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Yoga for Health

Many people practice yoga for health-related reasons, such as for well-being and fitness, to help control stress, or to help manage or prevent a health problem. Results of studies on the effects of yoga on health have found that yoga may be more beneficial for some health conditions than for others. This issue of the digest summarizes the current research on yoga for several health conditions and in different populations.

Yoga began as a spiritual practice, but it has become popular as a way of promoting physical and mental well-being.

Yoga is sometimes called a meditative movement practice, and that’s a good description of it. Yoga, as practiced in the United States, typically emphasizes physical postures (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama), relaxation, and meditation (dyana). The various types

of yoga include Iyengar, Bikram, Yin, vinyasa, ashtanga, kundalini, viniyoga, Sivananda, restorative, hatha, and hot yoga.

Why Is the Use of Yoga Increasing?

One piece of the answer may be the growing body of research (including NCCIH-supported studies) showing that some mind and body practices, such as yoga, can help people manage pain and reduce stress.

Another piece may be that yoga has become easier to access—for example, the number of yoga studios in the United States has grown substantially, according to industry reports.

Why do Americans practice yoga? And how do they feel it affects their health?

In 2012, the National Health Interview Survey asked adults aged 18 and older questions on these topics. Here’s what the survey showed:

Most people who practice yoga do it for wellness; only 18 percent of those who practiced yoga did it to help treat a medical condition.

The survey asked about five wellness-related reasons why people might practice yoga. The participants were allowed to choose more than one answer. Here’s what they said:

— 80 percent said that one of their reasons for practicing yoga was general wellness or disease prevention.

— 72 percent said one reason was that yoga focuses on the whole person—mind, body, and spirit.

— 67 percent said they practiced yoga to improve energy.

— 31 percent said they practiced yoga to improve memory or concentration.

— 30 percent said they practiced yoga to improve immune function.

The survey also asked about effects that yoga might have had on participants’ well-being, and again, they were allowed to give more than one answer.

— 86 percent said yoga helped them reduce stress.

— 82 percent said yoga improved their overall health and made them feel better.

— 67 percent said yoga helped them feel better emotionally.

— 59 percent said yoga improved their sleep.

— 39 percent said yoga helped them cope with health problems.

The participants also answered questions about the effect of yoga on behaviors that are linked to good health

.— 63 percent said yoga motivated them to exercise more regularly.

— 43 percent said yoga motivated them to eat healthier.

— Among those who smoked cigarettes, 25 percent said that yoga motivated them to cut back or stop smoking.

— Among those who drank alcoholic beverages, 12 percent said yoga motivated them to cut back or stop drinking alcohol.

Overall, the survey showed that most people who practice yoga are interested in doing it for general health reasons. It also showed that they’re finding yoga to be a positive experience in terms of their general well-being.

Loretta Lynn is a certified yoga teacher. She is specializing in slow mindful yoga, aromatherapy, Ayurveda and trauma centered yoga therapy. Contact her for classes and one on one practice.

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