Yoga and You

Numerous studies have reported that yoga is good for both your physical and mental health. You may already know that, as yoga's popularity has steadily grown in the US over the past few decades. You may even regularly attend yoga classes, in which case you'll probably find this post interesting and validating. For those of you who don't practice yoga, here are few things that might interest you in the eastern practice that's found it's place in our western culture...

Origins of yoga
: The practice dates back 5,000 years ago to Northern India, though some scholars believe it may be as much as 10,000 years old.
: Yoga was first mentioned in the Rig Veda, the oldest of scared texts, which contained songs, mantras and rituals used by the Brahmans (priests).
: Centuries later a system of physical practices was created. These techniques sought to cleanse the body and mind focusing on a more physical-spiritual approach. This is where the yoga we know today started to really take shape.
: In the late 1800s yoga began to move west and by 1947 the first Hatha Yoga studio was opened in Hollywood by Indra Devi.
: Here are some highlights from the SF Asian Art Museum's exhibit on the history of yoga.

Yoga in Studies
: There have been numerous studies done to assess the effectiveness of yoga as a means of stress reduction. This study from Japan in 2011, looked at the effects of yoga practice on both young  (20-30 yrs) and senior (65-75 yrs) subjects. The results concluded that regular yoga practice had immediate and long-term effect in both groups for anxiety reduction.
Likewise a review by the Harvard Medical School noted five studies that showed improvement in mental health after regular yoga practice for not just anxiety and depression, but also PTSD, bipolar disorder, major depression, and schizophrenia. Surprisingly the study that looked at participants with bipolar disorder, major depression and schizophrenia, noted a decrease in tension after just one session of yoga. 

Cautions and Encouragement 

One thing to remember is that while the studies mentioned show positive results for yogic practice, the benefits are not guaranteed 100%. Simply put- your experience may be different from some else's.
The Harvard Mental Health Letter goes on to say:
Although many forms of yoga practice are safe, some are strenuous and may not be appropriate for everyone. In particular, elderly patients or those with mobility problems may want to check first with a clinician before choosing yoga as a treatment option.
But for many patients dealing with depression, anxiety, or stress, yoga may be a very appealing way to better manage symptoms. Indeed, the scientific study of yoga demonstrates that mental and physical health are not just closely allied, but are essentially equivalent. The evidence is growing that yoga practice is a relatively low-risk, high-yield approach to improving overall health.

Want to Learn More?
: Here is some Yoga 101 from our friends over at Yoga Basics, and my favorite youtube yoga instructor in case you'd like to get started from home.

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