Historically, much of the research that has been done on the health benefits of yoga has been conducted in India. Only in the last several decades, as interest in yoga practice swept the nation, have American researchers begun to examine the topic in replicable scientific studies.
The National Institutes of Health recently completed a study on “Yoga to Reduce Cancer Fatigue” with preliminary results indicating a positive effect of yoga on the lessening of fatigue in cancer patients. The NIH is currently recruiting for studies on the effects of yoga on unipolar and bipolar disorders, on fatigue and sleep in cancer, yoga for the treatment of pediatric headaches, yoga for chronic low back pain, the efficacy of yoga for treatment-resistant post-traumatic stress disorder and the effects of yoga in breast cancer patients.
Yoga is said to help practitioners sleep better. The yoga poses increase blood supply to the brain and help normalize the sleep cycle while helping to eliminate toxins from the body. Because of the increased ability to relax, sleep can be more restful and the time it takes to fall asleep can be shorter.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, doing yoga on a consistent basis helps keep the spine strong and flexible. The muscles are stretched and circulation is stimulated. Therapeutic yoga is recommended for low back pain.
Yoga teaches how to breathe correctly. When you don’t breathe properly or hold your breath, you create tension in the body. By taking deep breaths and releasing them slowly, the body and mind learn how to better relax. Also, by learning to quiet the mind, you can learn to focus your attention more effectively.
Studies at the University of Iowa’s Hospitals and Clinics Complimentary and Alternative Medicine Clinic have found that the practice of yoga can reduce the need for medication in mild cases of asthma and high blood pressure. Yoga also can help patients cope with diseases such as Parkinson’s, cerebral palsy and ADHD.
Yoga as Exercise
Yoga is an ideal form of exercise and offers many fitness benefits. It helps develop strength, flexibility and stamina, boosts vitality and helps the body heal. Yoga can help create a more alert yet tranquil state of mind. Practitioners of yoga report mood improvement and a reduction of anxiety, depression and hostility. Researchers are working to substantiate these claims and are continuing to examine the biochemical benefits of yoga on healthy people and on people with particular diseases.