The Healing Power of Yoga
Sure, yoga can help you get fit. But learn what else it can do.
By Donna Grote, Registered Yoga Teacher, Wilfred R. Cameron Wellness Center
As popular as yoga is these days, many people don’t realize regular practice of yoga and yoga-based poses provides a number of health benefits in addition to enhanced fitness.
Although movement is essential to yoga practice, deep breathing and meditation are also fundamental. Depending how you incorporate these components, yoga can benefit almost everyone, whether you’re healthy and active or living with chronic conditions such as stress, scoliosis or headaches.
For example, if you’re seeking a vigorous workout, fitness-based power yoga classes fit the bill.
If you’re a serious athlete trying to boost your performance, stretching and strengthening your muscles is as important as master breathing techniques. And if you’re stressed or suffering from recurring pain, yoga practices combining gentle movement with breath work and meditation often provide relief.
Research continues to underscore the link between high stress levels and chronic conditions, including headaches. One of the best antidotes to stress is deep relaxation, which yoga can provide. The relaxing nature of restorative yoga practices calms your nervous system and relaxes the rest of your body.
Easy yet effective yoga techniques may be used to supplement, or as an alternative to, other approaches to manage headaches and other recurring pain.
For example, a study at the University of Rajasthan, Jaipur, India, found that gentle yoga and breathing techniques have a calming effect on migraines.
A comprehensive yoga program that emphasizes breathing techniques also may help people living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or with cancer.
Because of its ability to reduce stress and gently improve physical conditioning, yoga is one of the elements of the Dr. Dean Ornish Program for Reversing Heart Disease.
In addition, yoga can be effective in alleviating back pain, insomnia and other conditions related to the spine and central nervous system by promoting physical and emotional balance.
About 80 percent of us have some sort of bodily asymmetry that may overstress certain parts of our back, says Katie Chriest, a certified Yoga for Scoliosis Trainer. Having used alignment, balancing, acceptance and awareness to
eliminate pain resulting from her own scoliosis, she now helps others understand their asymmetries and how to proactively manage them through yoga practice.
Find the Yoga That Works for You
Whether you want to relieve pain, relax, stretch, strengthen or work out, there’s a yoga practice for you. Every community offers classes in a wide range of styles with a variety of teachers, many of whom specialize in addressing particular chronic conditions. Experiment with several—you may be surprised to
discover how many different techniques help you feel better and live well.
A registered yoga teacher through the Yoga Alliance, Donna Grote has been practicing yoga for nearly 15 years and teaching for eight. She works as the Yoga Coordinator at the Wilfred R. Cameron Wellness Center of The Washington Hospital—just a short drive from the Canon-McMillan area.
A series of Live Well Yoga workshops, including one led by Katie Chriest, also begins in May.
For more information, visit www.wrcameronwellness.org.