“If you could put yoga in a jar, it would be the world’s best selling medicine” – Murali Duraiswamy, neurobiologist and psychiatrist
In India, yoga has been practiced for ages and prescribed by doctors to improve physical and mental wellbeing. In Western society, people start to discover that yoga can be part of a healthy lifestyle, too – whether it is to increase fitness or to release stress. The good news is: accumulating evidence is demonstrating the positive effects of yoga.
Studies show that yoga relieves physical issues such as back pain, but may also treat mental health conditions such as depressive, anxiety and trauma-related disorders. This may make you wonder: how can we understand the positive effects of yoga?
Yoga and stress reduction
An important explanation lies in the effect of yoga on the stress system. In the past, most health issues were caused by pathogens, like viruses and bacteria. Nowadays, medical science has found effective ways to prevent these diseases.
In modern society, the biggest danger lies in stress: the norm is to have a busy lifestyle and high ambitions. At the same time, we know that the top causes of death, including cancer, cardiovascular diseases and also depression, are considerably affected by stress. People who experience more stress in their life are more vulnerable to developing these diseases.
That’s not very comforting thought. But the good news is: as human beings we also have the capability to reduce and prevent excessive stress. Yoga is a good way to increase resilience to stress. In a balanced yoga class, you are training both the sympathetic nervous system (the action system) and the parasympathetic nervous system (the rest system) – the two parts of the stress mechanism of the body. In chronic stress, the sympathetic nervous system is overactive, which doesn’t allow your body to recover and restore. Yoga can help to reduce excessive activity of the sympathetic nervous system, ultimately allowing the body to function in a healthy way. In the long run, practicing yoga can prevent stress-related health issues.
Prevention versus curation
The latter is an essential element in yoga therapy. In Western medicine, we tend to look for a cure when problems arise, while it would be more sensible to monitor your own wellbeing on a regular basis.
Yoga teaches you to listen to the signals of your body and to reflect on how you are feeling. This helps you to notice when you are out of balance and to protect yourself from severe physical or mental problems.
Hence, yoga therapy does not only affect physical processes, but also your mindset. You learn to cope with stressful events in an effective way and to take care of your own health on the long term. That is one of the most important foundations for a healthy body and mind!
Do you want to know more about yoga therapy?
Are you curious about yoga therapy after reading this article? You can learn more during the workshops Yoga Therapy & Psychology that I am teaching regularly. The next one is an online workshop on May 16 – that means you can join from all over the world!
Furthermore, you will get a 50% discount on online yoga therapy sessions in March/April 2020. This is my way to contribute to the world’s wellbeing in these times of uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you want to dive deeper into this field professionally, the book that has been used as a source can be highly recommended:
The principles and practice of yoga in Health Care – Khalsa, Cohen, Telles & McCall