When Prime Minister Narendra Modi's proposal to mark International Yoga Day got an official nod from the United Nations, it was emblematic of a whole lot of things. In a way, it was a sign of global acceptance of the alarming state of human health and an even more urgent need to fix it. There's no denying the fact that lifestyle diseases are on a sharp rise. Not only are our habits becoming more and more sedentary and inactive, our environment is also harbouring bacteria, parasites and viruses like never before. The current strains of viruses are becoming ever strong with a new found resistance to traditionally prescribed antibiotics.
Medical professionals across the globe are now faced with the novel challenge of developing a new and stronger set of antibiotics and drugs to combat and kill these new-age viruses and bacteria. In the wake of such circumstances, people across the globe are resorting back to where the human race started. Most of us are turning back to our roots, giving up processed food items, switching to organic products, following a vegan diet, taking up regular physical activity and what not.
Not much to our surprise, Yoga can be an efficient tool in warding off as well as treating most of the rampant non-communicable lifestyle diseases. According to a well know Yoga practitioner and fitness expert Seema Sondhi, "Yoga is not only about getting flexible or strengthening one's body. The various asanas first aim at cleansing your body from within, fixing the internal imbalance and then focusing on strengthening the exteriors."
With the help of correct breathing, balancing and dhyan we can channelise our energy for the well-being of our body. Yoga makes you aware of your body; you will start to feel each and every muscle twitching, stretching, flexing and then relaxing. Practicing yoga is akin to the incessant ebb and flow of tides - subtle yet quite prominent. Yoga integrates your body, mind and soul together unlike any other activity and that is why it can be the answer to most of lifestyle related health woes of the 21st century.
According to a latest report on yoga and its benefits on mental health, "leading mental health experts have advocated Yoga as an efficacious tool for managing rising mental health issues in India."
"Yoga can be an effective preventive tool in fighting stress and other mental health concerns, and while Yoga may not be an alternate to medical intervention, it can be beneficial as an adjunct to mainline treatment," noted Sunil Mittal, a senior psychiatrist at Cosmos Institute of Mental Health and Behavioral Science (CIMBS), New Delhi.
Believe it or not, yoga as well as mindful meditation can not only help relieve stress but also facilitate in treating anxiety and mental disorders. There are a host of easy asanas that can help you de-stress, unwind and feel mentally rejuvenated.
Healthy bones are extremely crucial for our health. Apart from ensuring a regular intake of calcium and Vitamin D, regular exercising is equally important for maintaining healthy bones. Not only does yoga aid in strengthening our bones but some of the postures can even help those suffering from arthritis and osteoporosis. Seema Sondhi explains that practicing certain weight-bearing postures can help ward off off bone related ailments like osteoporosis.
Yoga aims at making you fit and fights extra fat by increasing flexibility and strengthening your muscles. The various postures involve twisting the body, forward and backward bends, inversions and other activities that help in weight loss.
"I can't really pin-point any specific set of asanas for weight loss. Almost all of them aim at cleansing your inner mechanism, strengthening your core and stamina, increasing flexibility, and upping your metabolic rate," says Seema.
Postures that are great for inducing weight loss and combating obesity would include:-
If these aren't enough for you and you would like to try your hands at something challenging and different then you might want to give Power yoga, Ashtang yoga, Hatha or Kundalini yoga a try. Fitness institutes these days are offering an exciting mix of yoga postures incorporated in dance moves - if you are more on the groovier side, try Dance yoga as well.
Practicing yoga is great to stimulate various organs and improve our metabolic processes. Various asanas help in making organs like liver and pancreas more active, which may further help in regulating and managing high cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Some of the most recent medical studies have reported yoga to be beneficial in insulin production as well as aiding in treating diabetes along with prescribed medication. Essentially, postures which involve a lot of twisting or stimulating the abdominal area help a great deal for diabetics as well as keeping a check on cholesterol and high blood sugar levels.
These asanas would include:-
Apart from the ones mentioned above, regular practice of yoga also fortifies your immunity, works up your heart and prevents risks of cardiovascular diseases. Specialised yoga postures are extremely helpful for pregnant women and facilitate normal delivery without any difficulties. Experts also believe that yoga can help in treating conditions like insomnia, mood disorders, digestive troubles, high blood pressure and so on.
- Seated twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana) for indigestion - Tree pose (Vakrasana) for anxiety and stress - Standing forward bend (Uttanasana) for lower back pain - Seated forward bend (Paschimottanasana) for headaches - Child's pose (Balasana) for insomnia