Saturday, 26 January 2013

In two weeks I’m hitting the books again to start a Yoga Therapy certification back in Australia.  It’s something I’ve been interested in for a while and as such, I’ve been putting more time into reading about yoga as a form of therapy and the scientific research to support the practice. 

For some people in the West who haven’t been hit by yoga fever, the whole thing seems to be a little bit woo-woo voodoo for their tastes.  I get it.  For a long time, yoga as we understand it now was only for men.  Then, it was really just for hippies.  Then, the Lycra brigade stepped in – Geri Halliwell and millions of women in LuluLemon leggings took hold of the practice.  So yes, I understand - yoga can be intimidating to the uninitiated. 

In a world where we’re obsessed with the physical benefits of exercise (aka the weight-loss benefits), yoga has a tendancy to be overlooked by those who don't practice.  Someone once told me that I needed to do some real exercise, because pilates and yoga don’t get your heart rate up.  Yeah?  Try doing a reformer bed work-out, or a 75 minute Vinyasa power class, and then check your heart rate. 

Those of us who practice know the health benefits of yoga – increased flexibility and strength, improved concentration and balance, healthier digestion and sleeping patterns…the only problem is that scientific research to back it up has been sporadic, contradictory, controversial and the results difficult to support due to a lack of control groups in studies.  Also, largely, scientific research has focused on the physical benefits of yoga, ie for joint and muscle pain, relief of symptoms of scoliosis, asthma, migraines, etc.  For years, yoga practitioners have claimed that the practice can reduce the effects of a number of psychological disorders - whole books are dedicated to the subject and many an expensive workshop or two.  Now, scientists are actually putting serious money into studies to prove it.  A recent study at Duke University reviewed the analysis of the effects of yoga on depression, schizophrenia, ADHD, sleep complaints, eating disorders and cognition problems.  The study wasn’t found to be entirely conclusive, but it recognised the ‘emerging’ evidence to support the belief that yoga can help to alleviate conditions such as depression and sleep disorders. 

If you’re interested, you can read an abstract for the study here at Frontiers.    

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  1. Out of curiosity which course are you looking at doing?

  2. I'm doing the Yoga Therapy certification at Yoga Space in West Perth.


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