviate migraines, and relieves tension throughout the entire body. Anxiety and tension have been linked directly to immunosuppressant effects, and by reducing these feelings in the body, patients are increasing their body's own natural defense against illness, including cancer.

The beginning lessons may be difficult for some cancer patients, particularly if their body has succumbed to the illness greatly, but the benefits of yoga are worth the initial rough start. The deep breathing exercises (pranayama) are also an important aspect of teaching yoga to cancer patients. As time progresses, patients will find that regular, restorative yoga exercises helps them cleanse their bodies and gives them a sense of comfort and ease, washing away their anxieties and worries.