How yoga can improve your health

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Published July 11, 2013

| FoxNews.com

I spend a lot of time writing about what we put in or on our bodies and how it all affects our health. But mind-body activities like yoga are an undeniably powerful force in preventing illness, maintaining wellness and treating chronic conditions easily, naturally and affordably.

Nearly one in three adults in the U.S. suffer from high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, according to Medical News Today. While this condition, like countless others, can be controlled with medication, most of these drugs come with unwelcome side effects. 

For instance, the American Heart Association notes that beta-blockers, a common class of medication used to treat high blood pressure, can cause insomnia, depression, slow heartbeat or asthma symptoms.

However, according to one recent study, yoga can also help lower blood pressure. Participants in the study were divided into three different groups. The first group followed a supervised diet and walking program; the second group practiced yoga in a studio two to three days per week for 24 weeks; the third group followed a combination program consisting of yoga and dietary intervention. 

According to the study, the group doing only yoga yielded the most significant results, lowering their blood pressure by an average of three points. The study's authors attributed this notable decrease to the relaxation and mindfulness associated with yoga - qualities that are also helpful in reducing stress. 

Other research from 2010 demonstrated that yoga is effective at elevating mood and easing anxiety. And a study released last month showed that people experienced significantly superior brain function after practicing yoga, compared to aerobic exercise.

Of course, as with almost any form of exercise, yoga is not without its physical risks. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons cautions anyone who engages in yoga to discuss any known injury or illness with their yoga instructor ahead of time. 

It's also important to learn which of the many different types of yoga will suit your needs, as some practices are more strenuous than others. Most importantly, listen to your body and know your limits – if something hurts or doesn’t feel right, stop doing it!

Some hypertension patients will require medication regardless of lifestyle, and no one should ever stop taking these often life-saving drugs without consulting their physician. 

But supplementing a healthy, heart-friendly diet with an hour or so of yoga (or other similarly meditative exercises) could do wonders in terms of improving physical and mental health – or preventing your health from needing improvement in the first place.  

Note: Information provided herein is not intended to treat or diagnose any health condition. As always, consult your healthcare provider with any questions or health concerns.

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