Health Benefits of Yoga – Spirituality, Physically, Mentally
by: Lynn Berry
Yoga has overtaken Aussie rules football (1) – more people are doing yoga – making it the 13th most popular physical activity in Australia. Even football players are doing yoga as part of their physical training every week.
A survey conducted by the Complementary Medicine team at RMIT University in Melbourne interviewed 3,832 people in a survey to find out who is doing yoga and why (2). They found a range of people practising yoga.
The typical student is female, 41, practises 1-2 times a week, is tertiary educated and describes herself as "spiritual but non-religious", buys organic food and tends to be a vegetarian. However, more younger people are now trying out yoga given the popularity of Power Yoga (dynamic) and Bikram Yoga (in a heated room).
According to the survey, more people are doing yoga for mental and emotional complaints including stress, anxiety, depression and sleep disorders than for physical complaints. Overall, 96% of people who practised yoga reported improvements in a health condition.
Particular benefits have been noted in women with menstrual and menopausal symptoms, as well as with both men and women in helping with gastrointestinal, respiratory and cardiovascular problems.
In general, people take up yoga for health reasons and then find yoga to be a spiritual activity once they start. In fact, yoga is not just an exercise, it can also be a way of life involving chanting, breathing exercises, meditation. Some yoga teachers run "Art of Living" classes and workshops that incorporate some of these practices in the context of today's living.
Much interesting research is being conducted into the benefits of yoga. At the Brahmavarchas Research Institute research into yoga, meditation, deep breathing and chanting is conducted, see (http://www.vatikashaktipeeth.com/html/Brahmvarchas.html
) . A number of people in Australia are also conducting research in these areas, see (http://www.yogainaustralia.com
Ayurvedic practitioners prescribe particular yoga positions to patients, known as Yoga Chikitsa, and recommend the form of yoga you do should suit your body structure and constitution.Why Yoga?
Here's what Deepak Chopra and David Simon say (3):
"Any reason for practicing yoga is a good reason. Enhancing flexibility and releasing stress are as noble a purpose for performing yoga as the awakening of spirituality. This is the great gift of yoga – it serves and nourishes us at every level of our being and spontaneously contributes to greater well being in all domains of life. Yoga will help you discover gifts within yourself that have remained unopened since your childhood – gifts of peace, harmony, laughter, and love."
(1) Aussie rules otherwise known as Australian Rules Football (AFL) is typically played by tall men in shorts who throw or kick the ball through goal posts. Points are awarded for a catch, and getting the ball through the posts. Much more enjoyable to watch than Rugby or Union (my humble opinion).
(2) Australian Yoga Survey – (http://www.yogainaustralia.com