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Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

Yoga Brings Myriad Varieties and Benefits

Sep 01, 2014 07:58AM ● By Dr. Linda Khoshaba

Yoga is a physical, spiritual and mental practice that allows us to awaken the body and mind. It has been around for thousands of years and has roots embedded in the Indian culture. In the past decade, it has become increasingly popular in our society.

Stress is a part of our everyday culture and can be difficult to avoid, but yoga can be a great tool to help combat it. Yoga involves several different types of stretching exercises and incorporates breathing and meditation practices. It is also a widely used form of exercise that almost anyone can engage in. Yoga has positive health and mental outcomes, including improved sleep, digestion, energy and attitude.

Yoga forces our mind to be present with our breathing, draws our awareness to its consciousness and engages the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which controls relaxation. The PNS regulates the digestive system to secrete more enzymes and juices, and promotes proper absorption of food. It also regulates the body’s ability to regulate heart rate and dilate the blood vessels. These mechanisms are significant in helping tackle stress.

Yoga has many positive physical benefits, including improved flexibility, posture and strength. Weight-bearing exercises and resistance training help prevent osteopenia and osteoporosis. Yoga keeps joints and bones healthy due to increased blood circulation that brings more oxygen and nutrients to the area. Postures that focus on twisting encourage blood to return to the heart and bring new fresh blood to the area. Postures that focus on inversion, such as a headstand, also send blood back to the heart and lungs to become oxygenated and dispersed throughout the body, and are great for conditions of swelling.

There are many different styles and postures in yoga, such as Bikram, anusara, prenatal, restorative and sivananda. All will produce positive health benefits, but differ in timing, poses and experience. Bikram involves yoga poses in warm, humid heat, like a sauna. It is a great style for people interested in detoxing and weight loss. Anusara is good for beginners because it offers a lot of flexibility in poses and positions that are not extremely difficult. Prenatal yoga can be of great benefit to women in all trimesters and can improve outcomes of labor and delivery. Restorative yoga focuses on fewer, but more prolonged, relaxation poses. Sivananda is a more traditional yoga that involves aspects of spirituality, diet and meditation, and can last several hours.

Regardless of the style, engaging in a yoga exercise a few times per week can produce significant, compounded, long-term health benefits, and should be a practice to be incorporated for a healthy lifestyle. Sign up for a class with a local gym, yoga studio, or even try DVD exercises from home.

Dr. Linda Khoshaba received a doctorate from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine. Her main areas of focus include women's health, pediatric medicine, diabetes management and prolotherapy. For more information, visit MyIntegrativeHealth.com.

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