Yoga has been a cultural buzzword for almost a century. Its practices and techniques have made claims to affect everything from blood circulation to insomnia. Whether by a friend’s anecdote or through a new story shared on a Facebook feed, women have heard of this practice. There are benefits to women’s health through the practice of yoga exercises.
What is Yoga?
It is important, however, to define exactly what “yoga” is, as definitions and practices can vary wildly.
The most common exercise practiced in the West is called Hatha Yoga, (though many other disciplines exist), which originated in India 2,000 years ago. Yoga made its first large-scale appearance in the Western world in the late 18th century and since then has become a wide umbrella of techniques from different religious backgrounds.
It wavered in and out of the culture for a few decades but became a permanent fixture in the 1980s, when Dean Ornish popularized the technique for purely physical benefits. While some conservative groups still frown on the practice, it has become a cultural norm since this time.
Today more than 20 million Americans practice yoga and many more millions around the world.
Holistic Benefits of Yoga
Geeta S. Lyengar believes that due to her study of yoga, she was able to overcome a childhood disease without medication, even after spending four days unconscious in a nursing home with severe nephritis.
She also studied the Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu holy book, fervently and practiced meditation as well. Iyengar wrote largely of the holistic benefits of yoga.
She stated that it is a culture of:
- External and internal cleanliness
- Dietary control
- Proper exercise of the limbs and organs
- Physical and mental poise
However, she also cited its ability to help women specifically, especially in childbirth, menstruation, and menopause. It can be an art, science, and philosophy- or depending on the practitioner, none of the above.
More secular sources like the American College of Sports Medicine have called it an inwards and outward transition. How much of it is used in lifestyle versus physical exercise varies widely with each person who practices these poses, but common sense says that changing things like diets and cleanliness will improve lifestyle.
Health Benefits Of Yoga
Yoga has been cited by scholarly sources to show improvement of common ailments for women, including the American College of Sports Medicine.
Many Benefits Of Yoga
- Yoga improves flexibility, strength, balance, and endurance.
- It teaches the practitioner to reduce stress and better cope with stress.
- Yoga teaches mindfulness by shifting awareness to the sensations, thoughts, and emotions that naturally accompany a particular pose.
- A study from Duke University Medical Center shoed that yoga benefits those who suffer from mental disorders, including depression, schizophrenia, and anxiety
- Yoga promotes good sleep and ease anxiety.
- Practicing yoga in a class setting promotes the production of oxytocin in the brain a feel good hormone that naturally promotes wellness. Something that is especially useful for aging women.
- Yoga along with meditation also results in higher serotonin levels, which is the mood boosting happiness hormone that can boost quality of life and general contentment.”
- Couples often turn to yoga to increase chances of conception. Yoga promotes relaxation and reduces stress in the mother to be, both of which improve chances of conception. Yoga also plays a role in promoting blood flow to the reproductive organs, which improves organ function and hormone function.
- Posture improves because yoga strengthens the core.
- Yoga helps build lean muscle tone.
- Quality time in a class setting allows for social interaction, comradery and an emotional connection to others, which improves a woman emotional health helping to improve her physical health and reduce risk for heart disease.
- Being aware of and knowing how to stretch core muscle groups can be beneficial in managing menstrual cramps and childbirth without medication. They are also used in back strengthening techniques in older women at risk of osteoporosis.
- Core strength improves with yoga. Using yoga to strengthen core muscles can increase flexibility in women, which can improve overall health as well as comfort during pregnancy. These techniques are also valuable in sports practiced more often by women such as gymnastics and cheerleading.
- Proper breathing techniques have been used to help women in childbirth for decades. It can also be used to relieve anxiety and help with insomnia.
There is also evidence, though less conclusive, that yoga can benefit those under more severe ailments:
- Breast and Ovarian Cancer: Though yoga cannot change the physical consequences of cancer, many have reported a higher quality of life after practicing these techniques regardless of the severity of their condition.
- Depression: No conclusive evidence has been made, but the physical act of stretching and communicating with others in a class setting can help improve quality of life and alleviate mild depression.
Yoga can have positive effects on overall health as well as some specific disorders. Injuries are rare, and there is little equipment or training needed. It is easy to find certified yoga instructors at the local gym, or by visiting the site one of the most recognized organizations, Yoga Alliance. It can give women the extra punch they need to be in excellent overall health.