Avoiding Chronic Disease By Adding Yoga

How many of you have been to a yoga class in your lifetime? How many of you do it routinely? I’m going to guess that most of you answered yes to the first question, but many of you couldn’t give the same answer on the last question. That’s too bad. Many people discount the benefits of yoga, just because they aren’t aware of the scope of benefits that it provides. What would you say if I told you that yoga could help prevent some of the most dreaded chronic diseases in the world today? Heart disease, diabetes and arthritis are among the disease that yoga may provide a direct benefit for. A study by Ming-Chin Chyu et al, showed that yoga can reduce pain, relieve tension, reduce injury risk, improve posture, increase energy and enhance feelings of well-being (1). As you might have guessed, all of these are good things. If you remember back to my articles on the prevention and management of arthritis (Arthritis Article #1, Arthritis Article #2, Arthritis Article #3), you can see that yoga can go a long way in helping stem the effects of this long-term disease. Adding to the effect that yoga has on arthritis, Kolasinski, found that yoga can decrease finger pain during activity and increase finger range-of-motion, but isn’t likely to affect finger strength (2). If something like this works well in the fingers, it is likely to work for a lot bigger joints as well, such as the knees and hips. By looking at these two research articles alone, I am pretty well sold on yoga’s benefits for the health of my patients. What I wasn’t expecting to find was the effect that yoga can have on the prevention of heart disease and diabetes. Multiple studies have shown that yoga improves post-prandial (after meal) and fasting blood glucose levels, hemoglobin A1c levels, total cholesterol, as well as LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, coronary stenosis, oxidative stress, blood pressure, body weight, waist/hip ratio, heart rate and catecholamines. The best part about all of this is with these increases, it also led to a decrease in the need for medications. (3, 4, 5, 6, 7) I have to admit that I was a little skeptical of all of this information, as it wasn’t something that I immediately connected with yoga. After a little thought, it is so simple that I can’t believe that I overlooked it. When we perform something like yoga, it leads to relaxation (actually yoga was originally designed as a preparation, something to calm the mind, for meditation). This relaxation has similar effects to deep breathing, meditation, etc… When we do this, we decrease our stress hormone release. When our stress hormones are reduced, we have a reduction in the amounts of insulin/glucagon needed to keep the blood glucose levels normalized. When we decrease the amounts of these hormones needed, we also decrease the resistance to these hormones (pre-diabetes). The other great benefit that comes from the relaxation is the heart-healthy effects. Long-term exposure to stress hormones is really hard on the arterial system, and therefore the heart, due to the effects that it has on blood pressure (Stress's Effects on Health). Obviously all of these are good things.

With all of this research backing yoga, I no longer think that it is something that my patients should add to their daily routines. I think it is something that everyone should add into their EVERYDAY routine. The sad thing is that it is so misunderstood. Most people think that it is something that increases flexibility. While it does do that, that is only a small portion of the many benefits it provides. If it were better understood by the general public, I think that it would be something that would be on every corner. I want to end this article with a question (a call-to-action if you will). What approach would you rather take; adding yoga (a natural, relaxing exercise) or medication (a synthetic substance with a list of possible side effects)? I think the choice is easy. I hope you do too.
1. 2. 3. 4. Chyu, Ming-Chin et al. Complimentary and Alternative Exercises for Management of Osteoarthritis. “Arthritis”. 2001; July 25. Kolasinki, SL. Yoga for Degenerative Joint Disease. “Alternative Medicine Alert”. 2001; 4(1):28-31. Innes KE, Vincent HK. The influence of yoga-based programs on risk profiles in adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus: a systematic review. eCAM. 2007;4(4):469–486. Bijlani RL, Vempati RP, Yadav RK, et al. A brief but comprehensive lifestyle education program based on yoga reduces risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes mellitus. J Altern Complement Med. 2005;11(2):267–274. Agte VV, Tarwadi K. Sudarshan Kriya yoga for treating type 2 diabetes: a preliminary study. Altern Complement Ther. 2004;10(4):220–222. Jain SC, Uppal A, Bhatnagar SO, Talukdar B. A study of response pattern of non-insulin dependent diabetics to yoga therapy. Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 1993;19(1):69–74. Singh S, Malhotra V, Singh KP, Madhu SV, Tandon OP. Role of yoga in modifying certain cardiovascular functions in type 2 diabetic patients. J Assoc Physicians India. 2004;52:203–206.

5. 6. 7.

If you have questions, or would like to discuss this further, please contact me at:

Jeffrey L. Cumro, Doctor of Chiropractic, Certified Personal Trainer Better Life Chiropractic and Wellness, LLC Better Care > Better Health > Better Life 10700 Sapp Bros Dr, Omaha, NE 68138 402-210-1472 BetterLifeNE@gmail.com www.BetterLifeNE.com

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