YOGA Overview Information
Yoga is an ancient practice from traditional Indian (Ayurvedic) medicine. It usually involves breathing and meditation exercises and physical body movements or postures.
Yoga is used to relieve stress, fatigue, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), fibromyalgia, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, and sleep troubles (insomnia). It is also used for painful conditions including nerve pain (neuropathy), headache, migraine, arthritis, low-back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and labor and delivery; and for breathing problems including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, tuberculosis, and bronchitis.
Other uses include treatment of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
Some breast cancer patients use yoga for improving emotional well-being and for reducing nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy.
Some stroke survivors also use yoga for improving recovery.
Some people with epilepsy use yoga to reduce the frequency of seizures.
Yoga is also used for treating irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), symptoms of menopause, multiple sclerosis, schizophrenia, pancreatitis, and early orgasm in men (premature ejaculation); as well as many other conditions.
How does it work?
Yoga is an ancient Indian practice and is an important part of traditional Indian or “Ayurvedic” medicine in India. Yoga uses several exercises including breathing, meditation, and body posture exercises. Many different styles of yoga exist that use a variety of techniques. The purpose of yoga is to achieve self-realization or enlightenment. Today it is also used for a variety of medical conditions and to maintain good health.
Like other forms of exercise and meditation, yoga appears to have several potentially beneficial effects. It can affect blood pressure, blood glucose levels, stress levels, and anxiety, and can affect brain chemicals related to mood.
Possibly Effective for:
- Back pain. Some research shows that practicing yoga for 12 weeks significantly improves lower back pain compared to other treatments including exercises.
- Depression. Some research shows that yoga can decrease symptoms of depression in people with major depression who are also receiving prescription drugs for depression. It also seems to help depressed people with alcohol dependence.
- Pregnancy and delivery discomfort. Studies have shown that participating in a yoga program during pregnancy seems to improve comfort during labor, delivery, and for 2 hours after delivery. Yoga also appears to reduce the risk of early labor and some complications of pregnancy such as high blood pressure. Babies born to mothers who practiced yoga during pregnancy also seem to weigh more at birth than some other babies.
- Tuberculosis (TB). Some research shows that yoga for 2 months can decrease symptoms, increase weight, improve lung function, and lower the bacterial count in people with TB.
Possibly Ineffective for:
- Asthma. Research shows that yoga for 4 weeks does not significantly improve symptoms of asthma.
- Anxiety. Some research studies found that yoga might improve symptoms of anxiety in people with anxiety disorder. But some researchers think these results may not be reliable, because the studies were not well designed.
- Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). There is some evidence that yoga improves some, but not all, symptoms of ADHD.
- Breast cancer. Developing research suggests that yoga for 12 weeks improves quality of life, emotional and social well-being, and mood in women with breast cancer who are not receiving chemotherapy. Eight weeks of yoga also seems to decrease pain and tiredness in women whose breast cancer has spread. In breast cancer survivors, yoga seems to improve quality of life and diarrhea, but not other problems with digestion.
- Bronchitis. Some people with chronic bronchitis report less shortness of breath after practicing yoga.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome. There is some evidence that yoga might improve grip strength and decrease pain in people with carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting. Yoga seems to significantly decrease the number of times breast cancer patients feel sick and vomit after chemotherapy. It also seems to make nausea less intense. Some women feel sick in the stomach even when they just think about chemotherapy treatments yet to come. Yoga seems to help this, too.
- Cognitive function. Evidence of yoga use in school children showed that it was similar to physical activity at improving cognitive function.
- Diabetes. There is some evidence that practicing yoga for 40 days significantly improves blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes. Yoga also seems to lower pulse rate and blood pressure in these people.
- Early male orgasm (premature ejaculation). There is some evidence that practicing yoga may improve premature ejaculation.
- Epilepsy. There is some evidence that using yoga and meditation along with the usual treatment might reduce the number of seizures experienced by people with epilepsy.
- Fibromyalgia. There is some evidence that yoga for 8 weeks can significantly reduce pain in people with fibromyalgia.
- Heart disease. Developing research suggests that yoga training for a year significantly reduces total cholesterol, “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and progression of disease in people with established coronary artery disease.
- Hemodialysis. There is some evidence that yoga for 12 weeks significantly reduces pain and sleep problems in people undergoing dialysis for kidney failure. Yoga also appears to improve results of some lab tests that indicate the severity of their kidney disease.
- High blood pressure. Preliminary clinical research suggests that yoga might decrease blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar levels in some people with high blood pressure.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). There is some evidence that practicing yoga for 4 weeks decreases disability and anxiety in teenagers with IBS, but it doesn’t seem to help their digestive tract symptoms. Another study found that yoga for 8 weeks decreases digestion problems in men who have the type of IBS that has diarrhea as the main symptom.
- Menopausal symptoms. Practicing yoga for 8-10 weeks seems to improve sleep, but it may not help hot flashes.
- Migraine headache. Developing research suggests that yoga for 3 months significantly reduces the number and severity of migraines in some people.
- Multiple sclerosis (MS). There is some evidence that yoga does not significantly improve thinking ability or mood in patients with MS, but it does seem to help with fatigue.
- Osteoarthritis. Developing research suggests that yoga can improve movement and decrease pain in people with osteoarthritis of the knee and hand.
- Performance anxiety. Some musicians who are afraid to take the stage seem to be less fearful after practicing yoga.
- Schizophrenia. Yoga seems to improve symptoms, social functioning, and quality of life better than exercise therapy for schizophrenia patients who are also treated with conventional prescription drugs.
- Sleep problems (insomnia). There is some evidence that yoga can decrease the time it takes to fall asleep (sleep latency), increase total sleep time, improve the feelings of being well rested, and other sleep measures in older people and other people who have a hard time sleeping.
- Stress. Practicing yoga for 10-16 weeks seems to reduce stress and anxiety in people experiencing mild-to-moderate levels of stress. Yoga appears to work about as well as relaxation therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy.
- Swollen pancreas (pancreatitis). Participating in yoga for 12 weeks seems to improve the quality of life in people with ongoing (chronic) pancreatitis.
- Rheumatoid arthritis.
- Stroke recovery.
- Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
- Physical performance.
- Metabolic syndrome.
- Other conditions.
YOGA Side Effects & Safety
Yoga is safe when used appropriately. However, some forms of yoga exercises are more aggressive. Some of these might not be safe. Some reports have linked yoga exercises called “pranayam” and “Kapalabhati pranayama” to serious side effects involving the lungs.
Special Precautions & Warnings:Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Yoga might be safe when used during pregnancy. There are some studies showing it doesn’t seem to harm the baby. However, some aggressive forms of yoga exercises might not be safe to use during pregnancy.
Stomach-area (abdominal) surgery: There is concern that some aggressive breathing techniques, such as “Kapalabhati pranayama,” might place too much pressure on the stomach area (abdomen) and harm people who have recently had abdominal surgery.
High blood pressure: There is concern that some aggressive breathing techniques, such as “Kapalabhati pranayama,” might temporarily increase blood pressure and harm people with uncontrolled high blood pressure.