Fitness Magazine

5 Ways Yoga Can Affect Your Health

By Ninazolotow @Yoga4HealthyAge
by Baxter

5 Ways Yoga Can Affect Your Health

Roots by Melina Meza

On this blog, we often address the health benefits of yoga, from its ability to support a generally healthy lifestyle to specific therapeutic benefits that yoga brings to a whole array of injuries, diseases, and conditions (see Common Minor Problems That Yoga Can Help With and Common Serious Problems That Yoga Help With). Therefore, how we are using yoga for health benefits can vary tremendously. So I feel it will be helpful to have a clear framework to describe yoga’s various roles in affecting our health. This will give us a better understanding of what yoga actually has the power to do—or not—for different types of conditions.Within the world of yoga, Yoga Therapy is a rapidly emerging specialty. It is interesting to consider the origins of the word “therapy.” It comes originally from the Greek language, and literally means “healing” or “curing.” As I considered how yoga fits into modern concepts of healing and treatment for conditions and ailments, I came up five different categories. 1. Preventative Medicine. Yoga can be “health promotion activity” that can prevent disease and create an overall sense of well-being. In choosing to practice yoga, you may not be targeting a specific disease or condition, but rather in a more general way you are promoting your general health and supporting a sense of well-being. We could say that in this way, yoga is acting as a form of primary prevention, addressing your overall health before any problems develop. Yoga can also be a form of secondary prevention for specific conditions that are present in a latent form or a presently asymptomatic, but if were left unaddressed, could progress to a more serious form. High blood pressure is one example of this. If we apply yoga to high blood pressure and it helps to normalize our blood pressure numbers, it could prevent the development of more serious conditions like Coronary Artery Disease and heart attacks. In this case, ongoing yoga practice will hopefully prevent future disability from the more serious consequences of untreated high blood pressure. 2. Curative Medicine. Yoga certainly can help with complete healing, as is often noted with musculoskeletal conditions, such as common sprains and strains, and even more complex issues, such as back and neck pain. In addition, in some individuals, yoga seems to resolve serious issues like anxiety and depression, although it often does so as an “adjunct,” in combination with other forms of treatment. However, unlike an antibiotic prescribed for a specific infection for which it cures, yoga usually is not just used for two weeks and then discarded. So there is an ongoing “maintenance” aspect of yoga that differs from western pharmaceutical treatments. And before prematurely pronouncing yourself “cured,” you might consider monitoring your “cured” conditions for 1 to 5 years as they do with cancer treatment.
3. Maintenance Therapy. Yoga can be helpful as a maintenance treatment for ongoing conditions that are in a remission state. For example, someone with MS can practice yoga between flares of symptoms in order to help maintain the relative symptom-free remission periods. Or someone with asthma during could practice during symptom-free periods with the goal of extending those remission times. During flares, people with these types of conditions might also do a modified, gentle, restorative practice, which would fall into our next category.
4. Supportive or Palliative Therapy. This refers to a therapy that does not treat or improve the underlying condition, but instead increases the patient's comfort. Palliative care often refers to serious or terminal conditions, but is nonetheless related to supportive therapy. As an example, some of my students with chronic low back pain, often from ruptured discs that are not going to heal, benefit dramatically from the pain and stress-relieving aspects of their ongoing yoga practice. And for more serious situations, I think of a student of mine who had Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and used his pranayama and meditation practices even into the last stage of his life with some benefit.
5. Rehabilitative Therapy. Yoga is being used more and more to aid recovery from all sorts of acute conditions, such as following major surgeries to post-heart attack and post-stroke rehabilitation. In such cases, yoga is often introduced for certain periods of time, say two to four months, to accelerate recovery, and hopefully adopted for longer-term maintenance or supportive purposes after that.
Now, you might want to add more categories, or divide some of these into several, but my hope is that this organization, however simple, helps you to think in a clearer fashion about how you apply your yoga to health conditions. 
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