Yoga is good for us!
According to a new study funded by the National Institute for Health, Yoga was found to help people with chronic lower back pain and associated depression. They experienced improved mood and ability to function, as well as pain reduction, more than with conventional treatment alone.
As published in the journal Spine1, researchers assigned people with chronic back pain to either traditional treatment such as pain medication or twice-weekly Iyengar style Yoga therapy (attending to posture and alignment) for 24 weeks. The people in the Yoga therapy group experienced a 29% reduction in functional disability and a 42% reduction in pain. Yoga was also associated with close to a 50% decrease in symptoms of depression over conventional therapy alone.
In addition to specific asanas (postures) of a Yoga practice, deep breathing has profound medical benefits. Slowed, focused breathing can reverse the damaging effects of the fight-or-flight hormones that flood the body when anxiety is present (see Herb Benson’s work at the Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital). The chemicals released, adrenaline and noradrenaline, increase heart rate and blood pressure. These chemicals also generate dangerous and destructive free radicals in the body. With each long and purposeful inhale and exhale, the thought process is interrupted (a good thing) and the result is less secretion of the stress hormones and increased secretion of nitric oxide, which opens the blood vessels, lowers blood pressure, and creates less free radical production.
The patients in the Yoga therapy group were followed for six months after the ending of the 24-week experiment. They were found to continue benefiting from their Yoga experience. With this latest published research, Yoga is a recognized integrative wellness practice, aligning the body-mind and spirit for health and well-being.
Spine 34(19), pp. 2066 – 2076