Cancer Education Center

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PUBLIC PAGE
Mon, Oct 22, 2018 3:33pm

Benefits of Yoga

By Wendy Hanson, MPH, @wendyhanson

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Yoga: Fight stress and find serenity

Is yoga right for you? It is if you want to fight stress, get fit and stay healthy.

Your phone is ringing, your to-do list is a mile long and your partner wants to know what's for dinner. Stress and anxiety are everywhere. If they're getting the best of you, you might want to give yoga a try.

Understanding yoga

Yoga — a mind-body practice — is considered one of many types of complementary and integrative health approaches. Yoga brings together physical and mental disciplines that may help you achieve peacefulness of body and mind. This can help you relax and manage stress and anxiety.

Yoga has many styles, forms and intensities and most people can benefit from any style of yoga — it's all about your personal preferences.

The health benefits of yoga

The potential health benefits of yoga include:

  • Stress reduction. A number of studies have shown that yoga may help reduce stress and anxiety. It can also enhance your mood and overall sense of well-being.
  • Improved fitness. Practicing yoga may lead to improved balance, flexibility, range of motion and strength.
  • Management of chronic conditions. Yoga can help reduce risk factors for chronic diseases, such as heart disease and high blood pressure. Yoga might also help alleviate chronic conditions, such as depression, pain, anxiety and insomnia.

Yoga precautions

Yoga is generally considered safe for most healthy people when practiced under the guidance of a trained instructor, but there are some situations in which yoga might pose a risk.

See your health care provider before you begin yoga if you have any of the following conditions or situations:

  • A herniated disk
  • A risk of blood clots
  • Eye conditions, including glaucoma
  • Pregnancy (generally considered safe, but some poses may need to be avoided)
  • Severe balance problems
  • Severe osteoporosis
  • Uncontrolled blood pressure

You may be able to practice yoga in these situations if you take certain precautions, such as avoiding certain poses or stretches. If you develop symptoms, such as pain, or have concerns, see your doctor.

Getting started

Although you can learn yoga from books and videos, beginners usually find it helpful to learn with an instructor. Classes also offer camaraderie and friendship, which are also important to overall well-being.

When you find a class that sounds interesting, talk with the instructor so you know what to expect. Questions to ask include:

  • What are the instructor's qualifications? Where did he or she train and how long have they been teaching?
  • Does the instructor have experience working with students with your needs or health concerns? If you have a sore knee or an aching shoulder, can the instructor help you find poses that won't aggravate your condition?
  • How demanding is the class? Is it suitable for beginners? Will it be easy enough to follow along if it's your first time?
  • What can you expect from the class? Is it aimed at your needs, such as stress management or relaxation, or is it geared toward something else?

 

Achieving the right balance

Every person has a different body with different abilities. You may need to modify yoga postures to match you. Choosing an instructor who is experienced and who understands your needs is important to safely and effectively practice yoga. Good instructors will understand and encourage you to explore — but not exceed — your personal limits.

We would love to hear stories sharing how yoga has benefitted you!

I was diagnosed with sub-clinical atrial fibrillation two years ago at age 75. I was given Xarelto to thin my blood. Prior to this diagnoses I was cycling about 250 kilometers (156 miles) per week to keep fit. I decided it was not wise to fall from a bicycle when taking a blood thinner so I sold my two cycles. I then looked for a new way to keep fit and decided to take up yoga. Some of the early yoga classes I attended were designed for people in my age group and seemed overly mild and greatly reduced my fitness level. I am now with a new yoga center doing 2 classes a week of extreme stretch, two of Vinyasa Flow yoga and one Pilates. In addition I try and walk about 24 kilometers (15 miles) per week in 4 lots of 6 kilometers as well as trying to exercise before retiring. I still find that this does not quite keep me as fit as I previously was when cycling.

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