Here is a selection of recent articles and medical publications that give insight into the enormous health benefits of yoga as a healing modality – reflecting the growing evidence-based medical and scientific research of this practice. Yoga is not exercise. Yoga as traditionally designed is a science. When used in its full therapeutic context, incorporating the various mind-body modalities which fall under the category of ‘yoga’– the results are often superior to other alternative treatments, and increase the effects of medical traditional treatments.
In her review, Dr. Tiffany Field, Director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami, provides a fascinating overview of the effect of yoga on anxiety and depression, pain, cardiovascular, autoimmune and immune conditions and on pregnancy.
“It seems apparent that yoga provides broad ranging healthcare benefits for mind and body. It may be practiced to maintain health, reduce particular symptoms, commonly associated with skeletal pain, and assisting in pain relief and enhancing emotional wellbeing.”
Another study, published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine, examined the effect of yoga on lower back pain. Dr. Padmini Tekur and colleagues from the Division of Yoga & Life Sciences at the Swami Vivekananda Yoga Research Foundation (SVYASA) carried out a 7-day control trial at a holistic health center in India, with 80 patients who have chronic lower back pain. They assigned patients to one of two groups – yoga therapy and physical therapy. Their results showed that practicing yoga is more effective than physical therapy at reducing pain, anxiety and depression, and improving spinal mobility. (Original full-length article available on Elsevier.com)
WHAT IS YOGA THERAPY? (published in Yoga Journal)
Yoga therapy is typically conducted one-on-one or in small groups. Often, a session more closely resembles an appointment with a physical therapist or rehabilitation specialist than it does a typical yoga class. What sets this healing modality apart from others is the focus on linking movement to deep, rhythmic breathing. Another difference is the emphasis on relaxation. In fact, when someone is gravely ill or in pain, a therapist may suggest that the entire practice consist only of breath awareness and relaxation until the patient is ready to tackle more. Supported poses which work immediately calm the nervous system alleviate pain, inflammation, and tension. This allows the body to recuperate and heal at a faster rate, with very beneficial mind-body effects, including ability to sleep and alleviate pain.
Timothy McCall M.D. is a board-certified internist, and the Medical Editor of Yoga Journal and the author of Yoga as Medicine. He teaches yoga therapy seminars around the world. His book is a must for anyone suffering from any medical issues, including injuries, chronic pain, and various disorders.
“Read this to find out why we teach our patients YOGA.”—Mehmet Oz, MD
“Yoga as Medicine is a powerfully clear, accessible and practical guide to creating a vibrantly healthy body, mind, and spirit. What a tremendous contribution to healing and human potential!”—Joan Borysenko, PhD, author of Minding the Body, Mending the Mind
Excerpt published in Yoga Journal:
Kelly McGonigal, PhD, a yoga teacher, health psychologist at Stanford University, editor in chief of the International Journal of Yoga Therapy, once suffered from debilitating headaches that made her wonder what it would be like to live one day without pain. Now, as the author of the new book, Yoga for Pain Relief, McGonigal is sharing her tips for dealing with chronic pain through yoga and meditation:
Why is yoga a good idea for people who have chronic
pain as opposed to other treatment options?
Yoga is so helpful because chronic pain doesn’t play by the same rules as acute pain from a recent injury or illness. It is more strongly influenced by stress, thoughts, and emotions. And the pain doesn’t necessarily reflect a single identifiable“ problem” in the body, like a compressed disc or an infection. It usually reflects a systemic change in how you experience pain that may involve your muscles, nerves, hormones, and brain. So chronic pain is rarely “fixed” with a single medical intervention like surgery. It is usually a more gradual process that requires a holistic approach, including medicine, social support, and mind-body or psychological approaches.
How is the approach in yoga for chronic pain
different from approaching any other kind of pain?
The biggest difference is you’re not looking to fix some part of the body. It’s not a “stretch your back to get rid of your back pain” approach. It involves every possible tool of yoga, including breathing, relaxation, movement, meditation, philosophy, and self-reflection. It’s recognizing that yoga’s healing power comes from it’s ability to change the way your breathe and move, yes, but also how you feel, think, and relate to yourself and to pain.
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