Yoga means union of the mind and body with the breath. Yoga is primarily concerned with obtaining a peaceful state of mind and a healthy body. Yoga is a modality that uses physical postures and controlled breathing to lengthen and strengthen the spine, increase flexibility, calm the mind, improve concentration, and promote relaxation. Yoga can also contribute to a greater sense of equilibrium in states when experiencing acute cravings, insomnia, agitation, etc. Regular practice is needed to fully experience these benefits.
There are many forms of yoga. Hatha yoga includes a variety of postures or asanas consisting in stretching the body slowly while exhaling and maintaining the posture while breathing deeply and slowly.
Yoga is ultimately used for spiritual development, but it also is a useful therapy for many health conditions. Yoga has been used for stress management or to increase body awareness and form a more positive body image.
Yoga is used for drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs with great efficacy as it is shown by research. Research results strongly suggest that yoga is a positive motivator for rehabilitation and an aid to detoxification. Yoga, used in conjunction with counseling and group work appears to support and further the healing process.
Yoga is learning to come back to yourself; it is finding your limits, expanding your boundaries, and being able to truly relax into who you are. Yoga means to unite, to connect, to center one’s thought and to concentrate on one’s self. The practice of yoga emphasizes persistent effort, encourages awareness of the body and deep introspection.
There are many different types of yoga, dating back over 2,500 years. At Hawaii Naturopathic Retreat, we utilize several forms of yoga, including the ancient practice of Hatha yoga, incorporating Ashtanga and Kundalini inspired pranayamas (breathwork), kriyas (cleansing), and yoga therapy. Through this practice, the body is put into challenging steady positions while the breath is used to keep the mind and body calm. Our classes are individually structured to meet the needs of each student, regardless of age, experience, or ability. In a safe and encouraging environment, each student is guided to comfortably reach their edge.
By practicing yoga regularly, you can achieve a peaceful state of mind, a healthy body, and deepen your spiritual connection. Some of the many physical benefits of yoga include:
- increased flexibility, stamina, circulation and muscle joint mobility
- strengthened and toned muscles
- improved posture, digestion and elimination
- creation of balance and grace
- stimulation the glands of the endocrine system
- boosted immune response
- decreased cholesterol and blood sugar levels
Mentally, yoga can help to focus attention, sharpen concentration, promote relaxation and free the spirit. Studies have shown that it can relieve the symptoms of several common and potentially life-threatening illnesses; such as arthritis, chronic fatigue, diabetes, AIDS, asthma and obesity. The physical and meditative aspects of yoga are used for drug and alcohol recovery programs with great efficacy, as research shows. Research also strongly suggests that yoga is a positive motivator for rehabilitation and an aid to detoxification. This therapeutic practice can also contribute to a greater sense of equilibrium in states when experiencing acute cravings, insomnia, agitation, etc. It boosts energy and many believe it even fends off the ravages of old age with increased vitality.
Unlike conventional forms of exercise, yoga emphasizes quality of movement over quantity. A consistent yoga practice can quiet the mind and refresh the body, bringing health, relaxation, and happiness.
In 1997, a study published in the Journal of Alternative Therapies found yoga to be useful in addiction treatment. Based on a randomized clinical trial using yoga at a methadone clinic in Boston, the study revealed that in a group setting yoga was just as effective as traditional psychodynamic group therapy.
Addiction specialists in private practice, rehabilitation programs, and 12-step recovery programs are starting to recognize that the mind-body-spirit approach of yoga is a great adjunct therapy to conventional treatments for drug, alcohol, and food abuse as well as addictive behaviors like gambling and shopping. “Yoga treats the biology and the psychology of an addict,” explains New York City addiction psychotherapist Mary Margaret Frederick, Ph.D. “Addicts are profoundly out of control internally. They have knee-jerk panic reactions and tempers. The will and determination yoga requires helps people regain control over their body and their mind.”
Related article: Lohman R. “Yoga techniques applicable within drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs.” Therapeutic Communities. 20(1): 61-71, 1999.
Health Benefits of Yoga
Yoga has both preventive and therapeutic benefits. It has been shown to offer both physical and mental benefits to the body and the mind.
The many physical benefits of hatha yoga are: it improves flexibility and muscle joint mobility; strengthens, tones, and builds muscles; corrects posture; strengthens the spine; eases back pain; improves muscular-skeletal conditions such as bad knees, tight shoulders and neck, swayback and scoliosis; increases stamina; creates balance and grace; stimulates the glands of the endocrine system; improves digestion and elimination; increases circulation; improves heart conditions; improves breathing disorders; boosts immune response; decreases cholesterol and blood sugar levels; and encourages weight loss.
The mental benefits include: it increases body awareness; relieves chronic stress patterns in the body; refreshes the body by relieving muscle strain; relaxes the mind and body; centers attention; sharpens concentration; and frees the spirit.
Western doctors and scientists are discovering additional health benefits of hatha yoga. Studies have shown that it can relieve the symptoms of several common and potentially life-threatening illnesses; such as arthritis, arteriosclerosis, chronic fatigue, diabetes, AIDS, asthma and obesity. Many believe it even fends off the ravages of old age.
Yoga Benefits as An Exercise
A near-perfect fitness routine, hatha yoga provides the means for people of any age not only to get and stay in shape but also to develop balance, coordination, and a sense of centeredness. It renews, invigorates, and heals the body – stretching and toning the muscles, joints, and spine and directing blood and oxygen to the internal organs (including the glands and nerves).
Yoga is distinctly different from other kinds of exercise. It generates motion without causing strain and imbalances in the body. When practiced correctly, hatha yoga has no such negative effects on either the inner or outer body.
When done with dedication and purpose, Hatha yoga can be a quite demanding, yet an immensely rewarding type of exercise. While not inherently aerobic, it involves almost every muscle in the body and challenges the body to work in a different and often more passive way. Since the limbs function as free weights, moving the body’s center of gravity creates resistance. This strengthening gives way to endurance as poses are held for longer periods of time.
Unlike conventional forms of exercise, such as weight training, walking, biking or hiking, Hatha yoga stresses quality of movement over quantity. A consistent hatha yoga practice can quiet the mind and refresh the body, bringing health, relaxation, and happiness.