The practice of yoga has been used to help people feel better – physically, mentally and emotionally – for more than 5,000 years. It started in ancient India and was passed down orally and (eventually) in written texts.
Yoga has gone from being an obscure, Indian religious practice to one of the most popular fitness regimens on the planet. The latest “Yoga in America” study shows that 20.4 million Americans practice yoga, compared to 15.8 million from the previous 2008 study, an increase of 29 percent. In addition, practitioners spend $10.3 billion a year on yoga classes and products, including equipment, clothing, vacations and media. The previous estimate from the 2008 study was $5.7 billion.
Even orthopedic specialists and other physicians, who are trained to be skeptical about fitness fads, have realized the benefits of yoga. We had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Kwame Ennin, Dr. Blake Staub and Dr. Michael Landers all specialists who are members of the Texas Health Spine & Orthopedic Center referral line, to get their thoughts on how these physical and mental exercises can be an important part of a pain reduction and fitness program, especially for those who are age 50 and older.
The Benefits of Yoga
#1: Reduction of Swelling and Increased Mobility and Strength of Joints
According to the website Yoga for Seniors, “As we get older, muscles tend to stiffen, our joints lose their range of motion and we become more susceptible to chronic problems such as osteoporosis, arthritis and heart disease. Yoga can help slow down the effects of the ageing process by maintaining muscle softness and flexibility, keeping the mind alert and awake, encouraging relaxation and strengthening muscles and joints. Its multi-pronged approach can encourage the body, mind and spirit to remain healthy and strong while reducing the effects of many age-related issues.”
“I have seen remarkable results for patients who maintain a regular program – two or three times per week – of yoga,” Dr. Kwame Ennin, a referral line member and joint replacement surgeon said. These exercises are especially effective for the reduction swelling and increasing mobility and strength of joints.
“Research from the University of Pennsylvania studied the effects of yoga on people with knee osteoarthritis (OA). It found that subjects taking 90-minute, modified Iyengar yoga classes once a week for eight weeks reported significant reductions in pain and improvements in physical function, as well as noticeable improvements in joint stiffness.
“The yoga poses were modified to accommodate the fact that people with knee OA may not be able to bend their joints as far as others, and Iyengar yoga allows participants to use chairs, blocks or other aids to help them balance during poses.
“There are also mental benefits for arthritis patients. Yoga promotes relaxation and stress reduction.”
#2: Core Strength Improvement
Many yoga poses can help improve a person’s core strength. These exercises may help prevent injuries from falls, which may lead to dangerous conditions for seniors.
“I recommend such yoga exercises as the ‘planking‘ position to improve the core muscles of patients,” Dr. Blake Staub, referral line member and neurosurgeon said. “When core muscles are strengthened, a participant’s balance and stability can improve significantly. This can also reduce the chances of having a fall, which could cause spinal and joint fractures and possibly require surgery.”
#3: Better Overall Health
With proper instructions from a trained specialist, yoga can be safer than other types of workouts such as weight-training, golf, tennis and cycling. It is a non-contact exercise program that offers the camaraderie of a group activity that many participants enjoy.
“Just about any exercise program, when done on a regular basis, will have positive benefits for the participant,” Dr. Michael Landers, a sports medicine physician and referral line member said. “Such is the case with yoga classes. Regular yoga activities can lead to an improvement in cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, better blood flow and aid in digestion and elimination.
“Many of my patients who practice yoga also report better sleep, an improvement in mood and a feeling of well-being.”
Are you considering yoga to alleviate spine or joint pain? Contact us to schedule a medical consultation with a referral line member about the benefits and challenges.
Physicians who are members of the referral program practice independently and are not employees or agents of THSOC.
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