improve your life with yogaBy Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

How can you improve your life with Yoga? Although the virtues of Yoga have been recognized in India for thousands of years, western medicine is just beginning to do the clinical research needed to scientifically document its benefits. Introduced by Swami Vivekananda, to the United States, in the late 19th century, Yoga became well known, more than a half century later, in the 1960s – when pop culture icons, such as the Beatles, introduced it to their fans.

What was then associated with a hippie culture has now become a part of mainstream life, as baby boomers continue to wage a war against aging, and younger generations embrace a more holistic way of living.

Anecdotal evidence supports the general consensus that Yoga can improve your life – physically, emotionally, and spiritually; and studies have shown that it has a positive impact on the body and the mind. It lowers stress, improves the immune system, tones the body, balances the endocrine system, and creates a general state of wellbeing.

Evidence from studies validates that you can improve your life with Yoga.

• Recently, a six week study at a British university showed that employees, who practiced Yoga, were more resilient to stress, and recommended that employers provide classes to their employees.

• A pilot study of 11 depressed people, who were resistant to antidepressants, was done to see if participants felt better after practicing Yoga for eight weeks. Ten participants completed assessments, and nine of them reported an improvement in symptoms. Preliminary results warranted following up with a randomized, clinical study.

New medical and scientific research is currently taking place to determine the efficacy of Yoga in dealing with various aspects of the following conditions:

• Atrial fibrillation

• Cardiovascular disease

• PTSD

• Bipolar depression

• Breast cancer (numerous studies)

• Ovarian cancer

• Chronic back pain

• Stress reduction

• Insomnia

• Epilepsy

• Fibromyalgia

• Arthritis

• GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease

• Pediatric headaches

• Metabolic syndrome

• Smoking

• Blood pressure

With new medical information available every week, it seems that the number of randomized clinical trials, measuring the effects of Yoga on physical and mental health, is growing each year. In January 2011, Dr. Timothy McCall, a medical doctor and Yoga teacher, listed 54 health problems – with references – that have been shown to benefit from Yoga.

If that is not evidence enough, other studies suggest that Yoga helps to control weight, improves sexual function, and increases energy. There is little doubt that the asanas, meditation, and breathing techniques, involved in a serious Yoga practice, are capable of improving lives.  Life with Yoga is much better than life without Yoga.

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