The Science of Yoga

The Science of Yoga:

In an earlier article, we had read about Yoga and discussed whether it was a religion or an exercise:
http://guruprasad.net/posts/is-yoga-a-religion-or-exercise/

Today, we shall find out more about “Yoga Asanas”. As discussed earlier, Asana is that limb (among the 8 limbs) of Yoga which deals with postures, stretches & exercises. Although it has to be referred to as “Yoga Asanas”, it has been shortened to just “Yoga” in colloquial language and hence all references to Yoga in the following discussion actually means “Yoga Asanas”.

Asanas are meticulously designed postures which are actually inspired by nature. For example, there are postures inspired by Cobra (Bhujangasana), Scorpion (Vrschikasana) and so on.
cobra_posture scorpion_poseTraditionally, none of the Yoga postures need any external accessories or support. By using one’s own body weight, Yoga ensures that one does not overload himself (unlike gyms where one might overload by trying to lift weights beyond his capacity, leading to damage). Yoga is just about you and your own body, without even the need of large space. All you need is 3 x 6 feet of space and all the asanas can be done within this space.
yoga_studioTalking about the effect of these postures, it is a well acknowledged fact that our body is alive due to the oxygen supplied through blood stream to each organ/tissue/cell in the body. When a certain part of the body does not receive the right amount or quality of oxygen due to improper blood circulation, it can deteriorate, leading to temporary ill health & diseases and if not attended to at the right time can lead to permanent disease as well.
poor_blood_circulation

To illustrate using a simple example, when our brain is overloaded and if there is no proportionate blood circulation, it can cause a headache. So we use a balm and rub it over the sides of the head or just massage the head to stimulate blood circulation which will reduce headache within minutes. This way, when we analyze diseases, we find that most of them (not all) actually begin subtly due to improper blood circulation or carelessness (i.e Lack of Yama, the 1st limb of Yoga) which later starts magnifying into bigger problems & diseases. (However, it is to be noted here that we are not talking about diseases which are caused due to external influences like Viral Fever which are caused due to contagious virus. But if one’s immunity is strengthened, it can actually fight viral fever also to an extent)

yoga_immunity
Link:
http://www.psmag.com/navigation/health-and-behavior/genetic-evidence-of-yogas-impact-on-immune-system-55994/

Yoga asanas (postures) were designed with this principle of achieving the right blood circulation throughout the body & boosting immunity by activating the glands which in turn will keep the body healthy by avoiding internal diseases to come up in the first place, and also help one protect from external diseases to certain extent by boosting immunity. Each Yoga posture stimulates certain tissues/glands/organs, providing a sort of massaging effect and improving the blood circulation in that area of the body, eliminating toxins & thereby making one healthy.

Of late, doctors & scientists, especially in USA have been putting lot of efforts in research related to Yoga. Some of them with entrepreneur mindset have been repackaging some of them into fancy names and selling it to patients. For example, one of the most popular traditional form of yogic punishment is being branded as “Superbrain Yoga” and taught as a workshop where hundreds of dollars are being charged per patient:
http://guruprasad.net/posts/why-indian-teachers-punish-students-scientific-reason/

Some of the serious research in US includes 8 week experiment conducted for “older adults” to observe the effect of Yoga on their performance & executive function. It was found that there was significantly improved performance, enhanced memory capacity & overall efficiency.
yoga_older_adults
Link:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25024234

Another serious research conducted recently concludes that Yoga can cure migraine:
yoga_migraine
Link:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25035622

A 12 week Yoga therapy conducted as an experiment for 130 patients concluded that Yoga can control blood pressure & decrease probability of heart failure.
yoga_bp
Link:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24596712

Another interesting research was related to stress levels in students during examinations and the conclusion was that Yoga helps students manage stress.
yoga_exam_stress
Link:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21654972

There are thousands of research papers affirming that Yoga increases the quality of life, controls hypertension, cures depression, and there are even medical research papers which shows that Yoga helps in organizational performance & job satisfaction.

Due to such proven health benefits & scientific backing, Yoga has now pervaded into the US and has been incorporated into schools as well, despite some opposition, which was eventually overruled by the US courts.
yoga_us_court
News link:
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/Yoga-passes-secularism-test-in-US/articleshow/20901632.cms

However, the situation of Yoga in its own country (India) where it had originated 5000 years ago, looks bleak due to complexities of political secularism which has resulted into a religious debate, with the case going all the way to the ultimate Judicial body in India i.e The Supreme Court.
yoga_indian_court
News link:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/29/yoga-religion-_n_4173701.html

It remains to be seen whether India will budge under pressure due to the pretext of religion and forgo such a scientifically proven practice.

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