Posted on Oct 01, 2018, 6 p.m.
Medical yoga therapy is the use of yoga for the prevention and treatment of medical conditions which incorporates appropriate breathing techniques, mindfulness, and meditation to help achieve maximum benefits beyond the physical elements of yoga.
Yoga has been shown by several studies to positively impact the body and mind in many ways such as helping to regulate blood glucose levels, improve musculoskeletal ailments, and keeping the cardiovascular system in tune. Psychological benefits can help to increase mental energy and positive feeling, while decreasing negative feeling of aggressiveness, anxiety, and depression. It may be beneficial for neurotransmitters, telomeres, inflammation, arthritis, back pain, stress, cardiac disease, posture, breathing, mental health and a wide range of many more things.
Yoga has infiltrated Western culture and medicine within the past decade. The more that is learned about this ancient practice the more is known about its benefits that go beyond increasing flexibility and muscle tone. Some think that yoga focuses only on increasing flexibility which is a common misunderstanding; while the physical practice of yoga does emphasize postural alignment, musculoskeletal strength, endurance, and balance it also incorporates mindfulness based practises such as breathing techniques, concentration, meditation, and self reflection.
W.H.O estimates 80% of non-communicable disease deaths are due to 4 main disease types: cancer, respiratory diseases, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Lifestyle is a major contributing causative factor for NCDs which includes smoking, alcohol use, sedentary choices, unhealthy diets, and chronic psychosocial stress of which chronic inflammation and stress are common factors and the area wherein yoga has been found to be extremely beneficial.
Mindfulness and yoga based practices have been shown to positively impact the body by helping to regulate blood glucose levels and keep the cardiovascular system healthy, increase alertness and decrease stress, anxiety and depression. Many healthcare providers are recognizing these positive findings and the demand for alternative approaches to wellness that are natural, low tech, relatively cheap, holistic, and generally safe and are responding by incorporating medical yoga into their practices.
Successful prescriptions include yoga based practices of breathing techniques; postures; meditation techniques and self reflection; healthy diets; reducing substances such as caffeine, tobacco, alcohol and drugs; healthy sleep habits; and appropriate support. Medical yoga therapy should begin gently with self compassion, and should be a complement to current treatments. Certain situations where in a patient is at risk for illness but not requiring intensive therapy these practices may forestall or prevent progression to the point where medical therapy is required. Patients with back pain or strain or those with stressful lives many benefit for these practices and avoid more intensive interventions. Yoga may not be appropriate for all patients, but yoga therapy is different than a yoga class as it is personally structured to an individual’s health concerns and problems starting with a detailed history, physical examination, and assessment from the patient’s healthcare provider.
These practices bring the autonomic nervous system into health balance by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system that is activated when the body or mind feels threatened or perceives being stressed causing decreased blood flow to the extremities and digestive system; heart rate and blood pressure increases, liver converts glycogen to glucose and releases it into the bloodstream, bronchioles dilate, blood flow patterns change, all leading to decreased digestive system activity and reduced urine output. When the parasympathetic system is stimulated patients relax, and blood flow to the brain, extremities and sexual organs is stimulated. These practices work by decreasing physiologic arousal and quieting down actions of the autonomic system reducing blood pressure, heart rate, easing respiration stress, and improving HRV and parasympathetic tone.
Yoga based practices have been shown to increase several neurotransmitters and hormones including GABA, serotonin, dopamine, and melatonin. Yoga works to keep minds and bodies from withering with age by potentially stabilizing and lengthening telomeres, and have been found to decrease inflammatory markers such as C-reactive proteins and other inflammatory cytokine in the blood while increasing levels of immunoglobulin, leptin, adiponectin, and natural killer cells; among many other benefits.
Research continues to reveal and uncover health benefits supporting the use of yoga in health management. Medical Yoga Therapy is not as quick or easy as taking medication, however mounting evidence suggests that it is worth the effort. Slowing down, quieting the minds, breathing, stretching, and relaxing can help to relieve stress and pressures from stressors, triggers, and hustles of day to day lives that contribute to many conditions in various ways.
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