Effects of Aasana and Pranayama on health
Improves your flexibility
Improved flexibility is one of the first and most obvious benefits of yoga. During your first class, you probably won't be able to touch your toes, never mind do a backbend. But if you stick with it, you'll notice a gradual loosening, and eventually, seemingly impossible poses will become possible. You'll also probably notice that aches and pains start to disappear. That's no coincidence. Tight hips can strain the knee joint due to improper alignment of the thigh and shinbones. Tight hamstrings can lead to a flattening of the lumbar spine, which can cause back pain. And inflexibility in muscles and connective tissue, such as fascia and ligaments, can cause poor posture.
Builds muscle strength
Strong muscles do more than look good. They also protect us from conditions like arthritis and back pain, and help prevent falls in elderly people. And when you build strength through yoga, you balance it with flexibility. If you just went to the gym and lifted weights, you might build strength at the expense of flexibility.
Prevents cartilage and joint breakdown
Each time you practice yoga, you take your joints through their full range of motion. This can help prevent degenerative arthritis or mitigate disability by "squeezing and soaking" areas of cartilage that normally aren't used. Joint cartilage is like a sponge; it receives fresh nutrients only when its fluid is squeezed out and a new supply can be soaked up. Without proper sustenance, neglected areas of cartilage can eventually wear out, exposing the underlying bone like worn-out brake pads.
Drains lymphs and boosts immunity
When you contract and stretch muscles, move organs around, and come in and out of yoga postures, you increase the drainage of lymph (a viscous fluid rich in immune cells). This helps the lymphatic system fight infection, destroy cancerous cells, and dispose of the toxic waste products of cellular functioning.
Regulates adrenal glands
Yoga lowers cortisol levels. If that doesn't sound like much, consider this. Normally, the adrenal glands secrete cortisol in response to an acute crisis, which temporarily boosts immune function. If your cortisol levels stay high even after the crisis, they can compromise the immune system. Temporary boosts of cortisol help with long-term memory, but chronically high levels undermine memory and may lead to permanent changes in the brain. Additionally, excessive cortisol has been linked with major depression, osteoporosis (it extracts calcium and other minerals from bones and interferes with the laying down of new bone), high blood pressure, and insulin resistance. In rats, high cortisol levels lead to what researchers call "food-seeking behavior" (the kind that drives you to eat when you're upset, angry, or stressed). The body takes those extra calories and distributes them as fat in the abdomen, contributing to weight gain and the risk of diabetes and heart attack.
An important component of yoga is focusing on the present. Studies have found that regular yoga practice improves coordination, reaction time, memory, and even IQ scores. People who practice Transcendental Meditation demonstrate the ability to solve problems and acquire and recall information better—probably because they're less distracted by their thoughts, which can play over and over like an endless tape loop.
Maintains nervous system
Some advanced yogis can control their bodies in extraordinary ways, many of which are mediated by the nervous system. Scientists have monitored yogis who could induce unusual heart rhythms, generate specific brain-wave patterns, and, using a meditation technique, raise the temperature of their hands by 15 degrees Fahrenheit. If they can use yoga to do that, perhaps you could learn to improve blood flow to your pelvis if you're trying to get pregnant or induce relaxation when you're having trouble falling asleep.
Peace of mind
Yoga quells the fluctuations of the mind, according to Patanjali'sYoga Sutra. In other words, it slows down the mental loops of frustration, regret, anger, fear, and desire that can cause stress. And since stress is implicated in so many health problems—from migraines and insomnia to lupus, MS, eczema, high blood pressure, and heart attacks—if you learn to quiet your mind, you'll be likely to live longer and healthier.
It is well known that many antihypertensive agents have been associated with numerous undesirable side effects. In addition to medication, moderately intense aerobic exercise is well known to lower blood pressure. Interestingly, it has been very convincingly demonstrated in a randomized controlled study that even a short period of regular yogic practice at 1 h/day is as effective as medical therapy in controlling blood pressure in hypertensive subjects. Yoga, together with relaxation, biofeedback, transcendental meditation, and psychotherapy, has been found to have a convincing antihypertensive effect. The mechanism of yoga-induced blood pressure reduction may be attributed to its beneficial effects on the autonomic neurological function . Impaired baroreflex sensitivity has been increasingly postulated to be one of the major causative factors of essential hypertension. The practice of yogic postures has been shown to restore baroreflex sensitivity. Yogic asanas that are equivalent to head-up or head-down tilt were discovered to be particularly beneficial in this regard. Tests proved a progressive attenuation of sympatho-adrenal and renin-angiotensin activity with yogic practice. Yogic practice, through the restoration of baroreceptor sensitivity, caused a significant reduction in the blood pressure of patients who participated in yoga exercise.Yoga has proven efficacy in managing secondary cardiac complications due to chronic hypertension. Left ventricular hypertrophy secondary to chronic hypertension is a harbinger of many chronic cardiac complications, such as myocardial ischemia, congestive cardiac failure, and impairment of diastolic function. Cardiovascular response to head-down-body-up postural exercise (Sarvangasana) has been shown to be particularly beneficial in preventing and treating hypertension-associated left ventricular hypertrophy and diastolic dysfunction. In one study, the practice of sarvangasana for 2 weeks caused resting heart rate and left ventricular end diastolic volume to reduce significantly. In addition, there was mild regression of left ventricular mass as recorded in echocardiography.
Serum lipid profile and body weight
Obesity and increased body weight are strong risk factors for ischemic heart disease and hypertension. Yoga has been found to be particularly helpful in the management of obesity. A randomized controlled study revealed that practicing yoga for a year helped significant improvements in the ideal body weight and body density. The regular practice of yoga has shown to improve the serum lipid profile in the patients with known ischemic heart disease as well as in healthy subjects. The mechanism of the beneficial effect of yoga in the management of hyperlipidemia and obesity cannot be explained by simple excess caloric expenditure since the practice of asanas does not bring about increased, rapid large muscle activity and energy generation. However, the efficacy of yoga in the management of hyperlipidemia and obesity is of significance.
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