When something has been around for thousands of years, it’s usually because it works.
Yoga is a legacy of many millenniums, and today it is being integrated with modern, Western, scientific techniques to create a science-backed, holistic treatment option that complements traditional treatments.
This article goes deep into the benefits of yoga for your health and wellbeing.
What is Yoga Therapy?
Yoga is an ancient practice from the Hindu religion that has only in recent years begun to be documented by the Western world for its therapeutic potential.
It involves postures, breathing techniques, strengthening exercise and yoga meditation. Yoga therapy is a modern update of the original yoga. It is an attempt to integrate the traditional concepts and techniques of the original yoga with medical and psychological knowledge from the Western world.The new professional field of yoga therapy is presently recognized as a clinically viable treatment. Major healthcare centers and clinics have established yoga therapy programs, and even hospitals have begun to use it as a treatment method.
Yoga is believed to enhance the connection between one’s body and mind. It is used as used a therapeutic intervention in the treatment of various diseases.
It is a scientifically-supported holistic therapy option used in rehabilitating people with drug addictions, for instance in meth addiction treatment.
Most modern yoga therapy interpretations are imbued with an understanding of how mind, body, and spirit are integrated, and how this connectivity is important for healing the whole person. This is in contrast with Western treatments which treat specific parts in exclusion of others, and often with side effects that are detrimental to other parts of the body.
Areas Where Yoga Therapy is Useful
- Treating Depression and Other Psychiatric Disorders
Scientific research has backed up yoga as a viable treatment option for psychiatric disorders like depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and anxiety.
In Western psychiatry, the dominant trends over the years for treating psychiatric disorders have been psychopharmacology and psychotherapy.
Psychopharmacology is a discipline that focuses on the use of medications to treat mental disorders. Psychotherapy is a treatment method for mental health issues that involves a conversation between the patient and a psychiatrist, psychologist, or any other mental health provider.
The effectiveness of psychopharmacology and psychotherapy as treatment methods is limited.
Yoga therapy is part of the biopsychosocial approach, which considers the biological, psychological factors and their interconnections to gain a holistic understanding of health and healthcare delivery.
The biopsychosocial approach for treating mental health was expanded to make room for a spiritual component, and that’s where yoga comes in. Yoga is an effective and non-toxic adjunct treatment option that is safer and more wholesome than psychopharmacological interventions.
Psychopharmacological interventions such as antipsychotic meds which are used to treat bipolar illness, schizophrenia, depression, and PTSD are associated with metabolic side effects like diabetes, weight gain, and dyslipidemias. When these metabolic side effects, obesity in particular, combine with severe mental illnesses, the result is a serious public health problem.
For that reason, yoga is a good alternative. It is particularly effective for reducing anxiety and depressive symptoms.
Yoga is very attractive as a treatment method because it has few side effects. That said, it is best to rely on a professional’s opinion after assessment of your condition. Yoga is a good complementary treatment, but it may not be enough where the condition is severe.
- Treating Substance Abuse Problems
To a person struggling with drug addiction, using the drug is the biggest priority among all the activities in his life. Drug dependence manifests itself through physiological, behavioral, and cognitive phenomena in the individual.
Drug addiction has a negative effect on various parts of his life: physical, social, psychological, legal, family, occupation, and personal finance.
In spite of the availability of many pharmacological measures to help manage drug dependence, relapses are very common in clinical practice. It is for this reason that drug dependence is often defined as a “chronic medical illness”. It has relapse rates of 40% – 60%.
Yoga as a drug dependence management solution is particularly valuable for developing countries since they usually have limited human and monetary mental health services.
Traditionally, yoga helps the student become mindful of his inner self and the cravings that arise within him. It helps him develop insight and inner resources to help him cope with cravings, upsetting emotions, stress, and impulses. It is, therefore, a holistic approach to addictions which health providers can integrate with conventional therapies.
With yoga therapy, an addict can break the cycle of negative emotions, stress, and addiction by developing his capacities for self-control, self-awareness, and self-realization.
- Treating Physical Health Issues
Yoga includes a variety of techniques that are beneficial for your physical wellbeing: physical postures and exercises (known as asanas), breathing techniques (known as pranayama), deep relaxation, and meditation practices.
The physical exercises will help increase your physical flexibility, strength, and coordination. Other benefits include reduction of blood pressure, and an improvement in metabolic regulation.
Here’s a list of other physical benefits we haven’t mentioned:
-Protects your joint from degenerative arthritis
-Keeps your spine healthy
-Increases your blood flow
-Improves drainage of lymph, which enables the lymphatic system to fight infection, combat cancerous cells, and get rid of the toxic waste products of cellular functioning
-Regulates adrenal glands – this protects your immune system
-Lowers blood sugar – good for diabetic people
-Releases tension in your limbs
- Reducing Stress
As we mentioned, in addition to the physical postures and exercises (asanas), yoga involves breathing techniques (prayama) and meditation practices.
The breathing techniques and meditation will help calm your mind and focus it. That way, you develop deeper awareness and you reduce stress and anxiety. As a result, you attain a higher quality of life.
Other benefits include a reduction of distress and improvement in resilience and mood.
Yoga also helps you to attain a deeper sleep since you have less fatigue and stress.
There are many other benefits, too many to even summarize here. What we have covered is merely the tip of the iceberg. For instance, we have not covered the social benefits like increased self esteem and improved relationships with others.
Where health is concerned, there is no doubt yoga therapy is an excellent complementary or alternative treatment.