I recently began taking a yoga class. I knew for many years that doing yoga had many benefits for my body and health, and I had tried it at home occasionally using yoga workout DVDs, but I didn’t fall in love with it until I was invited to attend a class near our office in San Juan Capistrano. I have never been extremely flexible, and that has become more of a challenge with each passing year. But fortunately my new yoga instructor is extremely accommodating with our small group of middle-aged women, guiding us gently into our stretches and poses (called asanas), allowing each of us to feel a sense of accomplishment and bliss at the end of each class.
There are many different styles of yoga, some of which are designed to be more relaxing, some more challenging, teaching you new ways of moving your body. Those with an emphasis on moving your body in new ways help you develop strength, flexibility and balance. Yoga also improves breathing, mood and concentration. It relieves symptoms of asthma, arthritis and back pain. The NIH (National Institutes of Health) funded clinical trials on how yoga benefits those with insomnia and multiple sclerosis. One of the most studied areas of the health benefits of yoga has to do with heart health, having been found to lower blood pressure and slow the heart rate. It has also been found to lower cholesterol.
A new study published by researchers at UCLA has found that a specific type of yoga, which includes a brief, simple daily meditation, is able to reduce stress in those who practice it. The study participants were made up of caregivers to people who had Alzheimer’s and dementia. Such caregivers are often prone to chronic stress, leading to a higher risk of depression as well as chronic inflammation, which can lead to a multitude of health problems and diseases.
By engaging in Kirtan Kriya Meditation, a form of chanting yogic meditation, for just 12 minutes per day for eight weeks, it was found that 68 genes of the participants responded differently, and resulted in reduced inflammation. Researchers were so encouraged by the results of the study that they have incorporated yoga practice into the caregiver program of the recently launched Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Program at UCLA.
If you aren’t yet a yoga practitioner, you may want to give it a try. But be sure you ease into it slowly to avoid injury and to keep it an enjoyable experience that you will want to continue.
If you would like to read more about the UCLA study, click here.