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Yoga as exercise, medicine and therapy

Yoga means many things to many people. While it is one of the six orthodox schools belonging to Hindu philosophical traditions, yoga in the western world most often refers to the physical practice of postures that is widely practiced for relaxation and optimal health. Yoga often includes, along with the adoption of very specific body postures, simple meditation and breath control.

For yoga lovers and for those considering taking up yoga as a new vocation, there are three other excellent reasons why you should either continue practising yoga or take it up.

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Yoga as exercise

There is no workout or exercise program that is as enduring as yoga is. Originating from ancient India, it is more than 5,000 years old and still continues to be relevant today. Many consider yoga as a means to burn calories and to tone muscles, but the truth is that yoga is much more than an avenue for burning calories and losing weight. Rather, it is a full body and mind workout that exercises the mind as much as it stretches the body. Yoga, as a discipline, combines stretching and strengthening poses with deep breathing and relaxation to produce fitness effects on several aspects of your body. Here are some of the body parts that yoga affects positively:

Your core: If you are looking to tighten your love handles and work every core muscle that you have, yoga poses such as the boat pose is the way to go.

Your arms and legs: Yoga poses such as the plant help you spread your weight equally between your legs and arms, such that you are not building arm strength with machines or free weights but with the weight of your own body. Yoga poses also give all the sides of your legs a thorough fitness workout and this includes your quadriceps, hips, and thighs.
Your glutes: When you do yoga poses such as warrior, bridges and squats poses, you have to do deep knee bends, and this helps to sculpt your glutes.

Your back: Yoga gives your back a full fitness workout. For persons suffering from sore back, yoga poses such as child’s pose, downward-facing dog, and cat/cow give the back muscles a good stretch and works to relieve pain.
As a form of exercise, there are immense health and wellness benefits to yoga. It increases flexibility and strength and is a low impact exercise. This means that persons with limited mobility or those suffering from a condition that doesn’t allow for strenuous exercise can benefit from yoga. Yoga is a great activity for persons suffering from diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, heart disease or high cholesterol. It is also great for pregnant women, and helps to keep them relaxed, strong, and in shape.

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What more, yoga as a form of exercise, is inexpensive. There is no need for extra workout or fitness equipment. All you need to build the ideal body and live a fit life is your body.

Yoga as medicine

Yoga has been touted by many a practiser as medicine. Under this umbrella, it is the selective use of various yoga tools such as poses, relaxation exercises, breathing techniques, and meditation, combined with dietary and lifestyle advice to cure people with any health condition, whether the condition is physical or psychological. Yoga as medicine first requires a detailed and holistic assessment of the person involved, and this means the evaluation of body, spirit, mind and environment in order to create a personalized yoga program. As a form of medicine or therapy, yoga can be used all by itself or in conjunction with other medical treatments, whether alternative or conventional. Various yoga practices methodically strengthen different systems in the human body, and this includes your heart and cardiovascular system, your muscles, lungs nervous system, and the digestive system. Yoga also works to improve oxygen delivery to your body’s tissues, helps the body to remove waste products, carcinogens, and cellular toxins more efficiently.

Because yoga works to primarily to alleviate stress, it also serves as a panacea for many stress related ailments such as migraine headaches and irritable bowel syndrome.

It is however important to understand that while yoga by itself can relieve a number of problems, it is most effective when it is used as a complement to other forms of health care, and in conjunction with a healthy diet and healthy eating.

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Yoga as therapy

Recent studies suggest that yoga helps with anxiety and depression, is a self-soothing technique, and is used to improve energy. As a form of therapy, many people use yoga to manage mental and emotional problems like stress, anxiety, or depression. According to some doctors, yoga therapy is quite effective in the treatment of depression, as meditation helps to bring a person into the present moment and allows him/her to clear the mind. Furthermore, controlled and focused movements help to strengthen the body-mind connection.

It has also been discovered that the breathing exercises of yoga help to reduce depressive symptoms and helps to improve mood and relaxation by increasing serotonin production. Serotonin production plays a huge role in the treatment of depression, as it has been discovered that people suffering from depression have lower serotonin levels than most.

One other way that yoga helps in the alleviation of depression is that it is gentle and quite calming, and encourages individuals to focus on positive images to calm the body and mind.

In the reduction of stress and anxiety, yoga increases the heart rate variability (HRV), and a high HRV means that the body is good at self-monitoring or self- adapting, particularly to stress.

The very many exercise benefits of yoga

Yoga is beneficial to the human body in a host of ways. Yoga, especially the more active forms of yoga, is an effective tool if you are looking for how to lose weight or if you are interested in living healthy.
It helps to improve the quality of sleep, helps to develop muscle tone and to improve metabolism.

It is also said to help in fertility and conception as it helps increase the flow of blood flow to the ovaries and the uterus, thus creating hormonal balance.

So, whatever your situation in life, your physical or mental ailment, or if you are just looking to keep fit and maintain a healthy weight, yoga is a good way to go.

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