Yoga is one of the best activities for maintaining flexibility, improving joint health and reducing chronic pain.
September is National Yoga Month. It’s a time to celebrate yoga’s health benefits and promote a peaceful and wellness lifestyle. More than 10 percent of American adults have tried yoga at some point in their lives. Many people try yoga to boost their mood, relieve stress and enhance concentration. However, studies are showing yoga may have a significant impact on overall mind and body wellness.
Yoga Combines Physical and Mental Wellness
“Yoga” comes from the Sanskrit word “yuj,” meaning “to unite, join or connect the mind, soul and body.” It originally began in India as a spiritual practice, but now, it’s an $80 billion industry.
The power of yoga may lie in its integration of physical poses (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama) and meditation (dyana). Yoga, tai chi and qigong are all known as “meditative movement” practices because they combine physical and mental techniques.
Recent research shows that yoga may provide the following benefits:
- Relieve back pain, neck pain and osteoarthritis
- Promote weight loss
- Help people to quit smoking
- Reduce depression and anxiety symptoms
- Improve mood, sleep and emotional balance
- Relieve symptoms of menopause
In one study, untrained volunteers improved their muscular strength at the knee and elbow by 10-30 percent after just eight weeks of practicing yoga. The participants also improved their hip, ankle and shoulder strength by 13-188 percent.
Benefits and Risks of Yoga
Many types of yoga styles exist, and all promote health benefits. Some styles of yoga, like hatha yoga and Iyengar yoga, focus on holding various poses for several breaths. Alignment of the body is essential, and it requires time and practice to learn the correct form.
Vinyasa yoga connects movements and teaches you to “flow” from one pose to the next. Ashtanga yoga includes a specific sequence of postures to progress through and emphasizes meditation.
It is important to learn yoga from a qualified instructor and talk to your doctor before you begin. Using correct props like straps and blocks can help you maintain balance and avoid falls and sprains.
One of the most popular types of yoga is hot yoga, practiced in 104-degree heat. Although some people love to “sweat it out,” dehydration and overheating are risks.
If you have pre-existing conditions like knee or hip injuries, hypertension, lumbar spine disease or balance problems, you may not be a good candidate for yoga. Your doctor may recommend a different type of physical activity.
Call Your Orthopedist for an Appointment
Yoga may help reduce joint pain and enhance flexibility, but it may not be enough to restore joint mobility. If you are experiencing joint pain, call your orthopedist to make an appointment. Your doctor can suggest treatment options and help you make the best decision for your health. If you require surgery, your doctor will go through all the procedure details so you fully understand the risks and benefits.