By Darshan Goswami, MS, PE
The word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit term Yuj meaning “union,” especially of mind, body, breath, spirit, and self with the divine.
Researchers have studied the benefits of yoga for the treatment of epidemic diseases such as depression, stress, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, coronary, and serious pulmonary disease. As medicine, hatha yoga focuses primarily on physical postures. In this form of yoga, physical postures and breathing exercises improve muscle strength, flexibility, blood circulation, oxygen uptake, and hormone function.
Yoga breathing techniques in general emphasize and teach relaxation. The relaxation induced by conscious breathing and meditation helps to stabilize the autonomic nervous system with a tendency toward parasympathetic dominance. When the parasympathetic system is activated your blood pressure decreases, heart rate slows, stress hormones decrease, digestion improves, immune system is enhanced, and your body balances. 1
The state of the mind and the body are intimately related; if the mind is relaxed, the muscles in the body will also be relaxed. Many more health professionals now recognize yoga as a form of physical and mental well-being. They have adapted yoga for use in mind-body, complementary, and integrative medicine internationally. 1
Scientific Studies on Yoga
While modern medicine has the ability in many cases to heal physical diseases and alleviate psychological disorders, a limited medical approach is far less effective in healing the emotional, intellectual, and personality layers of the human entity. The discipline of yoga offers individuals a timeless model of health and a holistic path of healing. 3
A survey conducted by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine found that yoga is one of the most sought after and used forms of complementary medicine. Practitioners use yoga to heal a wide range of health-related conditions—particularly stress, mental health, and pain management. Researchers report significant benefits of yoga for use in palliating arthritis and other muscle disorders, as well as increasing cardiovascular endurance in healthy individuals. 2
Practitioners of hatha yoga find that prana, or healing “life energy” is absorbed into the body through the breath. Conscious deep breathing alone can address a wide variety of illnesses and complaints. Therapeutic yoga practice relieves stress, lowers heart rate, reduces blood pressure, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, major depression, and insomnia. 4
Physical Benefits of Yoga
The physical benefits of yoga are apparent to anyone who has attempted the discipline or observed someone else doing it. Yoga poses take a body through a range of motions, including sitting, standing forward and backward, inversions, and lying down. The stretching, bending and twisting in yoga increases flexibility, while at the same time it carefully massages internal organs and glands. This increases heart and lung capacity and enhances the immune system. Yoga also provides calmness, clarity, stamina, and mental peace.
Yoga can help those suffering from chronic low-back pain, general stress, osteoporosis, high-blood pressure, joint stiffness and lack of self-esteem. It also stimulates the body to produce hormones that keep insulin balanced. Beyond these physical benefits, the greatest gifts yoga brings are those of mental strength, awareness, and self-love or self-acceptance. To realize these benefits, one must set aside time to practice yoga with some regularity.
There are many classes or yoga lessons available, both in person, or on the internet. The single most important objective is to practice regularly. Regular yoga practice can help restore balance by increasing perception about how the body feels, as well as awareness of messages from its aches and pains. Is your body telling you that you need to relax more often, try less hard, nurture yourself? Once you start to incorporate yoga into your daily life, it will quickly become an enjoyable and natural habit, improving circulation, and providing a rich supply of nutrients and oxygen to all the cells of the body for more precise replication.
The ultimate message of yoga is that happiness comes through control of the mind. A primary goal of yoga is self-realization or union of self-consciousness with the supreme consciousness. Results from numerous studies show that practicing yoga in this way enhances muscular strength and body flexibility, promotes and improves respiratory and cardiovascular function, promotes recovery from and treatment of addiction, reduces stress, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain, improves sleep patterns, and encourages an optimistic outlook on life. Also, yoga can be effectively used as a preventive medicine to slow the aging process by reducing the catabolic process of cell deterioration. The regular practice of yoga can be challenging, but mounting evidence suggests it is worth the effort and investment. ?
Disclaimer: Learning yoga might require the direct involvement of a qualified teacher. Yoga can’t take the place of medical treatment; if you are already suffering from a disease, you must consult your physician and/or teacher before starting yoga as a treatment for any medical condition.
Darshan Goswami, MS, PE, has more than 40 years of experience in the energy field. He worked as a Project Manager for Renewable Energy, Micro-grid and Smart Grid projects at the United States Department of Energy (DOE) in Pittsburgh. He is a registered professional electrical engineer with a passion and commitment to promote, develop, and deploy renewable energy resources and the hydrogen economy. The author supports: India Foundation for Children Education and Care, Inc. (http://www.ifcare.org/).
- Parshad O, “Role of yoga in stress management,” West Indian Med J. 2004 Jun; 53(3):191-4.
- Wayne Jonas MD, “How to Recharge Your Mind and Body with Therapeutic Yoga,” Psychology Today, May 17, 2019.
- Catherine Woodyard, “Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life.” Int J Yoga.
- Somappa Badiger, Venkata Chalapathi G, Pampana Gouda, Empirical Study on Yoga as Alternative Medicine, Jan, 2017, Volume: 11, Issue: 18.