An interesting Article on this website where you can read more about John Friend…..
This article appeared in German monthly magazine of the German speaking society: KL-Post
Is Yoga, beneficial or not?
Yoga is almost as old as mankind. For thousands of years it has been practiced by Swamis - Hindu monks and scholars - who passed this specific knowledge to their disciples. Today’s hectic lifestyle coupled with a lack of movement has been unprecedented in the history of mankind. Lifestyle diseases, such as high blood pressure, heart problems and diabetes are increasing. Sedentary occupations that require a person to sit hours in front of a computer further increase the likelihood of postural and stress related problems. It seems no coincidence that simultaneously with these changes in lifestyle more and more people are practicing Yoga worldwide.
One of the main reasons Yoga has become popular are the health-benefits. In Ayurveda, the Indian traditional holistic medicine, Yoga is an integral part of a trinity. “Ayurveda is the science of life, Yoga is the science of union with the Divine and Tantra controls the energy that creates union with Truth” . Yoga creates a balance between body and mind, so that they can function optimally. In this information age our need for scientific ratification has initiated many studies involving Yoga. Whether Yoga really lives up to the claims of Yoga-enthusiasts has for instance been investigated by Mark Anders. He refers to a study by Dawn Boehde and John Porcari Ph.D., who verified the effects on health of practicing Hatha-Yoga three times a week for 55 minutes. The results have shown a “significant improvement in flexibility, muscular strength, endurance and balance.”
Meanwhile, there are many different Hatha-Yoga-styles, such as Asthanga-Yoga, Shivananda-Yoga, Yyengar-Yoga, Hot Yoga and Anusara Yoga just to name a few. These styles are synonymous with the teaching of their founders. Each style offers a unique way of instructions, which is often interlaced with the individual instructors’ own experience. More and more it is recognized that Yoga is best adjusted to the individuals’ health condition. It would be implausible to attempt Ashtanga-Yoga, a vigorous flowing style, with a pre-existing health-condition such as Asthma. A yoga routine incorporating sun-salutes, gentle back-bending postures and breathing exercises such as Ujiyay will help the bronchial tubes to relax and increases circulation through tight chest-muscles. R. Nagarathna and H.R. Nagendra tested fifty three patients with asthma on the effects of integrated yoga exercises within a two-week program. The study demonstrated a “highly significant improvement in the number of attacks per week” compared to the control group .
On the other hand a powerful yoga sequence might be the best solution for someone who positively responds to a vigorous, sweat-promoting and endorphin-releasing exercise-style hence creating a balance to an otherwise sedentary but mentally highly stressed profession. But it could also be that a gentle routine with restorative poses such as Viparita Karani Mudra (supported shoulderstand on the wall), adjusted back-bends (on gymnastic balls or chairs) and mild standing variation including Triangles and Forward bends coupled with breathing techniques such as alternate nostril breathing might be more appropriate. Yoga asanas with breathing and relaxation exercises are effective in calming down an overstimulated nervous-system. Ellen Serber summarized in her article “Yoga and Stress” numerous studies and concluded that Yoga is a useful tool for reducing anxiety . According to Felicia M. Tomasko’s Research Summary “Adrenal Fatigue Treatable, Rampant, Dangerous and Underdiagnosed.”  an exhausted adrenal system (fight-flight symptom) can be revitalized with gentle exercises like Viparita Karani Mudra (supported shoulderstand on the wall), Halasana (Plow) and Bhujangasana (Cobra), relaxation (Shavasana) and dietary adjustments.
In our modern life there can often be a lack of ritual and spiritual connection. Yoga with a universal focus on inner well-being has helped to build a bridge for people who have no spiritual connection, or are disillusioned. The practice of meditation, an integral part of Yoga, encourages contemplation and introspection. It is often assumed that the practice of meditation “empties” the mind. In contrast, Swami Bharati Veda from the Himalayan Yoga meditation introduces meditation as a form of “self-talk”. He encourages to observe own thought processes and to be aware of anxiety and repetitive tendencies. Thus one can liberate him/herself from repetitive thought-patterns and negative thoughts. The Buddhists call this practice “passive witnessing”. We hereby observe our thoughts and feelings, without identifying ourselves with them. Although certain philosophies recommend meditation without Hatha-Yoga, it has been my experience that Hatha-Yoga (postures, breathing, and relaxation) prepares the body and mind for meditation.
Not only illnesses or stress can be addressed with Yoga. A wrong posture, which causes discomfort or pain (back- and neck pain, headaches or migraines), can also be relieved by a balanced routine of Yoga-exercises. Yoga postures are designed to strengthen the muscles that support the spine and protect the joints. Our predominantly sedentary lifestyle is forcing our bodies into an unnatural forward-oriented position, with the natural curves of the spine constantly forced into a flat position. This in turn creates chronic tension of the surrounding muscles. Back-bends are not easy for many practitioners but it is precisely this group of poses that strengthen the curves of the spine and are therefore a good recipe for chronic back and neck pain. Even for severe postural deformities, such as scoliosis, lordosis or kyphosis (abnormal curves of the spine) a well adapted Yoga routine can bring relief.
Finally the question remains if Yoga is really good for you. The results of numerous studies suggesting Yoga to be beneficial for health (physically, mentally and emotionally) have been challenged by some scientific researchers because of their “inadequacy in the methodology” [effects of Yoga on anxiety 6]. Other studies, however, have unequivocally indicated a beneficial effect of yoga on health. I would like to add, that after more than 20 years practicing and teaching yoga in my personal experience Yoga is beneficial to health. The effects of yoga on health largely depend on the quality of the teacher and the adaptation of yoga practices on the practitioner. If yoga is attempted without preparation, without knowledge and proper guidance, it may even cause adverse health effects.
Meanwhile, Yoga is offered in many different organizations such as fitness, dance and yoga studios, and privately, therefore quality of teaching cannot be ascertained. In the selection of a suitable teacher cost and distance slip to the foreground rather then the crucial factor of an appropriate and to the student customized class level. On the other hand, the yoga teacher community has to take rising rents and competition into consideration. Reduced number of pupils means more “mixed classes”, i.e. students with different experience and level are training in the same class. Students as well as teachers are making compromises. However the great demand for yoga teachers has also increased the incentive for teacher training and is therefore beneficial to the student of Yoga.
Yoga can enrich us in many ways, and teaches us to be present in our daily lives. Yoga develops more awareness, sensitivity and promotes health. It can be practices with other sports, alone or in combination. Whether it is beneficial or not depends not only on teachers but also on the students. As Swami Rama of the Himalayan Yoga meditation once mentioned: “You don’t have to know much about Yoga in order to practice it, but you should practice a lot of Yoga to know more about it.
Monika Ramasamy from St. Gallen, Switzerland, is a qualified yoga teacher and has been practicing and teaching yoga for over 20 years. An English version of the text and other information are available on www.yogimon.net.
 Anders, Mark. “Does Yoga Really Do the Body Good?”. 8 January 2010.
 Nagarathna, R., Nagendra H.R., “CLINICAL RESEARCH’. “Yoga for bronchial asthma> a
controlled study. 8 January 2010. http://www.bmj.com/. “BMJ helping doctors make better decisions”
 Vasanth Dr., Lad. AYURVEDA The Science of Self-Healing, Lotus Press, Santa Fe.
New Mexico 1985 p. 18/19
 Serber, Ellen. “Yoga and the Stress Response”. 8 January 2010.
 Tomasko, Felicia M. LAYoga. 8 January 2010.
 Kirkwood, G., Rampes, H., Tuffrey V., Richardson, J., Pinkington K., “Yoga for anxiety: a
systematic review of the research evidence”. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2005, 39, 884-891. 2005. http://bjsm.bmj.com/
No Comments »
No comments yet.