Yoga as Medicine

There is growing evidence that Yoga is an effective rehabilitation tool. Medical institutions and leading health organisations have tested the efficacy of Yoga in clinical trials for cancer treatment and rehabilitation, heart disease, PTSD, metabolic syndrome, addiction, asthma, arthritis, epilepsy, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, multiple sclerosis and chronic pain syndromes including low back pain and repetitive strain injuries.

In many cases, fatigue and poor sleep contribute to slow rehabilitation, and this can affect quality of life, and the body’s ability to repair itself. Restorative Yoga in particular has proven helpful for rehabilitation, as the practice provides a low-load, prolonged relaxation, which helps to reduce tension, improve respiratory function and help patients find much needed rest.

From a yogic view, disease is created by insufficiency or blockage in life force, which creates loss of immunity, which leads to disease. From a medical view, we understand lack of immunity is often the cause of disease, as it disables the body from fighting infection or other disease-causing bacteria and viruses.

Cora at Palo Alto

Restorative Yoga is often used for disease treatment, as the various poses promote proper alignment that enable the body and muscles to release into a relaxed state instead of adding tension to them. As the body rests, natural, healing and relaxation responses are established. Restorative yoga may elicit healing and well being in a holistic approach to medicine and preventative healthcare.

Metabolic Syndrome, UCSF & Yoga

The idea of rest vs activity is a significantly different modality to modern lifestyles. It is also different from standard medical recommendations and interventions, as indicated in Dr Alka Kanaya’s report: Restorative Yoga in Adults with Metabolic Syndrome: A Randomized, Controlled Pilot Trial by Department of General Internal Medicine, University of California, San Francisco and San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, San Francisco, California. Here’s a link to a video we worked on for this study. It was used to teach yoga to over 300 participants in this clinical study to measure yoga effect on Metabolic Syndrome

“Our restorative yoga intervention differs from standard exercise interventions aimed at improving components of the metabolic syndrome. Restorative yoga poses involve resting with the body supported for several minutes at a time. While in these poses, participants were instructed to relax and focus on their breathing. In contrast to other lifestyle interventions, such as walking or traditional exercise classes, our intervention did not involve aerobic activity. If this form of yoga is effective in reducing metabolic risk factors, the mechanism is likely through relaxation and stress reduction.”

Cora Wen YJ Home Practice Samples

Many clinical trials have shown the biochemical benefits of yoga, and indicated substantial decreases of glucose, sodium, cholesterol, and increases of vitamin C, total serum protein and hemoglobin. The tests have also shown significant benefit in respiratory and blood pressure dysfunctions, stabilising nervous system, gastrointestinal and endocrine function, boosting energy, increasing immunity and cardiovascular efficiency, improving sleep and decreasing stress, anxiety and depression.

Massage Your Organs

Proper sequencing of poses can stimulate or work with specific areas, and “massage” the internal organs and glands, which can help prevent disease. Muscles do not stretch and strain to hold positions in Restorative Yoga, but are able to relax, and the support created by using props allows the body to reach a state of total relaxation, and opens the body without working against gravity.

The psychological benefits of Restorative Yoga can contribute to increasing somatic awareness, improved concentration, memory, attention, mood and self-acceptance. Restorative Yoga is an important addition to medical rehabilitation as an integral system that combines physiological, psychological and spiritual benefits to produce holistic wellness.

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Medicine and Yoga

There are over 40 clinical trials involving Yoga with 20 currently active. Some of the main funders and sponsors:

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)
Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital & Richard J. Solove Research Institute
Wake Forest University
University of California San Francisco (UCSF)
MD Anderson Center
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center
Johns Hopkins University
Beth Isreal Deaconess Medical Center
The Cleveland Clinic
University of Iowa
Fox Chase Cancer Center
Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University