The popularity of Yoga has skyrocketed.The practice of yoga has increased in many countries, such as the United States (US), the UK, and Japan. The popularity of yoga in US adults is evident by the estimated increase in participation from 3.7% in 1997, 5.1% in 2002, to 6.1% in 2007. While it is considered as part of a Complimentary Medicine, in western countries where the Conventional Medical practices takes the centre stage. Mind Body Therapy, which includes yoga, meditation and deep breathing exercises) has seen the highest increase in usage over these years. 35 million Americans use MBT on their own but the number of people with diseases who are using MBT under medical recommendation is growing steadily, 6.5 million. People who do MBT on their own are healthier and do it, in general for feeling good whereas the doctors refer the patients to do MBT, when the conventional pharmaceutical treatment turns out to be less than satisfactory. The conditions usually eliciting a medical referral for MBT were Chronic Lung Disease and Anxiety. The other common medical conditions such as Heart Disease, Diabetes, Hypertension or Cancer did not trigger a consultation or referral to the MBT.
Yoga has been found to be effective in reducing Anxiety, in various anxiety disorders. Another study had shown that a six session yoga programme reduced the anxiety of caregivers who were taking care of patients with Dementia. One week of Yoga prevented an increase in anxiety among flood survivors. A significant reduction in symptoms (anger, anxiety) was seen among patients with unipolar disorders who completed 20 sessions of Yoga. Moderately severe Schizophrenic patients benefited from a four month Yoga therapy and had greater benefits than just physical exercise alone. An eight week session of Yoga significantly reduced the Blood Pressure levels in a group of Hypertensive patients. More and more information and scientific proof is coming to hand about Yoga and its role in the treatment of Heart Disease, Diabetes, Musculoskeletal problems.
Many theories have been put forward and there is a common pathway of stress reduction. Here we are talking in strict conventional medical terms since Yoga is not a monolithic modality.
My own concept of Yoga is the Philosophy of Yoga, especially that of Raja Yoga, in which there is a cleansing of the mind, and a cognitive change, assisted by Asanas(postures) and Pranayama(deep breathing exercises). I firmly believe that Yoga is not just a form of exercise and the benefits seen are more than the benefits accrued from exercise alone.
I am an Endocrinologist (a doctor studying the effects of Hormones on the metabolism of the body and its dysfunctions) as well as a Social Anthropologist trying to understand the role of society in the sufferings of the body of the individual. As such I can see many of the modern day diseases such as Hypertension, Coronary Artery Disease, Diabetes with deep social origins and I am interested in their prevention among groups of people as well as individuals within that group.
Current medical wisdom dictate that many of our modern day illnesses are inflammatory diseases and that is why they use inflammatory markers to measure the extent and seriousness of certain diseases, A lot of this inflammation may be due to oxidative stress and there are ways to measure this. We know that many natural food items have the capacity to reduce this oxidative stress(such as Green Tea drunk copiously by the Japanese) and increase the oxidative stress( American fast food).
So I was greatly pleased to read this article published just yesterday, from researchers in Japan.
This is the first study to demonstrate that long-term yoga practitioners have a better mental state than healthy participants who do not engage in yoga. These findings suggest that ongoing yoga training reduces the level of mental disturbance, anxiety, anger, and fatigue not only over the short- or intermediate-term, but also over a long term. The two compared groups were both healthy so Yoga was not being practiced here or prescribed for alleviation of symptoms or suffering. A group practicing Yoga compared to a very similar group not practicing Yoga were compared and found that those practicing Yoga were emotionally healthier, another way of suggesting that they were healthier. To prove that some urinary metabolites were measured.
Oxidative DNA damage may be implicated in ageing, carcinogenesis and other degenerative diseases. Oxidative DNA damage can be assessed in humans from the urinary excretion of the DNA-repair product 8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine (8OHdG). As for urinary 8-OHdG, previous studies have shown that a depressive state affects female 8-OHdG levels. Others also reported that severely depressed individuals had increased serum levels of 8-OHdG in comparison to healthy individuals In the present study, the urinary 8-OHdG level in the long-term yoga group tended to be lower than that in the control group. It may be assumed that psychological stress was less among those practicing Yoga, thus persistent Yoga for a period of time is possibly plays a preventive role in keeping people healthy
I am thinking of many of the marginalized people in our world, in particular the Native American Indians. It would be nice to introduce Raja Yoga to them as well as other deserving but poor people around the world who seem to bear the burden of chronic diseases as well.(the patients who attend Mo Po Tsyo, coordinated by Maurits van Pelt comes to mind). People who are connected with powerful non human forces among them would be generally more keen to follow Yoga as they would understand the philosophy of Yoga. The Lakota indian word for healing, Wa pee ya has the same meaning as Yoga, Union, bringing together, for example. In the USA, in the study about utilization of Mind Body Medicine, it was seen that Native Indians had a higher usage of Mind Body Medicine than other minorities who inhabit USA.