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Yoga's Spiritual Balance May Boost Health

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

SUNDAY, Jan. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Yoga may be becoming more of a mainstream approach to Americans' health woes.

People have been practicing yoga for millennia to improve their strength, serenity and wellness, but its roots in ancient Indian philosophy have kept the exercise discipline firmly within the realm of alternative medicine.

However, a growing body of scientific evidence is building the case that the spiritual balance created by yoga provides proven health benefits.

Research has found that yoga can help people who are dealing with health problems as wide-ranging as back pain, chronic headaches, sleeplessness, obesity, neck aches, upset stomach, anxiety, depression and high blood pressure, said Sat Bir Singh Khalsa, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and an associate neuroscientist in the Division of Sleep Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

The health benefits mainly stem from yoga's focus on the connection between mind and body, Khalsa said.

"The best evidence really shows that yoga is good at reducing stress and helping people cope with the stress they have," he said. "It improves management of stress both psychologically and physiologically."

According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, proper yoga practice combines:

  • Physical postures that participants flow into and then hold, before proceeding to the next posture.
  • A focus on breathing techniques that make participants more aware of their bodies.
  • Deep meditation and relaxation, allowing participants to focus on their spirituality.

All of those elements must be in place for people to get the best results for their health and well-being, said Karen Sherman, an affiliate associate professor of epidemiology with the Center for Health Studies in the School of Public Health at the University of Washi

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