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Laney Landeros

English IV Honors

Mrs. Lancaster

March 23, 2017

The Mental and Physical Benefits of Yoga

Versatility and customizability friendly, yoga is ideal for all ages, abilities, and fitness

levels. Its the collective wisdom of ages and encompasses a system of cure without modern

medicines. Yoga is a hearty component of self-care where practitioners can take an active role in

their own health and wellbeing instead of being an inactive participant in interventions given to

them, such as tests, medications, or other therapies. Yoga has been around for hundreds of years

and over the last twenty years has evolved into a popular activity revitalizing ones health with

benefits such as reducing stress, losing weight, balancing the mind, lowering high blood

pressure, improving heart conditions, and eliminating depression.

Early writings of yoga were transcribed on fragile palm leaves that were easily damaged,

destroyed or lost making the ability to track the exact history and origins of yoga nearly

impossible. However, through extensive research, analysts can make connections confirming the

beginnings of Yoga were developed by the Indus-Sarasvati civilization in Northern India over

five-thousand years ago (Migliore 29). Originally, yoga focused on applying and understanding

the world. It was not until the second century that, Patanjali, the mythological father of yoga,

organized the practice of yoga into an "eight limbed path" containing the steps and stages

towards obtaining Samadhi or enlightenment (History of Yoga 1). A few centuries after

Patanjali, yoga masters created a system of practices designed to rejuvenate the body and

prolong life. They developed radical techniques to cleanse the body and mind to break the knots
that bind us to our physical existence. These spiritual practices eventually led to the poses and

meditation associated with modern yoga.

For many people, the main concern in a yoga class is whether they are breathing correctly

or if their legs are aligned. But for others, there are lingering doubts about whether they should

be there at all, or whether they are betraying their religion. The matter-of-fact is, there are many

different forms of yoga: some that are overtly religious and some that are strictly focused on

body improvement and yogas healing abilities. [Yoga] is a trace from history of a religious

pathway, says Rebecca Ffrench, the co-founder Yoga London - a yoga teacher academy - and

the philosophy tutor at the school. However, is something religious if you don't have the

intention there? If I was to kneel does that mean, I'm praying - or am I just kneeling? (1). In

conflicting religions and even school exercises, yoga has been rewritten using words in ones

own culture from the original Sanskrit pose names. There is a visible divide in American yoga

and traditional Hindu yoga. Where American yoga is a multi-billion-dollar industry of non-

religious physical endeavors- Hindu yoga is the opening of the mind allowing the Vedas

scripture to cleanse while an individual prays to Shiva for wisdom and prosperity (Yoga in

America: Where Bowing to God is Not Religious 1).

Through exploration and extensive studies, researchers can understand and reveal yogas

scientific explanation that uncovers the hidden internal causes that make yoga so effective. There

are more than two-hundred different viruses that can enter the body at any given moment. In the

day-to-day hectic, everyday lives, humans are prone to runny noses, coughs, head colds, stomach

aches and many other illnesses. Healthy eating habits and good hygiene can reduce the risk of

common illnesses along with yoga. Studies convincingly have proven that practicing yoga on a

regular basis relaxes the adrenaline that pours into the system during fight or flight mode that
can make our bodys SNS (Sympathetic Nervous System) increase in activity in our PNS

(Peripheral Nervous System) that wards off bodies of viruses and stress-related barricades (The

Effects of Yoga on the Nervous System 1). They also suggest that yoga creates a positive impact

on our immune system by increasing the levels of immunoglobulin and NK (Natural Killer) cells

that keep human bodies free of invaders. Plus, when the immune system is healthier,

inflammation and mucus decrease and symptoms diminish. A main tool for maintaining the

respiratory system, yoga helps to improve the mechanical efficiency of the lungs by conditioning

the respiratory tract that increases their elasticity and strength. And for those who sit in office

chairs during most of the day, yoga can flush out buildups of toxins and mucus like lactic acids

resulting in a boosted recovery, according to The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research

in November 2014. Also in the Endocrine system, yoga appears to have an anti-inflammatory

effect that relaxes and softens soreness from diseases that may be attacking the body. Many links

have been found that yoga produces higher cortisol levels and lower catecholamine levels in

those who engage in regular yoga practice. Psychologically speaking, yoga boosts levels of feel-

good brain chemicals that many doctor-prescribed antidepressants and anxiety drugs try to target.

The costs are significantly less considering between 75 and 90 percent of urgent care visits are

related to stress and mental breakdowns. In a study in the International Journal of Yoga Therapy,

nineteen overweight people who completed a 5-day yoga program were on average seventeen

pounds lighter a full year later (The Magic of Yoga 1).

Yoga has become a modern-day symbol of peace, serenity and well-being around the

world because it offers wide-ranging physical health benefits that rival other forms of exercise.

Gym memberships are costly and usually bulk the exerciser rather than create a lean, sculpted

body form. The gym focuses on working each part of the body separately, whereas no amount of
lifting weights is going to make arms as strong as holding up ones body weight in yoga. Also,

practically everything in yoga is engaging the core, from core-centric poses to moving from pose

to pose, using the core to stabilize the body. In different inversions and arm balances, yoga raises

the heartbeat, strengthens muscles, and lengthens them out all at once. Often gyms are

competitive- whether intended or not- and members feel as though they are pitted against each

other. In yoga, competition is eliminated, where the exerciser can focus on themselves and thrive

to achieve their best. Yoga also burns calories, tones and shapes the body, and helps maintain an

ideal weight thanks to the conditioning of the cardiovascular system. Yoga practitioners receive

cross-training benefits which balances inner muscles often missed by heavy lifting and

treadmills.

Alongside the physical benefits, yoga was essentially created to stabilize ones mental

control. Stress is the primary issue in weight loss because of the common necessity to feel

whole that leads to binge eating, laziness, and depression, says Brandt Bhanir Passalacqua, a

certified yoga instructor and author of many award-winning yoga books. Yoga helped me lose

over 100 pounds! Passalacqua raved. Its also quantitatively different from any other type of

physical activity that it consists of a unique combination of muscular contractions, stretching,

relaxation, and breathing exercises (Yoga and Its Unexpected Benefits 29). There are many

aspects of yoga that offer benefits to athletes as well: improved flexibility therefore reducing the

risk of injury, poses that demand balance, increased stamina with breathing, more blood

circulation and it comforts limited mobility. Yoga allows time to slow the mind and create more

space between thoughts that increases awareness and concentration, taking negative thoughts

away such as stress and depression (Magic of Yoga 2). By helping discharge tension and

worries, yoga alleviates the mind of anxiety without the intake of fifty medications. Also, it
boosts memory and removes the static noise in the head, allowing to be able to remember things,

concentrate, and perform much better. Women who have been abused, as well as enlisted military

personnel who have gone into battle with enemy combatants, usually develop a condition known

as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Patients who suffer from this mental illness

frequently experience nightmares and flashbacks, to name a few of the symptoms. While some

mental treatments can address the underlying factors of PTSD, yoga promotes a mind-body

connection that psychologically calms the brain and opens the air inside the lungs for large

breathing intakes. Associated with PTSD, Insomnia is frequent among individuals that sign-up

for yoga primarily for the proven benefits of better sleep patterns (The Benefits of Yoga 2).

Practitioners tout yoga for its mind-body benefitsflexibility, toned muscles, reduced

stress, among others. More recently, scientists have begun to test yoga's effect on serious medical

conditions. Per an article by Kavita D. Chandwani on yogas benefits for Breast Cancer patients,

women had a lower frequency and intensity of nausea and anticipatory nausea following four

cycles of chemotherapy than women who did not practice yoga. In a second trial, the results

found that yoga practitioners had less DNA damage by the end of radiotherapy compared to

regular counseling. A different accumulating body of research indicated to Erik J. Groessl, who

has a PHD in contemporary medicine, that yoga is beneficial for treating general musculoskeletal

and mental health issues that are often associated with pain conditions (The Benefits of Yoga for

Women Veterans with Chronic Low Back Pain 2). A secondary research study of the same

group found that yoga can reduce the pain and improve function in people with specific

musculoskeletal illnesses such as chronic low back pain. Yoga is especially helpful for people

who have certain health conditions, such as arthritis and osteoporosis because of gentle balancing

poses yoga introduces (Hazleton Healthy You 8). Several trials have found that yoga can lower
blood pressure, cholesterol, and resting heart rates, and help slow the progression of

atherosclerosisall risk factors for heart disease, says Erin Olivo, PhD, director of Columbia

University's Integrative Medicine Program. While any exercise is good for the heart, experts say

yoga's meditative component gives it an extra boost by helping to stabilize the endothelium, the

lining of the blood vessels that, when irritated, contributes to cardiovascular disease. Since the

lining is reactive to stress, and meditation can lower stress hormones, yoga may even reduce the

risk of heart disease and or heart attacks (5 Unexpected Health Benefits of Yoga 1). Although

yoga can not cure diabetes, it is effective in controlling blood sugar to a normal level. There are

various types of yoga that are natural cures for indigestion and migraine related symptoms of

everyday life. To try to limit the amount of pill popping and doctors visits, yoga is a healthy

alternative that is believed to soon be integrated into physical therapy training sessions (10

Diseases That Can Be Cured by Yoga 1).

However, the benefits of yoga far outnumber just the mental and physical aspects.

Analyses from several different research groups revealed that people who used relaxation

techniques were 43 percent less likely to visit the hospital, be ordered a medical test by their

doctor and to need emergency care, compared to those who did not use the practices says

Carolyn Gregoire in her article about yoga and meditation in the Huffington Post. In the same

article, after crunching the numbers, the researchers found that mind-body practices resulted in

annual healthcare savings of $2,360 per patient, based on reduced emergency room visits alone.

We tend to think of advances in medicine as something very new and high-tech and expensive,

Dean Ornish, president of the Preventative Medicine Research Institute, told Huff Post last year.

But what weve been able to show with over three decades of research is that ... lifestyle

changes, which is including yoga and meditation, can not only prevent but reverse chronic
diseases. Yoga and meditation are gaining world-wide appeal and despite the fact insurance

companies dont cover yoga expenses, the costs for yoga are still considerably less than paying

for each individual doctor or hospital appointment. Also, health providers may not cover border

zone therapies but some flex plans allow reimbursement even if insurance companies say no

(Conventional or Alternative? Exploring Borderline Therapies 2). At Weaverville Yoga located

in the northern parts of Asheville, North Carolina, costs of attending are ten dollars for

nonmembers a class while a public estimated cost of going to one doctor visit is twenty-five

dollars with insurance. Most yoga studios such as Weaverville Yoga have other options that

discount prices for students, military personnel active and retired, teachers, government

employees, etc. that make yoga an affordable activity. As an ongoing debate amongst many

Americans, healthcare is funded by the federal government. Yoga could potentially lower the

annual spending of taxpayer dollars that are attributed to health care.

Overexertion in any amount of physical activity becomes damaging when the body is not

able to rest and recoup, however as the general rule of thumb for a healthy practice of yoga is

about three to five days a week. This is not to say three to five days a week every week is needed

to reap the benefits yoga has. Whether its hitting the studio several times a week or developing a

ten to fifteen-minute daily home practice with YouTube or a DVD, slow-moving yoga

practitioners can achieve personal goals efficiently and are quick to receive the first-hand

benefits yoga offers. The price of yoga ranges from expensive to affordable as any workout does,

something that sets it apart from other routines is yogas minimalistic props that are required.

Exercisers need only one thing: themselves, this eliminates the need to purchase equipment like

weights or the treadmill. With no equipment, necessary, it doesnt matter if the individual is at

home, at the office, on the roador even in the streets of NYC.


Whether a diehard yogi or a dedicated gym-goer, everyone at some time or another looks

for ways to refresh their boring routine. Over the many centuries, yoga has been molded and

differentiated to produce various types of relaxation methods. For beginners, Iyengar yoga is a

gentle and detailed class that is full of direction to help the first-timers (The Best Yoga 1).

Whereas Hatha is a yoga style that focuses on balancing your entire body's energy as well as

deepening the mind-body connection and stretching tight muscles via poses, deep breathing, and

meditation that is ideal for any stress related goals (The Best Yoga 1). Specific yoga classes

that center around building the body that are fitting for athletes and quick weight loss are

Bikram, Power, and Hot yoga. Not only does it engage in athletic nature with active poses and

posture, these classes also address areas of the body that get tight through running, cycling, and

weightlifting, such as the chest, shoulders, mid to upper back, hamstrings, thighs, and hips (The

Best of Yoga 1). Even though world-wide there are hundreds of workouts, yoga has an

assortment of styles that can tailor to anyones specific needs or pace.

Yoga, an ancient exercise system that blends poses, meditation and breath work, does

more than provide a way to become stronger and more flexible. It can help make changes to the

brain that improves health and moods. The nervous system and patterns of thoughts and beliefs

are significantly impacted by yoga's positive effects on the brain. As years, have progressed,

yoga has also been studied and altered to give physical benefits that assist in better health in

everyday lives as compared to going to the gym. Yoga has stood the test of time and continues to

remain a new alternative way to improve the body and mind without breaking the bank.

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