What is medical yoga therapy?
Medical yoga therapy is activity in which individual performs yoga exercises to improve health and treat medical conditions.
Just a quick reminder of WHO health definition – a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
To be honest previously I thought that yoga is just a trendy activity with minimal or no real benefit. But recent advances in medical imaging – functional magnetic resonance imaging and volumetric measurements – have proven otherwise.
According to multiple studies Yoga has a great impact on our mental health. In addition medical yoga can strengthen our deep muscles.
Can medical yoga improve sleep and reduce stress?
Medical yoga can improve brain centers which are responsible for sleeping and stress relief. We see many observational yoga studies which basically are just asking people how they feel after practicing yoga. In those studies people say that they feel better. We wanted to focus on data.
According to this study from Massachusetts General Hospital by Britta K. Hölzel et al. they found that stress reduction in study participants correlates with structural changes in the amygdala – an area of the brain which is responsible for emotional processing. Participants of this study underwent 8 week program of exercises which included medical yoga and sitting meditation.
Main conclusion here – there are changes in brain which reduces our stress levels. Less stress leads to better sleep? It seems so! At least according to this study in elderly patients.
Can yoga therapy improve thinking, memory and other cognitive processes?
At least according to science answer is yes. Medical yoga therapy and meditation can increase activity of hippocampus – the area of the brain which is responsible for memory.
It is well known fact that the connections between neurons are stronger if they are activated. In addition to that synaptogenesis and neurogensis (new brain cell and new brain cell connection formation) also is scientifically proven.
If we move forward and look not only on hippocampus, in brain volume measurement study it was proven that long-term practice of yoga meditation is associated with larger brain volume overall, and with enlargement in brain regions that are associated with sustained attention, self-control, compassion and perception.
Can medical yoga improve back pain?
Plank position is great for strengthening deep core muscles! Before we continue to talk about this topic – you need to see a doctor to get a medical advice ! After doctor has determined what is the main problem of your pain – we can proceed.
The short answer to this question (yes, again) – medical yoga therapy can improve your back pain. Usually back pain is related to aging vertebral column and changes which comes along (by the way You can check our post on neck massagers and why they are important) or trauma.
The pain usually will come from either facet joints which will affect nerve roots or intervertabral disc changes affecting nerve roots again. If You have acute pain onset – be cautious and don’t do yoga. After pain goes away and (if necessary) you did some radiology examinations to find the cause – go for medical yoga therapy.
Most of yoga positions and exercises can increase deep or core muscle strength. Thus preventing back pain in future! Also strengthening other core muscles can reduce injury risk. For example, in our knees! Strengthening all the small muscles around our knee joint will increase stability.
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