Long revered for its spiritual and mental benefits, yoga is fast becoming equally valued for its benefits in reversing the effects of modern chronic diseases.
For more than 5,000 years humans have practiced the ancient Indian art of yoga. Long revered for its spiritual and mental benefits, yoga is fast becoming equally valued for its benefits in reversing the effects of modern chronic diseases.
A new study from Harvard University finds that yoga has particular benefits for your heart.
In a meta-analysis of 32 randomized controlled trials, researchers concluded that a yoga practice lowers heart disease risks as well as the risks of metabolic syndrome.
Metabolic syndrome is defined as having at least three of the following metabolic risk factors – increased blood pressure, high blood sugar level, excess body fat, and abnormal cholesterol levels. It greatly increases the chance of cardiovascular problems.
Compared to people who didn’t exercise, yoga practitioners had:
- lower body mass index and weight
- lower blood pressure
- lower LDL cholesterol and higher HDL cholesterol
- lower triglycerides
- lower heart rate
The researchers still aren’t sure how yoga works its magic in reducing cardiovascular disease. But they noted that yoga helps reduce the effects of stress, leading to positive impacts on the neuroendocrine system, metabolic function, and inflammation.
In fact, they found that yoga may provide the same benefits in heart risk reduction as traditional physical activity such as cycling or brisk walking. That makes yoga a good alternative for people who can’t or won’t engage in traditional aerobic exercise.
Yoga means “union” in Sanskrit. It incorporates physical, mental, and spiritual elements. The researchers noted that in the West, the Hatha style of yoga is most commonly practiced. Hatha yoga focuses on stretching and stimulating the spine and muscles in coordination with breath control.
Besides its heart benefits, yoga has been proven to:
- Improve insulin resistance: A 2005 review found improvements in insulin resistance syndrome with yoga.
- Help smokers quit: Twice-weekly Vinyasa-style yoga improved smokers’ odds of 7-day and 24-hour abstinence.
- Benefit patients with cardiac heart failure.
- Reduce urinary incontinence by 70%.
- Reduce chronic lower back pain.
- Reduce blood sugar in type 2 diabetics.
- Improve brain function.
- Improve bronchial asthma.
- Relieve carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Lower cortisol levels and relieve stress
- Help fibromyalgia patients.
- Improve obsessive-compulsive disorder.
- Improve behavioral skill in children with autism.
- Relieve computer eye strain.
- Improve osteoarthritis of the hands.
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