Yoga is an ancient mind body discipline which originated in India. There are seven major branches of yoga. Of these Hatha (or forceful), Raja(or classical) and Mantra yoga are the best known and most widely practiced . Both Hatha yoga and Raja yoga emphasise specific postures(asanas) including both active and passive poses as well as breath control(pranayama), concentration(dharanas) and meditation(dhyana).
Contrary to other medical sciences, yoga is safe, simple to learn, non-invasive and inexpensive practice. Unfortunately there has been a tendency to give a religious association to this outstanding science. Contrarily, it is just a means of attaining holistic and healthy life without any religious or cultural angle (and should be viewed as such)!
Yoga-a boon for blood sugar & cholesterol control
In fact Yoga may be the most effective method to combat the burgeoning epidemic of diseases like hypertension, diabetes and coronary artery diseases confronting our country at present. With all the progress in managing heart diseases, it is neither feasible nor practical to treat all patients with medicine, angioplasty or bypass surgery. Studies have shown that practice of yoga is associated with significant improvement of blood sugar in diabetic patients. Their fasting and post prandial blood sugar improve and lipid abnormalities show a positive trend. Yoga also decreases total cholesterol and bad(LDL) cholesterol and improves good(HDL) cholesterol in healthy persons and also in patients. It improves body weight which helps in combating many diseases caused directly or indirectly by obesity. Studies have shown that regular practice of yoga helps in better control of blood pressure. Patients may either be able to completely stop anti hypertensive medicine or reduce their dose substantially.
Population based studies have clearly demonstrated that yoga based programs promote significant reduction in heart rate, cortisol concentration, catecholamine level and renin activity. Even short term practice of yoga may produce marked reduction in sympathoadrenal activation and improve cardiovagal tone. Even patients with established coronary artery disease are significantly helped by yoga. Large studies have shown that yoga and yoga based programs improve symptoms, reduce complications and improve prognosis of patients with angiographically proven coronary artery disease. Some studies have even shown that there may be regression and reduced progression of vascular lesions. There is also some evidence to show that the beneficial effect on heart and blood vessels lasts for long term even after stopping Yoga.
Yoga & the cardiovascular benefits
How can yoga have cardiovascular-beneficial effects? The exact mechanism is not clear but observed changes occur primarily through two pathways. Firstly regular practice of yoga reduces the activation and reactivity of the sympathoadrenal system and hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis. Secondly, by directly stimulating the vagus nerve, it enhances parasympathetic activity. This twin effect shifts the autonomic nervous system balance from primarily sympathetic to parasympathetic leading to positive changes in cardiac-vagal function, in mood and energy state, and in related neuroendocrine, metabolic and inflammatory responses. Yoga is likely to be even more effective when combined with other lifestyle modifications like exercise and healthy diet.
Yoga- the way forward
Yoga got a major boost with the United Nations recognising its importance and declaring 21 June as World Yoga day. This is sure to go a long way in spreading awareness about yoga, promoting global health and helping in global harmony and peace! While the Indian government appears committed to offer all help to popularise it throughout the length and breadth of country, schools, community centres and other educational as well as societal bodies must ensure that yoga is made a part of their systems!
Research proves that the practice of yoga is associated with significant improvement of blood sugar in diabetic patients. Their fasting and post prandial blood sugar improve and lipid abnormalities show a positive trend.