4 ways yoga can improve chronic health conditions

Yogis, hippies and holistic medicine specialists have been exploring the health benefits of yoga for years. The meditative practice has been said to improve your fitness level, fight cancer, diabetes, obesity, heart disease and a variety of other disorders.

Read more: The 10 best yoga poses for men

Here are four conditions that yoga has been scientifically proven to improve:

1. Back pain

Struggling to find a cure for your chronic back pain? Yoga could be the solution for you. A 2011 study found that both yoga and stretching helped people with chronic pain – they were considered “safe options” for a condition that is normally treated with a regimen of painkillers.

As long as you don’t exert yourself trying to perfect the complex poses, yoga is a gentle way of relieving your pain. Poses such as cat-cow, triangle pose and child’s pose are particularly beneficial.

Read more: Yoga your way to a strong back

2. Arthritis

In 2015, researchers at Johns Hopkins University conducted a study to determine whether yoga would be a safe and feasible activity for people with arthritis. Participants practised yoga twice a week for eight weeks under the supervision of a yoga therapist. At the end of the study, the participants symptoms had been greatly reduced.

The physical and mental health benefits the yoga provided were still evident nine months later. Poses such as gentle forward bends, backbends, twists, balances, sitting and lying poses were included in the study and modified for each participant’s benefit.

Read more: Three yoga poses for overweight men

3. Heart disease

A study in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology found that yoga was beneficial for cardiovascular health. While yoga naturally works on flexibility and strength, it’s not considered a workout for your heart or rather an aerobic exercise. But, co-author of the study, Dr Gloria Yeh explains that the trifecta of slow movement, meditative breathing, and a calm and soothing approach can reduce stress and lower blood pressure, all of which improve heart health.

As the muscles are stretched they become more sensitive to insulin, which plays an important role in controlling blood sugar levels.

Read more: Theaverage guy’s guide to trying yoga for the first time

4. Sleep disorders

Our over-worked brain can often keep us lying awake at night. Learning to breathe more slowly and deeply in yoga classes can ultimately improve our sleep. Like most exercise, yoga can improve your sleeping patterns and fight insomnia, stress and the constant threat of external anxieties. 

A 2012 study by Harvard Medical School found that yoga treated chronic insomnia in patients. Both patients whose chronic insomnia developed by itself, and those whose insomnia was related to a medical condition (such as depression, fibromyalgia and arthritis) were included in the study. Overall they reported an improvement in the quality and quantity of their sleep.

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This article was originally published on www.mh.co.za