By Faye Martins
Could Yoga be part of the solution to the health care crisis in our country? With controversy over rising medical costs and coverage, the need to create better ways of coping with addictions and mental illnesses is greater than ever. SAMSHA – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration – estimates that 31 million Americans went without the mental health care they needed in 2011.
While health care costs a lot, untreated illnesses drain community resources and put citizens at risk. As the US Senate explores recommendations from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) for a health care system based on education, prevention, and management of disease, the need for alternative and complementary healing methods becomes more obvious than ever.
While acceptance of Yoga has come slowly to contemporary medicine, Vedic sages understood its benefits to the mind, body, and spirit thousands of years ago. Patanjali, author of the Yoga Sutras, described an eight-limbed Yogic path and explained how practicing these behaviors, attitudes, and exercises could lead to health and happiness.
Modern scientific research, however, dates back only to the 1970s and deals mostly with the three limbs of Yoga practiced in the western world: asanas (poses), pranayama (breathing), and meditation. While many early studies were poorly documented, recent randomized controlled trials at leading universities show that Patanjali was right. Yoga training has physical, mental, and spiritual benefits and can be a powerful adjunct to other wellness programs or medical treatments.
In April, 2009, “Harvard Mental Health Letter” confirmed that Yoga balances the body’s response to stress and helps with anxiety and depression. Its benefits fall into four wide categories:
Research shows that some Yogic breathing techniques relieve symptoms of depression in both alcoholics and depressed patients.
• Modulating Stress
Yogic methods appear to reduce anxiety and stress, leading to a decrease in blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing rate. It may also increase heart rate variability, a measure of the body’s ability to react to stress more effectively.
• Improving Mood
Although the results have not been scientifically explained, study participants who practiced Yogic techniques experienced improvements in mood and functioned more efficiently.
• Helping with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome)
Researchers at Walter Reed Hospital are using yoga to calm over-active nervous systems and manage symptoms of PTSD.
Medical professionals, body workers, Yoga instructors, and dedicated students can all benefit from learning how to use Yogic practices for mental disorders.
© Copyright 2013 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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