Yoga is a mind-body practice originating in India more than 5,000 years ago. It has become more popular in recent years. There are many forms of yoga, but most include a focus on breathing and posture and are commonly recommended for improving flexibility, balance and muscle tone.
There is also mounting evidence that yoga is good for heart health as well. A study at Harvard University* based on 37 clinical trials found that yoga lowered blood pressure, cholesterol, heart rate and other cardiovascular risk factors similar to those seen with aerobic exercise. The studies followed 2,768 people over the age of 50 for 12 weeks to a year. They looked at yoga compared to no exercise or aerobic exercise. Those who practiced yoga dropped systolic blood pressure (top number) an average of 5.21 mm Hg and diastolic pressure (bottom number) 4.9 mm Hg. LDL "bad cholesterol dropped an average of 12.14 mg/dl and HDL "good" cholesterol rose an average of 3.2 mg/dl. Additionally participants experienced an average weight loss of a little over 5 lbs. The type of yoga and frequency varied, but this is a very exciting findings for us yoga enthusiasts.
Yoga can be a wonderful part of an active, balanced lifestyle. If you have never tried yoga you may want to give it a try. Tucson has many wonderful places to try it, and most studios and gyms will let you try a class to see if the instructor is a good fit for you. Keep in mind however, that it is one of those things that could take several tries before you feel comfortable. It tends to become more enjoyable as you become more familiar with terminology and poses. Ask friends for a recommendation for a class near you because a good instructor makes all the difference. Be sure to let them know before class if you are new to yoga so they can show you alternative poses if necessary; ones that offer similar benefits without the risk of injury or over-stretching.
If you too love yoga or you end up trying a class or just have a comment please share with me!
* This study was conducted by Paula Chu, a doctoral candidate in Health Policy at Harvard University and posted in Reuters online Dec. 26, 2014.