Foundational Approach to Health: Exercise

 Exercising regularly relieves tension, anxiety, and depression as well as improving your overall health. Regular exercise improves mental acuity and memory. The immune system is strengthened, blood pressure lowered, and a reduction in the risk of a heart attack and other chronic diseases are accomplished with just thirty minutes of moderate physical activity daily, according to the American Heart Association.

In Yoga practice, a person is considered to be as young as his or her spine; the greater the flexibility and strength of the spine, the healthier the individual. Hence, our core yoga exercise app focuses primarily on increasing the strength and flexibility of the spine.

Exercise also breaks down fibrous strands of connective tissue formed by inactivity or inflammation. The longer the period of inactivity, the thicker and stronger the adhesions become. The complications of this include limited range of moment and impaired functioning of organs. Thus exercise helps maintain the flexibility that is important for overall health.

Additional benefits of exercise arise through its effects on the endocrine system, whose glands balance the various hormones used to control bodily functions. Practicing certain asanas (specific yoga positions) can help massage specific glands to promote better hormonal balance.

 

Other benefits of yoga include:

  • A decrease in blood pressure through better circulation
  • Better circulation enhances the oxygen flow to organs and the brain
  • Gastrointestinal functions improve through massaging and detoxifying positions
  • A balanced and more efficient metabolism

 

An Introduction to Yoga

 

Yoga originated 5,000 years ago in the Indus Valley of India. Originating from the Sanskrit word, yoga means “to unite.” The union yoga refers to is between the body, the mind, and the spirit. While there are many different styles of yoga, each practice is based on the same poses and postures. These poses are known as asanas.

Asanas help restore the body’s focus, balance, strength, and vitality. Each pose asks the body to realign, stretch, and develop both strength and stamina. These exercises also encourage deeper mind-body awareness.

Yoga is the integration of physical and mental practices that balance the mind, body, and spirit.

There are many types of yoga that find this balance with different approaches. For example, Bhakti Yoga is the path of devotion; Jnana Yoga is the path of wisdom; Tantra yoga is the path of ritual; Hatha Yoga is the path of physical postures (called asanas) and breathing (pranayama). Typically, in the western world, we practice Hatha yoga.

 

  • Hatha Yoga: Hatha yoga encompasses many different physical types of yoga. Hatha is gentle on the body and introduces the student to various poses and postures.
  • Iyengar Yoga: The most recognized approach to Hatha yoga, Iyengar focuses on the alignment of your body in specific poses with the aid of various props, such as blankets, wood blocks, and straps.
  • Bikram Yoga: Also known as “hot yoga,” Bikram yoga is practiced in a heated room, 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit. The practice is composed of 26 postures that are performed in a standard sequence. This practice is great for a thorough body cleanse and a loosening of tight muscles.
  • Viniyoga: In this practice, an experienced teacher works with each student individually to create a more personalized yoga program for the student. This allows the practice to be tailored to the student’s health, age, and overall health while taking into consideration any past injuries/recoveries. Controlled breathing synchronized with poses is also part of Viniyoga.
  • Kripalu Yoga: This practice includes three stages: postural alignment, meditation, and spiritual transformation. In the first stage, each pose is held according to the breath. In the second stage, meditation is integrated into the held postures. In the third stage, meditation is spontaneously thrown into the postures.
  • Integral Yoga: In this more gentle style of yoga, breathing and meditation are emphasized as much as the postures.
  • Sivananda Yoga: Includes a series of twelve postures, breathing exercises, relaxation, and mantra chanting.
  • Ananda Yoga: This gentle style prepares students for meditation through consciously directing the body's energy and focus to different organs and limbs.
  • Vinyasa Yoga: With breath-synchronized movement, this practice is more vigorous. Typically, the class practices a number of sun salutations.
  • Ashtanga Yoga: This practice involves synchronizing the breath while going through a series of fast-paced postures.

 

How Yoga Improves Health

 

Many people who do Yoga on a regular basis are full of stories about how Yoga has improved their life and well-being. Yoga can relax and revive you, improve your mood and strengthen your body. You can do it at for no cost and with little side effects.

In the West, the term "yoga" is typically associated with Hatha Yoga and its asanas (postures) or as a form of exercise.

Yoga is a mind-body technique that can reduce stress. A study found that after seven weeks the group treated with yoga reported significantly less mood disturbance and reduced stress compared to the control group. Another study found that Mind-Body Stress Reduction had showed positive effects on sleep anxiety, quality of life, and spiritual growth.[1]

The three main focuses of Hatha yoga (exercise, breathing, and meditation) make it beneficial to those suffering from heart disease. Overall, studies of the effects of yoga on heart disease suggest that yoga may reduce high blood pressure, improve symptoms of heart failure, enhance cardiac rehabilitation, and lower cardiovascular risk factors.[2]

Long-term yoga practitioners in the United States have reported musculoskeletal and mental health improvements, as well reduced symptoms of asthma in asthmatics.[3] Regular yoga practice increases brain GABA levels and is shown to improve mood and anxiety.[4]

Yoga has the power to build strength and confidence, to improve flexibility and balance, and to foster spiritual peace and contentment.

 

[1] Smith K, Pukall C. An evidence-based review of yoga as a complementary intervention for patients with cancer. Psycho-Oncology [serial online]. May 2009;18(5):465-475.

[2] Yoga could be good for heart disease. Simultaneous focus on body, breathing, and mind may be just what the doctor ordered. (2010). Harvard Heart Letter: From Harvard Medical School, 21(3), 5. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

[3] Birdee, Gurjeet S. et al. "Characteristics of Yoga Users: Results of a National Survey." Journal of General Internal Medicine. Oct 2008, Volume 23 Issue 10. p1653-1658

[4] Streeter, Chris C. et al. "Effects of Yoga Versus Walking on Mood, Anxiety, and Brain GABA Levels: A Randomized Controlled MRS Study." Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine. Nov 2010, Volume 16 Issue 11, p1145-115

 

Why Should Yoga be Practiced in Schools?

Students looking to improve their academic performance, or parents looking for ways to help their kids become all-stars in the classroom, have another option other than tutors. It turns out yoga has been shown through studies and anecdotal evidence to improve students’ academic performance, alertness and concentration by relieving stress.

 

What is stress? Learning relaxation techniques to improve grades

Studies have shown that low or moderate levels of stress can interfere with academic performance, especially as it pertains to tests. Stress results in the inability to concentrate. Practicing yoga leads a person having control over favorable and unfavorable circumstances with moderate responses. Those who practice yoga achieve a serene mind, optimal physical health and spiritual uplift. After six months of practicing yoga, practitioners achieve a feeling of wellbeing, increased vital capacity, a reduction in body weight, and acceleration in endocrinal (hormonal) functions. Improvements with memory and with problems such as headaches, insomnia and nervousness have also been documented.

 

Children and the benefits of yoga or meditation techniques

Yoga has been shown to have a positive effect on adolescents and children as young as four years old. One study showed that a 4-week program of yoga and meditation lowered aggressive behavior in students, while another reported that meditation improved emotional and physical health and psychological wellbeing. Improvements were also shown in eye-hand coordination, attention, concentration and relaxation.

 

Anecdotal evidence of yoga’s positive effect on children

An article in USA Today in 2009 featured the increasing interest in incorporating meditation in schools. One elementary school in California had seen a reduction in fighting and sharper focus from its students. Studies on Los Angeles preschoolers who were taught meditation showed that they exhibited improvements in their ability pay attention and focus. Improvements in early elementary school kids were only shown when they started with attention problems.

Weekly hour-long lessons at schools in England, which were funded with a government grant, helped raise academic performance among students. In 2009, an elementary school in South East London reported a 100 percent pass rate in standardized tests in English, math and science after students were taught breathing exercises before the exams.

 

How to use yoga to improve academic performance

When incorporating yoga into the curriculum, it’s best to start with breathing techniques. Move onto visualization techniques in which you tell the children to think about a time they were proud of themselves. Instruct them to hold onto that feeling of confidence and visualize themselves doing well on the test. Having students practice tree, seated twists and seated arm stretches will add physical activity to the meditation. Also try yoga breaks during tests.

 

The evidence of yoga’s benefit is conclusive to reduce levels of stress

Studies have shown that students who practiced yoga performed better in overall academics and in individual subjects than their fellow students who did not practice yoga. Yoga has been proven to change perception, attention, concentration and cognition for the better and to be helpful in managing anxiety. Yoga improves academic performance by controlling stress levels and it should become a fixture in schools.

 

Yoga for Beautiful Glowing Skin

It comes as a surprise to most people that Yoga can actually help them get rid of acne and get the glowing skin they desire and that too without spending an arm and a leg on cosmetic products which are laced with chemicals that can can cause more harm than good.

 

What is acne?

First, let’s talk about how acne forms. Glands embedded in our skin produce sebum, a waxy/odorless matter that lubricates and protects the skin. As sebum works its way to the surface from the glands, it carries with it dead skin cells. At times, the sebum and dead skin cells make a mixture of matter clogging the skin pores leading to growth of bacteria that cause inflammation and acne.

 

How does Yoga help you boost your skin?

Inverted poses like the plough posture or the headstand help blood flow to the brain while also enhancing blood circulation to the face boosting the supply of nutrients needed for glowing skin.

Yoga has also shown to be an effective stress reliever by reducing the levels of stress hormones, particularly cortisol. Under stressful conditions the adrenals release cortisol, and its presence increases the production of sebum which contributes heavily to acne. Because Yoga helps you manage stress and lowers the levels of cortisol, it stands to reason that Yoga can help you clear up acne.

Saagara's app Yoga for Migraines has both of these poses in the advanced difficulty level. These yoga poses clear the skin and it only takes about a week before you can start to see a noticeable difference. Combining Yoga with Pranayama will give you even better results.

Pranayama relieves stress and anxiety due to its physiological effect on the nervous system. Breathing slowly and mindfully activates the hypothalamus, connected to the pituitary gland in the brain, to send out neurohormones that inhibit stress-producing hormones and trigger a relaxation response in the body.

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Stress                     Breathing                 Exercise                   Diet                        Mindfulness