Yoga is Good Medicine

I had the opportunity this week to lecture to 180 first year medical students about research on the health benefits of yoga.  They stayed awake, and were interested! Following my talk, the doctor who invited me said…”Wow, that data really makes me want to start yoga!”

Here are some of the stats I shared with them that might motivate you to keep practicing.

*Our culture NEEDS yoga. 70-80% of all doctor’s visits are from stress, half of all Americans feel more stress today than 5 years ago, and the rate of antidepressant use has increased 400% in the last decade.
* PHYSICAL HEALTH: Yoga is correlated with increased flexibility, balance, lung function, and joint health, weight loss, and lower blood pressure, blood sugars, cholesterol, and pain.
*MENTAL HEALTH: Yoga is correlated with improved mood, confidence, and attention, and reduced stress, anxiety, depression, addictive thoughts, and anger.
*SPIRITUAL HEALTH: Yoga is correlated with increased gratitude, forgiveness, empathy, and a sense of interconnectedness.
*Yoga changes our BRAIN (in as few as 8 weeks) by altering genes that govern energy metabolism, insulin secretion, and cellular aging, by increasing GABA (a neurotransmitter associated with improved mood), by increasing telomerase which is related to decreased aging of cells, and by creating greater cortical thickness (improving memory and attention).  This data suggests yoga may in fact be the fountain of youth!

What research hasn’t yet determined is WHY yoga is a panacea for so many things.  (I told those med students if we could bottle the benefits of yoga we’d really be onto something).  The current theory for why yoga is so effective is that it dampens the stress response, improves our immune system, and decreases inflammation, depression and anxiety.

No matter how you spin it, yoga is good medicine.