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Why Everyone Needs Yoga E-mail
Written by Jeff Behar, MS, MBA   

women practicing yogaYoga is a science that has been practiced for thousands of years. It is only within the last 25 years that modern medicine has confirmed the many many health benefits associated with this age old practice that eastern medicine has already known for thousands of years.

Now that the many health benefits of yoga are becoming more known, and confirmed by the medical community, yoga centers around the world are filling up and becoming as popular as your neighborhood Starbucks. 

The Many Health Benefits of Yoga

There are many benefits of yoga for the body. Some of the most common include:
  • Improvement in flexibility and mindfulness. With Yoga, your body will become more flexible, it will increase your reflect a lot and you will be able to do a lot of posture without having any difficulties.
  • Reduce stress and anxiety. Yoga will make you more relaxed, and make your mind peaceful, that will help you to decrease your stress, reduce stress related diseases, such as hypertension. Yoga will make your blood pressure more stable, it could decrease your blood pressure if it is high.
  • Improvement in blood chemistry. Yoga improves many of the bodies metabolic processes as indicated by improvements in blood chemistry (e.g.,Glucose decreases,Total cholesterol decrease, Triglycerides decrease LDL cholesterol decreases, VLDL cholesterol decreases, HDL Healthy cholesterol increases, etc.)
  • Improvement in cardiovascular system. Yoga improves many aspects of your cardiovascular system. Yoga improves your endurance, blood pressure decreases, pulse decreases, respiratory rate decreases, EMG activity decreases, breath-holding time increases, energy levels increase.
  • Improvement in strength. With regular practice of yoga you will also feel more stronger than before. Muscle strength increases, grip strength increases, balance improves. Your physical ability will greatly increase.
  • Improvement in muscle tone. By practicing Yoga, it will make your muscle tone more better. Helping you to maintain posture and balance when stretching.
  • Weight control. Doing yoga helps burn calories, and helps you maintain your body weight.
  • Slow or stop bone density loss. Doing yoga helps stop bone density loss.
Health Benefits of Yoga can be grouped into three basic categories-physiological, psychological, biochemical effects.

Physiological Benefits of Yoga

  • Stable autonomic nervous system equilibrium
  • Blood pressure decreases
  • Respiratory rate decreases
  • Blood Pressure decreases (of special significance for hyporeactors)
  • EMG activity decreases
  • Cardiovascular efficiency increases
  • Breath-holding time increases
  • Respiratory efficiency increases
  • Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) increases
  • EEG - alpha waves increase (theta, delta, and beta waves also increase during various stages of meditation)
  • Joint range of motion increase
  • Musculoskeletal flexibility and joint range of motion increase
  • Grip strength increases
  • Eye-hand coordination improves
  • Strength and resiliency increase
  • Endurance increases
  • Energy level increases
  • Dexterity skills improve
  • Reaction time improves
  • Posture improves
  • Balance improves
  • Sleep improves
  • Immunity increases
  • Weight normalizes
  • Pain decreases
  • Steadiness improves
  • Depth perception improves
  • Balance improves
  • Gastrointestinal function normalizes
  • Endocrine function normalizes
  • Excretory functions improve

Biochemical Health Benefits of Yoga

  • Glucose decreases
  • Total cholesterol decreases
  • Triglycerides decrease
  • HDL cholesterol increases
  • LDL cholesterol decreases
  • VLDL cholesterol decreases
  • Total white blood cell count decreases
  • Cholinesterase increases
  • Catecholamines decrease
  • ATPase increases
  • Hematocrit increases
  • Hemoglobin increases
  • Lymphocyte count increases
  • Thyroxin increases
  • Total serum protein increases 

Psychological Benefits of Yoga

  • Awareness increases
  • Subjective well-being increases
  • Self-acceptance and self-actualization increase
  • Anxiety and Depression decrease
  • Mood and spirit improves
  • Concentration improves
  • Memory improves
  • Attention improves
  • Learning efficiency improves
  • Self-actualization increase

Common Types of Yoga

Ashtanga Yoga

Ashtanga yoga, or power yoga, is an ancient system of yoga taught by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Mysore, India. In the U.S., it is taught as an aggressive workout where you move quickly from one pose to another to build strength and endurance. There is little emphasis on meditation with Ashtanga, and at the end of the session you will feel more like you have completed a traditional weight-training or calisthenic workout than you would with any other type of yoga. Ashtangais more of a physically challenging workout.

Bikram Yoga

Bikram yoga is practiced in a room (sometimes unventilated) heated to about 105 degrees Fahrenheit. The objective is to loosen muscles and to sweat to cleanse the body and remove symptoms of disease and chronic pain. To my knowledge, there hasn't been any research on the safety or efficacy of Bikram, and so I don't recommend it because of the potential risk of dehydration, blood pressure changes, and cardiac problems with exertion in such an inhospitable environment. This is particularly so for individuals who may have an existing heart problem or high blood pressure but don't know it. Bikram has grown in popularity, and some people swear by it. I recommend that you speak with your physician first if you are determined to try it. 

Hatha Yoga

Hatha yoga is the most popular type of yoga taught in the U.S., was developed by Yogi Swatmarama in India in the 15th century. Hatha yoga is the most widely practiced type in the U.S. and is excellent for beginners. It is gentle with slow and smooth movements, and the focus is on holding the poses and integrating your breathing into the movement. It's a great introduction to yoga as it incorporates many different asanas, as well as pranayamas and chanting. Hatha yoga will prepare you for other yoga types that might be taught at your yoga center. Hatha is a great way to stretch, work your muscles, get in touch with your body, relax, and decrease stress.

Kundalini Yoga

Kundalini yoga focuses on psycho-spiritual growth and the body's potential for maturation, giving special consideration to the role of the spine and the endocrine system in the understanding of yogic awakening. The practice of kundalini yoga consists of a number of bodily postures, expressive movements and utterances, cultivation of character, breathing patterns, and degrees of concentration.

Kundalini yoga emphasizes rapid movement through the poses and emphasizes breathing, chanting, and meditation. It has a more spiritual feel than Hatha and focuses on energy balance in your body.  

You might find Kundalini physically and mentally challenging if you're a beginner and unfamiliar with yoga poses, chanting, and meditation, and so Hatha or any beginner class is probably a better way to go.  

Lyengar Yoga

Lyengar yoga is a form of yoga that uses poses similar to Hatha, but it focuses more on body alignment and balance, holding poses longer, and using props such as straps, blankets, and blocks. It's also a good choice for beginners.

Iyengar Yoga practioners are known for their ability to stay for a prolonged duration of time in different poses. For a beginner, it does mean developing a will-power and is essential in early stages of practice. However, one has to evolve beyond the realms of merely external force or will. Not staying for staying's sake but performing an asana where one intrinsically wants to stay in the pose. As you practice you will find that your staying power will increase as your effort required to maintain it ldecreases. 

About the Author 

Jeff Behar
Jeff Behar, MS, MBA
Jeff Behar, MS, MBA is a recognized health, fitness and nutrition expert, regularly writing about hot topics in the areas of health, fitness, disease prevention, nutrition, anti aging and alternative medicine. His work also often appears in several of the major health and fitness newsletters, health and fitness magazines, and on  major health, and fitness websites. Behar is also a well sought after personal trainer, motivational speaker, and weight loss expert.

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