Hi, Dr. Connie here.

 

I’ve loved exercise ever since I was a teenager.  My first exercise guru was Jane Fonda.

 

When I was old enough, I joined the gym and enjoyed a plethora of aerobic and strength training exercises. I used to also love early morning runs.

 

My exercise routine varied as the fitness industry evolved.

 

However, the endorphin rush and the energy surge after exercise was rare for me.  I became fatigued and tired, but because health experts insisted that exercise helps with energy boost, I ignored my fatigue and kept doing more.

 

As a graduate student studying nutrition, wellness, and prevention, the idea that exercise was good for everyone was widely accepted.  So I believed the more you could do, the better it was for your health.

My understanding was challenged when I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder.   I could not keep up with all the high impact, strength training exercises I used to do.

 

I was simply too tired and my muscles were so sore that I would need days to recover.

 

Then I learned that too much exercise can cause the muscles to degrade (catabolism) rather than build up (anabolism), especially if you have an underlying inflammatory condition like an autoimmune disease.

 

Because I understood that building muscle was vital to my health and longevity, I wanted to find something that I can enjoy long term.

 

Discovering What Was Right For My Body

I began with Pilates first and loved the toning effects it had on my body.

 

Then I found Yoga.  I began with Vinyasa Yoga then became obsessed with Bikram Yoga. Soon after, I got certified in Ashtanga Yoga.

 

Yoga was instrumental in transforming my body and mind.  I truly attribute my strength and flexibility to the practice of mindful Yoga, and more importantly, it’s a practice I can grow old with.

 

So today I wanted to share why you should begin practicing yoga.

 

What Does Yoga Involve?

The practice of Yoga has become mainstream in America, with over 37 million people in the U.S. (nearly 1 in 10 Americans) practicing it on a regular basis.

 

So what is this craze with this ancient practice?

 

Traditional Yoga originated in India more than 2,000 years ago.  Yoga is a complex, rather esoteric system involving eight different “arms” or divisions.

 

These arms include disciplined practices, such as breathing, postures, concentration, meditation, and withdrawal of the senses, first focusing on the outer world, then turning the focus inward until liberation or enlightenment, known as Samadhi, is achieved.

 

Modern Yoga, however, tends to be focused on the physical postures known as asanas, as well as breathing and concentration.

 

But even physical focused Yoga is powerful and differs drastically from simple stretching or other fitness routines.

 

Yoga is a complete practice that connects the mind to the body.  It allows for connection of your oscillating thoughts with the movements of your body and the cycles of your breath in the most profound, healing way.

 

This powerful connection directs your attention inward.   It is this inward insight that helps you to cultivate an awareness of your thought patterns.

 

And rather than trying to suppress, control, or judge those thoughts, it allows us to observe our tendencies.

 

Over time, this practice of awareness allows your mind and body to be more flexible.

 

If you ask anyone who practices Yoga regularly why they practice it, they’ll tell you that “yoga makes them feel better”.

 

Seven Reasons to Begin Practicing Yoga Today

I regularly prescribe Yoga to our patients because of this powerful healing potential.

 

This healing is backed up by numerous scientific studies that prove yoga’s impressive effects on physical and mental health.

 

Here are seven powerful reasons, all backed by science, why you should begin your yoga practice today.

1. Yoga relieves stress.

 

In our current, busy society, almost no one is immune to the effects of stress.  Whether it’s a demanding job, relationship strains,  financial crisis, or caring for a sick child or an aging parent, stress takes a toll on our body.
Under these conditions, our body’s natural “stress” response is triggered. When under stress, our blood pressure goes up, heart rate increases, and cortisol (stress hormone) pours into our bloodstream.  And over time, this can wreak havoc on your health.
Yoga allows us to escape the madness and turn inward.  Not only that, research confirms that practicing yoga can have a direct effect on reducing cortisol levels. [1,2]

2. Yoga decreases anxiety

 

So many of us are riddled with anxiety.  It’s estimated that 1 in 4 adults suffer from an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives.
Even without officially being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, it’s highly likely that you’ve experienced periods of debilitating anxiety, brought on by life circumstances.
Yoga is proven to be effective at reducing anxiety symptoms and has been found to be effective in the treatment of depression. [3,4]

3. Yoga can help decrease inflammation.

 

Inflammation is the root of many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, autoimmune, and Alzheimer’s disease.
We also know that inflammation is playing a major role in many health conditions.  Research confirms this so much so that the National Institutes of Health announced in 2015 that inflammation is one of its top research priorities.
In a 2017 study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 38 people participated in a three-month yoga and meditation retreat.
In addition to self-reported decreases in anxiety and depression, participants had reduced levels of inflammatory markers in the body and increased levels of anti-inflammatory markers. [5]

4. Yoga lowers risk of heart disease.

 

Yoga is known to reduce blood pressure, which alone can decrease a person’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
But, a new study presented at the 2017 American College of Cardiology Middle East Conference in Dubai looked at 750 patients who had been diagnosed with coronary artery disease.
The patients who practiced yoga in addition to aerobic exercise resulted in two times reduction in blood pressure, body mass index, and cholesterol levels over those who only practiced the aerobic exercise or yoga alone.
This suggests that yoga, when combined with traditional modalities, can be a powerful adjunct in prevention and recovery from heart disease. [6]

5. Yoga helps in getting quality sleep.

 

Many of us struggle getting quality sleep.  This is largely due to the technologically “connected” world we live in, with its constant demands plus exposure to sleep-disrupting blue light waves from your electronic devices.
Yoga has an ability to induce physical, as well as mental relaxation, which naturally helps with restful sleep.
Older people in particular have problems with sleep, including difficulty staying asleep. This results in daytime brain fog and fatigue.
A 2005 study looked at 120 residents of a home for the elderly in which a yoga-based intervention was compared to an herbal preparation and a no-treatment control group.
Those residents who received the yoga-based intervention took less time to fall asleep, stayed asleep longer, and felt more rested in the daytime. The other groups showed no change. [7]
This is powerful evidence in yoga’s effects on sleep.

6. Yoga improves flexibility, balance, and strength.

 

Increased flexibility, balance, and strength are the hallmarks of youth.  They are also well-known and obvious benefits of a yoga practice.
As we age, we tend to lose flexibility, balance, and strength.  Not only that, but when we lose these, we can be at risk for debilitating falls, which can potentially result in a permanent loss of independence, especially when older.
And it’s not only the elderly who can benefit. Yoga also helps athletes improve their performance. [8]

7. Yoga decreases pain.

 

Over 1.5 billion people worldwide suffer from chronic pain.  People with an autoimmune disorder like myself have some level of pain, not to mention low back, neck, and knee pain.
Yoga was more effective in pain reduction than massage was for me.  In fact, it was better than any modality that I used, including pain medications.
Yoga has shown to both reduce pain and improve flexibility and mobility in people who suffer from many of the conditions causing chronic pain, including low back pain and knee pain. [9,10]

Where To Start

So now that you have these seven powerful, research-backed reasons to begin your yoga practice, why wouldn’t you begin today?

 

What’s your next step?  I recommend looking for a qualified, integrative yoga practitioner to guide you in practicing safe and effective yoga.

 

You should look for a teacher who is patient, understands anatomy, understands your needs, and is passionate about what they do.

 

Of course, we’ve got just what you need at Alkaline Wellness Center.  We want to be a part of your healing journey, please join us either on our Youtube channel or visit our new Suwanee, GA location!

 

See you soon!

 

References

  1. Kishore Kumar Katuri, Ankineedu Babu Dasari, Sruthi Kurapati, et al., Association of yoga practice and serum cortisol levels in chronic periodontitis patients with stress-related anxiety and depression, J Int Soc Prev Community Dent. 2016 Jan-Feb; 6(1):7-14.
  2. Vedamurthachar A1, Janakiramaiah N, Hegde JM, et al., Antidepressant efficacy and hormonal effects of Sudarshana Kriya Yoga (SKY) in alcohol dependent individuals. J Affect Disord. 2006 Aug;94(1-3):249-53.
  3. Woodyard C, Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life. Int J Yoga, 2011 Jul-Dec; 4(2):49-54.
  4. Pilkington K1, Kirkwood G, Rampes H, et al., Yoga for depression: the research evidence. J Affect Disord. 2005 Dec;89(1-3):13-24
  5. Cahn BR, Goodman MS, Peterson CT, et al., Yoga, Meditation and Mind-Body Health: Increased BDNF, Cortisol Awakening Response, and Altered Inflammatory Marker Expression after a 3-Month Yoga and Meditation Retreat. Front Hum Neurosci. 2017 Jun 26;11:315.
  6. Bharshankar JR, Bharshankar RN, Deshpande VN, et al., Effect of yoga on cardiovascular system in subjects above 40 years. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 2003 Apr;47(2):202-6.
  7. Manjunath NK, Telles S., Influence of Yoga and Ayurveda on self-rated sleep in a geriatric population. Indian J Med Res. 2005 May;121(5):683-90.
  8. M Jay Polsgrove, Brandon M Eggleston, and Roch J Lockyer, Impact of 10-weeks of yoga practice on flexibility and balance of college athletes. Int J Yoga. 2016 Jan-Jun; 9(1): 27-34.
  9. Williams KA, Petronis J, Smith D, et al., Effect of Iyengar yoga therapy for chronic low back pain. Pain. 2005 May;115(1-2):107-17.
  10. Kolasinski SL, Garfinkel M, Tsai AG, et al., Iyengar yoga for treating symptoms of osteoarthritis of the knees: a pilot study. J Altern Complement Med. 2005 Aug;11(4):689-93.

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