Men and women have been structured by the nature in a way that has made the movement and physical exertion a must for their health. Our skeleton is made of numerous joints. In order to prevent these joints from getting jammed, it is imperative that we keep moving. Although there is hardly anybody today that is not aware of the importance of yoga (Exercise), yet physical activity has approached its lowest level in the contemporary lifestyle. This is contrary to the huge emphasis that is being placed upon the improvement of health and safety of all individuals in the society. Restrained physical activity causes a lot of damage to health. “Adoption of this new life style has resulted in a new category of disease, termed hypokinetic diseases (diseases resulted from lack of exercise) which is directly or indirectly the result of physical inactivity, and includes coronary heath disease, hypertension, obesity, anxiety and depression and lower back problems” (Singh). Yoga has been practiced as a set of physical exercises for centuries and is known for the objectivity of its results. This paper discusses yoga and elaborates its few of its positive effects upon health.
Yoga is an umbrella term for a number of practices that date back to the ancient India. Yoga is a discipline whose practices help align the individual’s mind and body so that his/her tendency to achieve the spiritual goals is enhanced. Yoga is practiced all over the world by millions of people daily with a view to deriving health benefits from this practice and treating poor health conditions. Practices included in yoga include but are not limited to postures, exercises of breathing, meditation, alterations in the lifestyle, spiritual convictions and trends. Some of the most fundamental health benefits of yoga are pain relief, improved breathing, increased flexibility and strength. What fundamentally makes yoga different from the usual exercise is the increased emphasis yoga places upon the deep breathing and the way it customizes it according to the postures. In order to gain maximum benefits from yoga, an individual must try to pay 100 per cent attention to the exercise in general and the breathing in particular.
After exertion, people feel lethargic, weak and drained. Sometimes, the entire body starts to ache which makes it all the more awful. Yoga helps overcome such feelings. Yoga not only makes an individual feel light, but also inculcates strength. Continued practice of yoga for few months improves the strength so much that an individual starts to feel twice as strong as he/she did in the start. Yoga improves an individual’s strength by improving the threshold of golgi tendon reflex which is the individual’s tendency to restrain a contraction well before the tendons start to hurt. People who stretch their bodies regularly according to the principles of yoga enhance their stamina and improve the muscles’ tendency to let go without crumpling to the stretched tendons’ response. Yoga tones the muscles and adds to the flexibility of the spine. This is particularly useful for women that require increased muscular control. In order to achieve that, the individual needs to sit in the lotus pose with both hands placed on the knees. While doing so, the individual closes the eyes and focuses upon the breath. The breath is held inside after a long breath and the legs are stretched straight in the air. The woman pulls the lower abdomen while lifting the legs upwards and contracts the muscles of the pelvis in such a way as if she wants to pass the urine but has to hold it in for the while. After that, the air is exhaled and the posture is repeated. This practice is extremely useful for increasing the strength of abdominal muscles and the thighs. It flushes the toxins away from the digestive organs and increases the individual’s stamina and will power. The increased muscular strength is particularly beneficial for the women because it helps eradicate pain from the lower belly in the time before the menstruation or while it happens. The increased muscular strength is as beneficial for the men as it is for the women because both are able to avoid premature ejaculation and the orgasm during sex is also delayed (Handa 8).
Chronic back pain is one of the most common problems of the people of America. According to an estimate, more than 80 per cent Americans suffer from the lower back pain at least once in their lifetime (Lake 1). The therapies that target the chronic back pain are quite expensive and are not quite effective in eradicating the pain altogether. In comparison to these therapies, yoga provides people with the most cost-effective yet highly effective way of getting rid of the chronic back pain. (Groessl et al.) conducted a research to identify the advantages of yoga upon the patients of Veterans Administration (VA). It was an intervention study in which the VA patients suffering from the chronic back pain were made to endorse a yoga program by the primary care providers in addition to their regular clinical care. The VA physician who had sufficient yoga skills checked each patient before the commencement of the yoga practice to make sure that the patient was able to adequately participate in the program. The researchers examined the patients’ perceptions about the effectiveness of program through their response to the questions about the difference they felt in the depression, pain, anxiety and such other problems before and after their participation in the program. (Groessl et al.) concluded that the yoga participants were very optimistic about the effects of yoga practice upon their health. Their chronic back pain had considerably reduced in addition to the usual positive health effects of yoga. Although yoga causes a lot of improvement in the body systems that help reduce the pain, yet the cardinal strategy by which yoga functions is enlightment of the mind so that the individual’s tendency to overcome the feeling of pain is enhanced.
There is a distinction between suffering and pain in yoga. Pain is often caused by physical things, but by thinking about it and coming to negative conclusions, the mind fuels the fires of suffering, activating your stress response system. You start to see the role that the brain plays when you do meditation or breathing exercises. Pain can be modulated by experienced meditators. We know that there is pain, but they don’t do it the same way. (McCall cited in “4 Ways Yoga”).
In order to understand how yoga helps improve breathing, it is advisable to briefly review the relevant exercise as explained in (Herrick and Ainsworth 34). In the exercise for the improvement of diaphragmatic breathing, the individual is required to sit in an erect position upon the floor with both legs crossed. The individual can also do this exercise while sitting on a chair but the feet have to lay flat on the ground. The individual closes the eyes gently and focuses the mind towards the spine’s extension as well as the coolness of breath passing through the nostrils. While inhaling the air, the individual starts noticing movement of the breath in the middle as well as the upper chest, and notices how the belly starts to expand as the contraction of the diaphragm causes it to move down in way of the abdominal cavity. Then the individual notes lift in the rib cage, horizontal expansion of the ribs, and the flattening of the middle back along with the elongation of spine. Abdomen’s muscles are contracted all between the pubic bone and the navel while the air is exhaled. This increases the stability of relationship between the lumbar and the pelvis. The cycle is repeated. The individual makes sure that completed attention is being paid to the pattern of breath. The control achieved over breath consequentially is not only beneficial for the individual’s respiratory system, but also for several other body systems. “[U]nlike your heartbeat and your sweat, you can, if you choose, take control of your breathing, making it voluntary. When you do this in the proper fashion you benefit your nervous system, your circulatory system, your lymph system, and your muscular system” (Dykema 54). All of these benefits result from the decreased amount of carbon dioxide and the increased content of oxygen in the bloodstream.
The typical Bikram yoga is performed in a heated room, though it is possible to perform any practice in the same manner. In some yoga styles, the room is heated to a temperature that is above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, though suitability of conditions varies from one individual to another. Nevertheless, in conventional practice, the environment is kept warm not without a reason! Heated yoga increases the body temperature as a result of which, the receptivity of muscles towards the stretches is increased. Muscles are like clay which gets easy to manipulate when heated. Its plasticity increases when it is rubbed between the palms. Same happens with the muscles in yoga. “Given this, your body can more easily move into more challenging postures and deeper into general stretches allowing the flexibility of the muscles to improve faster then during a non-heated class” (Newell).
The yoga breathing techniques provide all cells in the body with adequate supply of oxygen. This promotes the burning up of fat cells in the body and also improves the individual’s body defense against diseases and the overall agility. Yoga enhances the coordination of all parts of the body with one another and makes the function of organs smoother which results into improved fortitude of the body. The combined effect of all the positive outcomes of yoga is that the individual’s emotional quotient is raised and his/her self-esteem is improved. Thus, yoga works on both the physical and mental level to boost the individual’s energy and increase his/her efficiency.
Physical activity is compulsory for good mental and physical health. Yoga provides a complete set of exercises that have been customized to the generic needs of human beings. Thus, they apply well in all times to all cases. There are numerous health benefits of yoga that include but are not limited to increased flexibility of the body, decreased pain particularly the chronic back pain, enhanced breathing and increased flow of oxygen in the bloodstream, and increased muscle strength. All of these benefits mutually function to increase the individual’s physical and mental abilities and enlighten his/her mood. Owing to the huge potential of yoga to guarantee good health, it should be made a regular part of our daily life.
- Dykema, Ravi. Yoga for Fitness and Wellness. Cengage Learning, 2011. Print.
- Groessl, Erik J.; Weingart, Kimberly R.; Aschbacher, Kirstin; Pada, Laureen and Baxi,
- Sunita. “Yoga for Veterans with Chronic Low-Back Pain.” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Vol. 14. No. 9. pp. 1123–1129. 2008.
- DOI: 10.1089/acm.2008.002.
- Handa, Parvesh. Secret Benefits of Yoga and Naturopathy for Women. New Delhi, Sterling Publishers, 2007. Print.
- Herrick, Colette M., and Ainsworth, Allan D. Invest in Yourself: Yoga as a Self-Care Strategy. Nursing Forum. Vol. 35. No. 2. pp. 32-36.
- Lake, Nell. “A yoga-based regimen can help dramatically decrease recovery time for lower back injuries.” Yoga Journal – Back Builders. 20 Nov. 2009. Web. 8 Oct. 2011. <https://www.craigliebenson.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Yoga-Journal-Back-Builders.pdf>.
- Newell, Lori. “5 Ways to Improve Flexibility With Yoga.” 26 Apr. 2011. Web. 8 Oct. 2011. <https://www.livestrong.com/article/9956-improve-flexibility-with-yoga/>.
- Singh, Sukhwinder. “Comparision of Isometrics, Yogic Physical Culture and Combination Training on Body Composition and Physical Fitness Status of High School Boys.” International Journal of Educational Administration. Vol. 2. No. 2. pp. 201-212.
- “4 Ways Yoga Relieves Low Back Pain.” 2011. Web. 8 Oct. 2011. <https://www.health.com/health/condition-article/0,,20189616,00.html>.