Yoga: the power of the pose
Who would have thought that a 5000-year-old style of movement would become more popular in this country than Australian football? According to the Bureau of Statistics, more people take part in weekly yoga classes than they do in our national sport. And for good reason.
”All forms of yoga, meditation or tai chi, any gentle movement, helps to reduce pain or your perception of pain,” says Dr Sam McCarthy, an osteopath at Sydney’s Better Health Clinics (betterhealthclinics.com.au). ”We once thought that yoga made muscles longer alone, but we’ve now discovered that the poses make them wider, and the act of stretching actually feeds back information to your central nervous system. This in turn stimulates your muscles to become stronger around a point of weakness.”
Twenty-five per cent of people who do yoga earn more than $100,000 a year.
So, if you have an unstable or sore ankle, a yoga pose that requires you to balance on that ankle will stimulate your brain via proprioceptive nerves to strengthen the surrounding areas to help it become stronger and more stable.
”Yoga helps to improve your overall strength and posture while calming your mind and nervous system. This is probably why so many people practise yoga long term.
A professor of complementary medicine at RMIT in Melbourne, Marc Cohen, says: ”The majority of people we surveyed found that the reason they began doing yoga was very different to why they continued practising it.” Cohen and PhD student Stephen Penman did a study of 4000 yoga teachers and students (it was published in the International Journal of Yoga). They found that one in five of the people surveyed began practising yoga for a specific medical issue, and continued to practise after their health improved. ”Yoga isn’t just about doing postures but also about meditation and relaxation,” he says.
Which yoga is best?
Should you be heating it up in Bikram or chilling out in Hatha? ”It’s really about your physical and emotional needs and how yoga will fit into your lifestyle,” says Charlotte Dodson, a yoga teacher who counts Miranda Kerr among her clients. ”There are certain styles to suit specific cycles in your life. For instance, there’s prenatal yoga for those more than 12 weeks pregnant, Iyengar is great for injuries, and Asthanga is a perfect match for achieving a more physical workout.”
Toning and weight loss
Regular yoga practice is associated with mindful eating, and people who eat mindfully are less likely to be obese, according to a study led by researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre, Washington. The researchers found that people who were aware of why they ate and stopped eating when full weighed less than those who ate when they were not hungry or in response to anxiety or depression. The researchers believe this link doesn’t exist between other types of exercise, such as walking or running. ”When you’re doing yoga you make lifestyle changes and choices for the better,” Cohen says. ”Our participants reported changes such as giving up smoking, eating healthier and reducing the amount of alcohol they drank.” Cohen says that as yoga is reported to help relieve stress, it’s likely that people are less tempted to turn to these vices as a crutch.
Researchers have finally justified what yogis have known for centuries: a study published in Medical Hypotheses found that yoga was more beneficial than walking when it came to reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety, high blood pressure and cardiac disease. The researchers found that yoga increased the level of gamma amino-butyric acid (GABA), which helps decrease anxiety.