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Yoga Provides Relief and Health Benefits for Certain Health Issues

Paul M. Jerard Jr.
Feb 11, 2008
Yoga has been shown, throughout its ancient practice, to provide innumerable health benefits to those who practice it. More recently Yoga has been shown to benefit people with specific health issues, such as fibromyalgia, high blood pressure, and scoliosis.

Fibromyalgia is a condition originating in the body's connective tissue, causing inflammation and soreness in the tendons and ligaments. In addition to the pain, resulting from fibromyalgia, sufferers can experience sleeplessness and poor quality sleep, often times resulting in a chronic fatigue. This leads to depression and anxiety in many people. Many times, these problems are aggravated by drugs prescribed to fibromyalgia sufferers; they become avoidant of movement and grow increasingly weak.

Yoga benefits fibromyalgia in several ways. As Yoga exercises increase core muscle strength, there is a reduced amount of fatigue and a decrease in muscle pain. Greater levels of endurance and stamina lead to a less depressed physical and mental state. Yoga has also been shown to improve sleep and concentration levels. Also, while some higher impact types of exercise can sometimes worsen symptoms for sufferers, Yoga is low-impact and strengthens connective tissue, while allowing a more free range of movement.

What instructors need to be aware of is that because of the nature of this condition, there is a certain level of pain almost consistently. While this discomfort exists, students must learn how to work through this and to also know their personal limits. It is up to the student to know when to rest, and the instructor must recognize that students with this condition will have more limitations. Yoga should not leave the student worn out and sore. However, long term practice, with gradual progression, should relieve some of the symptoms of fibromyalgia.

For many, yoga reduces high blood pressure and lowers stress levels. High blood pressure is damaging to the heart and arteries. The heart must work harder at pumping, and the arteries resist damage from a more forceful blood flow. Long term high blood pressure puts one at risk for heart attack, stroke, and kidney failure.

Yoga asanas relieve in several ways: by combating the causes, relieving the symptoms, and balancing the nervous systems that control stress levels. Yoga also helps to retain the elasticity of blood vessels, and this reduces the potential for injury in those with high blood pressure. Breathing and meditation activities help reduce stress levels, which, in turn, balance out the body - as stress is managed in healthier ways.

Instructors encourage persons, with high blood pressure, to practice supine and sitting positions, as well as forward bends and inversions. However, as with any exercise, it is important to know whether the person has their blood pressure medically under control in a healthy way. If not, the student should bring down their blood pressure before practicing inversions specifically.

Scoliosis is a condition of curvature in the spine. The effects of scoliosis are severe, causing imbalance in the body by shifting the body's center of gravity, as well as rib displacement. There are four major curves that can exist in this condition. Depending on whether the scoliosis is of the structural or functional type, the condition varies in severity. The condition may be very painful, but for many with this health issue, yoga helps.

Emphasis should be placed on postural alignment for students with scoliosis, and it is very important to stretch and strengthen muscles that support the spine. This helps relieve pain and stiffness that comes with the condition. The feet and legs are focused on, enabling the legs to offset pressure on the spine, by carrying some of the weight. Also, the position of the feet are given special attention for the sake of balance.

Core body strength needs to be built in the area of the abdominal muscles, to prevent back muscles from overworking, causing tightness, and pain. Last, but definitely not least, is breath. Due to the curvature of the spine, often the lung on that side will not get as much breath. Becoming aware of this and working to inhale evenly on both sides will open up the chest and cause more balance and evenness from within. With Yoga, students with scoliosis, learn how to be balanced again from the inside out.

While any of these conditions create debilitating conditions in the lives of their sufferers, yoga offers relief and treatment for causes and symptoms, without side effects. In tandem with medical care, Yoga students, suffering from these conditions, become more aware of their bodies and gain great relief. Pay attention to the individual needs of students with these conditions, and guide them to balance again.

Copyright 2008 - Paul Jerard / Aura Publications
About the Author
Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, is a co-owner and the director of Yoga teacher training at: Aura Wellness Center in, Attleboro, MA. He is an author of many books on the subject of Yoga and has been a certified Master Yoga teacher since 1995.

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