Yoga is an underappreciated discipline that hones both the mind and the body. It has been calculated that in 2012 there were as many as 20 million American yoga practitioners. This number represents a growing, but still relatively small number of practitioners. In 2008, less than 5% of the population practiced yoga; this number improved to about 6.5% by 2012. A number of recent scientific studies confirm the many and varied benefits of yoga to its practitioners.
Yoga lost one of its great influencers on August 21, 2014 when BKS Iyengar passed away at the age of 95. He is credited as being one of the driving forces in popularizing yoga in America with the publication of his book Light on Yoga in 1966. The advocacy of yoga by beautiful people such as supermodel Christy Turlington, and the efforts of those who founded “Power Yoga” studios have helped bolster the ranks of yoga practitioners. However, there is a glaring need for someone to step forward and take yoga to the next step of popularity…it needs a new hero!
Most studies show that over 75% of yoga practitioners are women. While this fact might skew the statistical outcomes of the studies, the fact of the matter remains that the health benefits found in these studies also extend to men.
Hatha is one of the oldest practices of yoga, and it is said to have begun around 1000 AD in India. Today, Hatha is the most popular practice of yoga in America. Yoga is said to have derived its name from a form of “yoking” of the mind and body together. The practice involves both meditational aspects and stretching positions. The practice is more akin to stretching than physical exercise.
Recently published study results:
- Improved executive brain function – A recently published study from the Journals of Gerontology used Hatha yoga as the basis for its random controlled study, which found that “Following 8 weeks of (Hatha) yoga practice, participants significantly improved performance on the executive function measures of working memory capacity and efficiency of mental set shifting and flexibility (compared with the control group).” While the study specifically studied older subjects, the principles still translate well to younger participants.
- Effective reduction in back pain – A 2012 issue of Spine Journal found that “On the basis of this trial, 12 weekly group classes of specialized yoga are likely to be a cost-effective intervention for treating patients with chronic or recurrent low back pain.”
- Improved Mood – A study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine (2010) concluded that “The 12 week yoga intervention was associated with greater improvements in mood and anxiety than metabolically matched walking exercise.”
- Improves recovery from cancer treatments – A study in a 2014 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, stated in its conclusion: ”If yoga dampens or limits both fatigue and inflammation, then regular practice could have substantial health benefits.”
Local practitioners and testimonials:
Fortunately, there are a great number of yoga studios in the Rhode Island and southern New England area. The practices in the studies mentioned derive their benefits from the mind-body balancing associated with Hatha yoga. Some of the newly popularized yoga practices such as “Power Yoga” are considered more of a “gym yoga” and tend to focus more on the body more than the mind, but there definitely remains a meditational aspect to it.
Elizabeth Jarrell, from Ensure Branding, is a “Power Yoga” enthusiast who offers this opinion.
“I am a devoted runner who started going to Providence Power Yoga about a year ago. Like most people who run a lot, I would always find myself with some type of injury or another. Ever since I started going to Providence Power Yoga, my chronic injuries have subsided and I have had no new ones. My race times have even improved!
The teachers do such a great job of coming up with new and interesting classes and events to keep students engaged. Whether it’s retreats, yoga in the park, or an early morning session, they always have a class that I can get excited about and fit into my schedule.
From the day I started, I was welcomed into their nurturing and judgment-free environment, and with their help I have grown in to the yogi I am today!”
Conclusion – For anyone looking for a way to either cross-train or improve your overall wellness, it is well worth considering some form of yoga as a practice by itself or as a supplement to your current exercise regimen.
Timothy Sullivan MBA, began writing wellness-related articles in 2009 in support of his first book Assess, Redress, Success!
As an enthusiast for wellness, Mr. Sullivan saw the need to bridge the knowledge and findings made by medical and scientific research and translate those findings into stories about wellness that the average person can understand and hopefully integrate into their daily lives. Among Mr. Sullivan’s interests, he runs a wellness brokerage in Rumford, Rhode Island, and hopes to expand into creating a nonprofit company focused on dealing with curing people of substance abuse issues.