Your Health

Benefits of yoga extend beyond the mat

Perhaps you have never personally envisioned yourself practicing yoga. Does the idea of putting yourself in the downward-facing dog position seem too silly?

If you take a closer look at yoga, you might be impressed by the significant benefits it offers your body and long-term health.

Yoga improves endurance, flexibility, strength and balance, and it will significantly relax your body and mind for hours.

These are some of the lesser-known benefits of practicing yoga:

• A yoga regimen prevents cartilage and joint deterioration. With every yoga session, you flex your joints through stretches reaching their full range of motion. Joint cartilage is like a sponge – it receives fresh nutrients only when old synovial fluid is squeezed out and a new supply can be soaked in.

Practicing yoga regularly helps prevent degenerative arthritis and reduces range-of-motion disabilities. Without proper enrichment, neglected areas of cartilage can eventually wear out, exposing the underlying bone and causing joint pain.

• Yoga drains the lymph nodes while boosting immunity. When you actively contract and stretch muscles, moving organs around while maintaining and then changing yoga postures, you drain lymphatic fluids (viscous fluids rich in immune cells). This optimizes the lymphatic system to better fight infections.

• Yoga prevents digestive problems like irritable bowel syndrome. Constipation, ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome can be exacerbated by stress. This means that if you stress less, you’ll suffer fewer symptoms.

Any physical exercise eases constipation and lowers the risk of colon cancer. Because yoga posturing is continuously moving the body, practicing yoga regularly facilitates more rapid transport of food and waste products through the bowels. Medical evidence teaches that sustaining a healthy gut is key to overall health.

• Yoga lowers blood sugar. Yoga lowers blood sugar and low-density lipoprotein (“bad” cholesterol) by lowering blood levels of cortisol and adrenaline, sustaining weight loss and reducing sensitivity to negative insulin effects.

Yoga decreases risk of diabetic complications such as heart attack, kidney failure and blindness because it reduces blood-sugar levels.

• Yoga keeps you free of unnecessary drugs. Are your prescription bottles multiplying each year? It may be a sign that it is time to try yoga.

Studies of people suffering from illnesses such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and asthma have revealed that a regular yoga routine helps patients lower their dosage of medications and reduces side effects and risky dangerous drug interactions.

Kim Gladfelter is owner, physical therapist and Pilates instructor at PhysioFit Physical Therapy and Wellness, 1000 Fremont Ave., Los Altos. For more information, call 887-6046 or visit physiofitpt.com.

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