29 September 2005

Think, sleep, eat better with yoga

New studies show that yoga practice is associated with greater body awareness, helps chronic fatigue and treats insomnia.

New studies show that yoga practice is associated with greater body awareness, helps chronic fatigue and treats insomnia. A study published in Psychology of Women Quarterly, comparing three groups of women who engaged in yoga; aerobic exercise; and neither yoga nor aerobic exercise, found that yoga practice is associated with greater body awareness, lower self-objectification, greater body satisfaction and fewer disordered eating attitudes, compared to aerobic exercise and no exercise.

In another study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, researchers examined the effects of several commonly used therapies for chronic fatigue. Participants who had been experiencing chronic fatigue for at least six months, and for an average of 6.7 years, associated yoga with reduced fatigue at the two-year follow-up, and the authors thus identified yoga as the most promising alternative therapy for chronic fatigue.

Participants compared a wide variety of therapies, including prescribed medications, non-prescribed supplements and herbs, lifestyle changes, alternative therapies (including yoga) and psychological support.

Taking responsibility for your well-being is important
Managing director of Moksha Yoga, Chris Loker, says, “These studies are highlighting how important it is that we take responsibility for our own well-being, through practices like yoga, instead of being surprised when our health is compromised by our own choices and then turning to the healthcare industry for a 'pill for every ill' solution.”

A preliminary study of yoga for insomnia has also shown promising results. Researchers from the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School studied 20 participants (18 women, two men, ages ranging from 30-64) with chronic insomnia, (experiencing insomnia for longer than six months). The participants practiced yoga daily for eight weeks, receiving only one yoga training session, and practicing on their own for the duration of the trial.

Participants kept track of the sleep time, sleep quality, and sleep disruptions in ‘sleep-wake diaries’ and found that yoga practice “improved total sleep time, total wake time, sleep efficiency, sleep onset latency and wake time after sleep onset.”

Dr Herbert Benson of Harvard Medical School stated that stress is the cause of 60 to 90% of doctor visits and contended, “Yoga offers practical tools to short-circuit the stress reflex. Documented benefits include a reduction in blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol and blood sugar.”

Yoga indeed a traditional method that helps
”Yoga is not a fad, but rather a five-thousand year old tradition that is becoming more and more relevant in an increasingly stressed and unhealthy populace. Through a disciplined and regular process, we are able to develop the tools and techniques to influence positively the way in which we live, as well as develop the meditation practices that give some meaning and purpose in what seems to be a world gone crazy,” says Loker.

”Yoga can positively influence health and well-being in a number of ways, typically associated with commonly accepted medical practices. Yoga prevents and assists injuries of the muscular/skeletal systems (physical therapy), helps to prevent or reverse stress-related diseases (stress reduction), keeps the body and mind agile (anti-aging) and, as these studies are now showing, can influence behaviour like sleep and diet (preventive medicine).

“Yoga influences how we think, feel about, and respond to experiences (psychotherapy), can influence our social relationships, provide a sense of social support and community (social intervention), and helps us cope with the physical and psychological pain associated with illness (complementary medicine).”

(Moksha Yoga Enterprises, 20 July 2005)

Moksha Yoga is a Cape-based yoga business, incorporating a studio, private classes, courses, clothing, retreats and corporate stress management programmes. Moksha's aim is to provide a world-class experience with local and international facilities guiding students through postures, breathing and relaxation in sessions. Moksha is Sanskrit for liberation and symbolises the freedom of wellness. For more information, call 021 465 1733.

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