Even just entering my yoga practice space has calming effects. I have observed that when I sit down in the yoga studio, my natural respiratory rate drops from 12 breaths/minute down to about 6. This is before I even start any asana (poses) or pranayama (breathwork).
Physicians are recomending yoga for their patients, and a broader range of people seem to have found a regular practice. Yoga is offered everywhere, from college campuses to retirement villages. With great classes like chair yoga, yoga for athletes, and yoga for men, there is something for everyone. Do these people keep returning to the mat because of benefits like the ones I've observed?
I found a few small studies that highlight the benefits of yoga practice. For the purpose of this article, when I refer to yoga I'm including asana (poses), pranayama (breathwork) and chanting.
- This study was a small one performed in Italy in 2001. The physicians observed the subjects respiratory rates, pulses, and baroreflex sensitivity (ability of the nervous and cardiovascular systems to regulate blood pressure). They observed rosary prayer and mantras during natural and metronome controlled breathing. Using prayer and mantras, the subjects respiratory rates slowed down to 6 per minute, they had more heart rate variability and better variability of blood pressure. Hmm, those numbers sound familiar to what I've experienced. Cool!
- This paper from 2010 describes a small study of the effects of yoga on people in a traumatic situation. The study was performed on flood victims over a 6 week period. The yoga included 10 minute warm up, 20 min asana (poses), 25 min pranayama (yogic breathing) and 5 minutes guided relaxation. The yoga group showed a decrease in sadness, while the non yoga group showed an increase in anxiety.
- I also reviewed this paper, a comparison study written by 2 nurses. It concludes, "The studies comparing the effects of yoga and exercise seem to indicate that, in both healthy and diseased populations, yoga may be as effective as or better than exercise at improving a variety of health-related outcome measures."
If better stress response and better health sound like something you might be interested in, head to your local yoga studio as soon as possible. There is a class for everyone, and it's never too late (or early) to start!
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