Yoga is an ancient practice that was started in India. It combines philosophical principles with physical and mental practices. It started in India and was first mentioned in the sacred text, as far back as 500 BCE. However, it is believed that the beginnings of Yoga pre-date the sacred text, as it was developed by the Indus-Sarasvati civilization over 5000 years BCE.
In the late 19th and early 20th century, yoga was introduced to the West by the Indian gurus and was eagerly embraced for its health, emotional and spiritual benefits.
There exist many different styles or types of yoga, but the most well-known types include Hatha, Ashtanga, Kundalini, and Raja and Tantric yoga. Some are more physical than others, and one’s choice usually depends on needs, physical abilities and preferences.
Yoga is often related with a set of physical postures (asanas), even though there is much more to it, including the specific theory about the human physiology, which involves the study of energy channels and energy centers (chakras). Yoga has been widely studied and offers both physical and psychological benefits. It is recognized by many as a form of alternative therapy.
Medical Description of Yoga
The activities in the body when you do yoga can be medically described in this manner:
As humans, we have two types of autonomic nervous system. They are the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS).
The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the fight or flight reaction, while the PNS deals with rest and digest setting of the body. The SNS deals with stress, while the PNS controls the relaxation process.
However, as a result of the busy, competitive, demanding and alienating schedules, the sympathetic nervous system is the one working overtime, while the PNS doesn’t get activated as often as it should.
This makes it very difficult for us to achieve a balance in our body and mind.
The role of yoga in this kind of situation is to wake up our PNS, which results in the enjoyable feelings of relaxation. Physiologically, the PNS lowers blood pressure, slows the heart rate and redirects blood toward the digestive system.
This means that it takes care of those parts of the body which are neglected when the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is in charge.
Some yoga practices activate the PNS directly, as is the case of Pranayama. Pranayama yoga involves more gentle postures and deep diaphragmatic breathing.
More energetic styles of yoga, with physically demanding postures, might at first stimulate the SNS, but if the practice ends with meditation, they eventually put you in a state of relaxation.
Uses of Yoga
Yoga has been used to:
- Aids with back pain and improve joint mobility
- Improve mood and eliminate anxiety.
- Improve heart health and treats symptoms of heart failure.
- Reduce high blood pressure.
- Build strength and flexibility, and improve our posture
- Facilitate the improvement of some musculoskeletal conditions.
- Relieves asthma and allergy symptoms, and reduce or eliminate stress accumulation.
- Help with symptom control of cancer patients and people suffering from schizophrenia, and improve their quality of life.
Starting a yoga session or regime involves some discipline and inspiration, and on the overall, yoga is a very worthwhile practice.