If you ever had the chance to simply stroll in one of the major cities (and now even small cities) in North America, you probably have noticed how many yoga studios are now up and running in pretty much every neighbourhood. From the metropolis to the suburbs, it is now easy to get access to a yoga studio if you want to incorporate this healthy activity into your lifestyle.
But it wasn’t always that way, as Yoga was once a physical activity that dragged little to no attention to the eyes of western countries. Why’s that? Primarly because it was often, only associated with spirituality, and little with body and health improvement.
However, the perception of yoga had changed dramatically within the last 40 years, as now more than 90% of Americans have already heard about yoga and more than 30% have also tried it at least one time (Harvard Medical School, 2016). These numbers can look astonishing, but when you’re aware that Yoga has been practiced since 2700 B.C, they suddenly look a little less impressive.
Because Yoga is indeed, one of the most ancient bodies and mind disciplines ever practiced by mankind. Historical evidence of the existence of Yoga was indeed seen in the pre-Vedic period (2700 B.C.) and thereafter until Patanjali’s period (Government of India, India, 2015).
As we are a couple of days ahead of the International Yoga Day, and because Yoga did have such a tremendous impact on the well-being of millions of people around the world, we wanted to share with you some key findings of Yoga itself, but also share and explain all the benefits related to this ancestral practice.
What is Yoga??
We all have an idea of what Yoga is, right? For some, it is a bunch of body movements performed after one another, as for some others, it is simply the combination of both body movements and breathing exercises. So, in the end, what is Yoga? According to Dr Ishwar V Basavaraddi, Director of the Moraji Desai National Institute of Yoga in India, “Yoga is essentially a spiritual discipline based on an extremely subtle science, which focuses on bringing harmony between mind and body” (Ministery of External Affairs Government of India, 2015). Was your definition aligned with this one?
Yoga reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease
A lot of studies have been conducted to pinpoint the underlying benefits of the Yoga Practice. And according to recent studies, more than 75% of Americans believe that Yoga is actually good for you (Harvard Medical School, 2016) without exactly knowing how it does indeed impact their bodies.
In order to quantify the positive impact of Yoga on our bodies, scientists from the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology focused on the impact of Yoga on our cardiovascular system. And to be honest, the results are quite surprising. According to the research team, the participants (from young and healthy people to older people with health conditions) saw a significant improvement in a number of factors that can effectively affect heart disease risk (Harvard Medical School, 2016). For instance, participants saw their blood pressure drop from 5 points, and also saw their level of bad cholesterol (LDL Cholesterol) by a surprising 12 points (Harvard Medical School, 2016). But the most surprising part about these results, it’s that these results were also observed with people who practiced a gentler form of Yoga, which tends to demonstrate that gentle yoga, as well as more energetic form of Yoga, does both have a similar impact on the body. Surprising, right?
Yoga helps you with weight lost
When we want to lose some weight, we often have in mind the same rhetoric. We need to burn more calories than we consume in order to lose weight (which is totally accurate). However, when it comes to burning more calories, we also have in mind the same classical exercise, such as working out in the gym, running, biking or swimming. We rarely have in mind Yoga as a physical activity that can help us burn calories.
Indeed, studies tend to demonstrate that Yoga can also be a great addition to your weight loss effort, as it can help you lose the undesired weight you want to get rid of. A study conducted on young and healthy people, as well as older people with health conditions, shows that the practice of Yoga had indeed an overall impact on weight loss. Concretely, the majority of the participants were able to lose 5 pounds on average while increasing their flexibility and joint movements (Chu et al. 2014). Crazy to see how a slow pace physical activity can have such an impact on weight loss isn’t it?
Increasing body flexibility joint mobility and quality of life
We mentioned in a previous blogpost how important stretching was to our health since it helps reduced the risk of injuries during physical activities. And if there’s one physical activity that incorporates stretching at its core, it is definitely Yoga.
In order to have a deeper understanding of the importance of stretching in the Yoga practice, scientists have analyzed the direct impact of the stretching exercises used in the different forms of Yoga on the human body. Catherine Woodyard, from the University of Mississippi, found out that a Yoga session forces our joints to use their full range of motion (as well as squeezing and soaking area of the cartilage not often used) which helps bring fresh nutrients, oxygen and blood to the area while helping to prevent arthritis and chronic pain. (Woodyard, 2011). Various studies also state that Yoga is also a great way to reduce pain in people with arthritis, Carpel Tunnel syndrome, back pain and other chronic conditions (Woodyard, 2011). Easy to understand why stretching is such an important aspect of Yoga right?
Yoga has been part of the daily routine of several communities around the world for more than 2000 years now. And with all the scientific evidence shown previously, we can now completely understand why. But regardless of the scientific evidence mentioned below, Yoga should be in the first place, a discipline that brings harmony to your mind and body. So, whether you’re practicing it for improving your flexibility, increasing your joints range of motion, feeling reconnected to your body, or simply as a way to relax your mind, remind yourself that the most important thing is our health and our well being. And Yoga is indeed a great exercise to maximize the latest. Happy International Yoga day everyone. Namaste! Sidi Ba
- Tags: Health