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How Indian Yoga Protects You From Obesity And Heart Disease

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Heart disease is one of the biggest threats to your way of life. It can cost you your job, your money, your health, your mind, as well as your very life itself. Over 1 million people die every year from heart disease and those who don’t die face a severe drop in the quality of life as they are confined to a wheelchair and medications. Fortunately, advances in modern medicine have made the recovery from heart disease better than ever before, but is this enough? Is there an alternative to the modern pharmacotherapy and its undesired side effects?

Woman performing Yoga

Woman performing Yoga

Yoga

More than 15 million Americans practice yoga. When you look at it carefully, it’s easy to see why it is so popular. Compared to drugs and other modern advances, yoga is easy, inexpensive, can be done in the privacy of your home and has no harmful side effects of any kind.

Originating in India well over 4 thousand years ago, yoga is now more popular than ever in the industrialized Western countries. Yoga alternates deep breathing exercises (pranayamas) with poses (asanas). Although a number of different types of yoga exists, the three most practised are known as Hatha, Raja, and Mantra.

Hatha is the most forceful of all the yogas. That means that it is the most aerobic. It is also the most common one throughout the US.

Raja is also called classical yoga, and it is the second most popular yoga in America. It practices more on meditative poses.

Mantra is the yoga you would want to use when you’re trying to relax and ease your troubled mind. Mantra as the name would suggest, accomplishes this by focusing on sounds or chants.

Evidence that the ancient practice of yoga is beneficial in many ways has been empirical so far. Almost all people can practice it. Even older people or those who have mobility problems or are out of shape can perform yoga. Doctors, on the other hand, have been known to comment on the improved health after a patient begins yoga. However, until quite recently there’s been very little research to scientifically support the health benefits of this ancient practice.

A Compilation of Research Findings On Health Benefits Of Yoga

Growing scientific evidence supports that yoga reduces the risk for heart disease as well as Insulin Resistance Syndrome (IRS), a contributing factor to diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD). Yoga can even help improve the symptoms of people who are already suffering from heart disease.

A few years ago, Dr Kim E. Innes published a systematic review that studied how yoga can affect the risk for CVD. The results suggest that yoga may reduce IRS-related risk factors for CVD.

There are many factors that contribute to heart disease, and most are related to IRS.
Symptoms of insulin resistance syndrome include:

• Insulin resistance
• Glucose intolerance
• Lipid abnormalities
• High blood pressure
• Visceral fat (belly fat)

Because there is such a strong correlation between mind and body, people who have “type A personalities” are also at risk even with no symptoms at all. Type A behavior was first described as a potential risk factor in coronary disease in the 1950s by cardiologist Meyer Friedman. That is one of the things that makes yoga so powerful. No other exercise focuses on this mind-body relationship the way yoga does.

The Scientific Studies

Dr Innes systematically examined all the peer-reviewed published studies from 1970 onward that focused on yoga and good health. Of the 70 studies that were eligible, 63% were done between the time period of 1990 and 2003.

Fifty-one of these studies focused on yoga’s effects on lipid profiles, insulin resistance, weight loss, blood pressure and composition. Thirteen studies concentrated on the effects of yoga on insulin resistance. Eighteen clinical trials conducted in six countries focused on the effect of yoga on body measurements regarding heart disease. Fourteen of these studies showed that yoga improves lipid profiles.

The Findings….

Are you wondering what all the studies found when put together? Here are the results:

• Insulin resistance decreased as a result of practicing yoga
• Most studies showed that type-2 diabetics and people with hypertension had significant improvement.
• There was a decrease in fasting glucose (blood sugar levels) up to 33%. High fasting glucose is an indicator of diabetes.
• There was a decrease in total cholesterol up to 25%.
• There was a reduction in triglycerides up to 28%.
• Blood pressure decreased
• HDL, also known as good cholesterol, increased.
• LDL (bad cholesterol) had a drop up to 26%.
• Sleep quality improved
• Body weight decreased between up to 14% after practicing yoga

The studies that produced these results came from programs that focused on asanas, (poses) and pranayamas, (focused breath) and ranged in duration anywhere from one month to a year.

Yoga, Stress & Oxygen

When a doctor or researcher talks about stress, what they’re really talking about is oxidative stress, the balance between the production of harmful reactive oxygen and the body’s ability to readily repair the resulting damage. Oxidative stress causes free radicals to increase within the body and cause damage to cells and genes.

Yoga increases oxygen to the brain and other cells and supports naturally the productions of antioxidants. Antioxidants are what your body uses to fight free radicals.

Of the 70 studies reviewed, 5 addressed the impact of yoga on stress and oxygen levels. The results are very promising.

• Yoga reduces stress
• Increases anti-oxidants
• Decreases the amount of free radicals in your system
• Enhances coping abilities
• Reduces depression symptoms
• Removes anxiety symptoms
• Reduces anger and tension and fatigue
• Improves sleep

Although it is not clearly understood why yoga works the way it does, there are two reasons suggested for why it works. One of the things yoga does is, it stimulates the vagus nerve, which innervates organs in the neck, thorax and abdomen, resulting in a better function of the heart and lungs. When the vagus nerve is healthy, everything else is healthy along with it. In addition, yoga promotes a feeling of overall well-being which by itself relieves the effects of stress, strengthens the immune system and lowers blood pressure

This is why yoga’s effects are so far-reaching. Not only does it help the heart, lungs, and every other part of the body, it reduces stress and makes you better able to cope. The empirical evidence of 15 million people who practice yoga is now backed by 34 years of research.

Yoga and Weight Loss

A number of studies have documented the effect of yoga on reducing body weight in overweight people.

The latest study, published in the February 2013 issue of the Journal of Clinical Nursing, showed that postpartum women that participated in a yoga and pilates exercise program experienced a significant decrease in depression, body weight, and fat mass.

A 2012 recent study published in the International Journal of Yoga Therapy showed that a weight loss program based on Kripalu yoga, a form of Hatha yoga, improved stress management, and promoted better nutrition behaviors, and weight loss in overweight/obese individuals.

Obese women who participated in a 3-month yoga treatment program for binge eating perceived a significant reduction in the amount of food they consumed, and a shift toward healthier food choices throughout the program.

Summary

A lot of research has been published about yoga and the effect on the body. The investigation covered issues from insulin resistance to heart health, pre-diabetes markers, respiration, lipid profiles, obesity, weight loss, and stress.

The results, based on 4 decades of research, are overwhelmingly positive. Some of the benefits of yoga manifest as:

• Weight loss/fat loss
• Decrease in the rate of breathing and heartbeat
• Decrease in cortisol (the stress hormone, high cortisol=high weight)
• Decrease in catecholamine (Fight-or-flight hormones that cause anxiety)
• Decrease in the activity of enzyme renin (low renin=low blood pressure)
• Stronger response of the heart to stress
• Able to cope with stress more easily

In conclusion, anyone who is worried about heart disease, diabetes, or weight problems should consider incorporating yoga exercises in their lifestyle. After all, yoga is much less expensive and much safer than either drugs or surgery. With so many benefits to gain, and almost no side effects to worry about, yoga is a promising age-old solution, to a fast-growing modern problem.

Indians performing Yoga Asana in 1688

An early illustration of Indians performing Yoga Asana in 1688

Top Yoga Centers in India

With all its health benefits, Yoga has won the West. Many people travel to India every year to study yoga in a traditional setting. For the truly devoted who want to take advanced lessons and integrate the Yoga philosophy, here are some of the top Yoga centers in India.

Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute, Pune
It is the heart and soul of Iyengar Yoga. The institute is run by Yogacharya BKS Iyengar and his family. At 95, BKS Iyengar is a living legend who teaches the wisdom of yoga sutras like nobody else.

Ashtanga Institute, Mysore
Founded by Yogacharaya Shri K. Pattabhi Jois, and now run by his daughter Sharaswathi and grandson Sharath, the institute teaches Ashtanga yoga. Sharath, 42, was introduced to Yoga at preschool age. Today, he is the director of the institute and wakes up at 1am to complete his practice before his first students arrive.

Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh
Lying on the banks of the Ganga river, Parmarth Niketan is the largest religious retreat in Rishikesh. With a capacity of 1000 rooms, it provides a great place for meditation and prayer. Classes for beginners, and teachers as well, run throughout the year.

Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, Chennai
Whether you are an overstressed executive or overworked employee, an exhausted pregnant mother or a confused child, the institute caters to your individual needs. It teaches yoga from the ground up, starting from a holistic theoretical basis and moving to the exercise and fitness aspect of the practice.

Bihar School of Yoga, Munger
Situated on a hill that overlooks Ganga, the Bihar School of Yoga is like an oasis in the technological desert of the 21st century, being one of a few centers that blend the spiritual side of Yoga to a scientific and academic approach. Courses are available in both English and Hindi. Admissions are fairly selective as applicants must pass a test along with an interview.

About the author

Matt Denos
Matt writes mainly about diets and weight loss programs in his blog where he offers a April 2013 promotion for Weight Watchers. With a strong academic background in health sciences Matt is fascinated by the health aspects of the Yoga practice. He regularly posts findings related to weight loss and diet programs. A writer, blogger, and biologist, Matt loves traveling above all. He is fascinated by the history and people of India. Prafull, Swati, Kanchan, Praveen, are only a few of his friends that first taught him the salutation of “Namaste” and have invited him to visit India in his next trip to Asia.

References
[1] Community-based postpartum exercise program.
[2] Psychological well-being, health behaviors, and weight loss among participants in a residential, Kripalu yoga-based weight loss program.
[3] “Overeating is not about the food”: women describe their experience of a yoga treatment program for binge eating.

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51 Responses to “How Indian Yoga Protects You From Obesity And Heart Disease”

  1. Vivek says:

    Yoga & India both has deep connection for long time. Yoga used to be most popular in historical time of India but for few time Yoga lost its identify as I know so but Yoga again came in eyes of People by Yog Guru Baba Ramdev. Yoga is really helpful way to Protects Obesity And Heart Disease. Lot of people do Yoga & safe their life. so it’s a big fact that Yoga is really helpful.

  2. Hi Matt, and welcome to Shalu’s blog :)

    This is a well-written and nicely researched article on yoga, and I think you covered up everything there’s to cover about yoga in it.

    Yoga has been well known for it’s many benefits since ages, though it’s coming up now in a big way because of the need of us humans and the lifestyles we lead. We don’t tend to realize it but anxiety, stress, depression, lack of sleep, weight gain, and so many other problems are a major part of our life. And this is exactly where yoga helps, just as you mentioned.

    I’ve seen my Dad and father-in-law practice yoga everyday since the past so many years, and they do make meditation also as part of their daily routine. I guess that’s the secret of them staying healthy and fit even at their age today. I guess it’s a great lesson for all of us to learn from them.

    Thanks foe sharing all these details with us, and reminding us to make it part of our lifestyle too. Have a nice day, both of you :)
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  3. Sell Products Online says:

    I just want to ask something. Does yoga also works with a man? Well I actually see mostly women are doing yoga. :) But I think yoga will be the best exercise for my Mom and I will really inform her about this article.

  4. Absolutely. Both men and women can experience Yoga’s health benefits.
    Matthew Denos recently posted..Powerstrike kickboxing Vol. 6 ReviewMy Profile

  5. Elena Anne says:

    Hi Matthew,I enjoyed reading your article. As a personal trainer I can attest to the health benefits of Yoga. I have written an article in my site where I explain how Yoga helps overcome insomnia.
    Yourlifetube.com/yoga-as-a-remedy-for-insomnia/
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  6. Steven Papas says:

    This is a great site. Shalu, you are doing a great job highlighting the best of India.

    Matthew, yoga is gaining popularity in Greece, too. Almost all fitness centers have yoga classes.
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  7. Chetan says:

    Well said Matthew, you covered all the yogas which necessary to keep away from obesity and personal disease.
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  8. harish says:

    great post about yoga !!!!! yoga is the best way to u away from disease’s ,,also yoga good thing to make you healthy and strong physically as well as mentally,,
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  9. Steven Papas says:

    Yoga is becoming more and more popular. In Greece, almost every fitness center has Yoga classes available. Nice post Shalu and Matthew.
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  10. Sapna says:

    Hi Matthew,

    Awesome!

    I’m been practicing Yoga for the last one year and I know how it has helped me to become better.
    This article appear to be very well researched.
    Most of the lifestyle diseases can be prevented by Yoga.

    Thanks for this great share.

    Sapna
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  11. Rauf Arshad says:

    yoga helps allot to protect your self from the heart diseas and also help to loss weight thanks for such nice tips and information about Indian Yoga.
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  12. Jaydeep says:

    Hey i m in big stress n i have lots of worry regarding mu future .. so can i reduce is using YOGA n which position of YOGa is helpful for me
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  13. agence web says:

    Yoga is very good for our health . really i like it so much and i find it very interesting to any one. because when you do it you can see the different. you will have a good health and a best shape and mode too.

  14. Sai Kalyan says:

    now a days yoga is very useful to everyone thank u so much
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  15. Ada says:

    I enjoyed reading your blog post! I’m a yogini too. I traded my busy life as an international marketing and public relations expert for a healthier lifestyle filled with yoga. It is with yoga that I feel serenity, it satisfied my craving for total transformation.
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  16. Ankit from Android says:

    sometimes, I am amazed by seeing the topics on which you write. You have a great capability. Guide me please.
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  17. Tafoor Tariq says:

    Nice post specially from health point of view ,because it help almost evrey person and women as we all know Yoga’s health beneficial for both men and women.Nice post keep posting.
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  18. Arvind says:

    nice post, I have not yet tried yoga, but i think i should start now!

  19. Chitraparna says:

    Hi Matt,

    Glad to see you here.

    Even though Yoga is an ‘Indian’ concept, the western world is more primed to it than we are, and it is really shameful :(
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  20. Abhishek from business broker Hawaii says:

    Yoga does help a lot in improving the overall physical and mental state of a human being. A lot needs to be done in India to spread awareness about this ancient form. It is making its mark in the west and I feel good that my friends from other countries have knowledge about it. You have given a comprehensive knowledge about yoga in this post. And it’s so good to read about Indian yoga coming from you. Thanks for sharing, Matt.

  21. robert says:

    Indian Yoga Protects You From Obesity And Heart Disease!! this is really interesting.I like reaing this post.It is interesting!!!thank you for sharing!!

  22. Wallpapers says:

    nice your site thanks for sharing love you all teme good work keep it up
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  23. Ashutosh says:

    Wow nice article its a great invention by our ancestors and its very beneficial for mankind.
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  24. Simona says:

    I have discovered that aterosclerosis is the main cause of heart disease. Stress and lack of physical exercise are among the risk factors and yoga is one of the best ways to avoid cardiovascular disease. Your article is pretty exhaustive on the topic, I have learned so much!

  25. Jennifer says:

    Yoga has long been associated to weight loss and fitness. It was the main reason why I joined a yoga class too. However, I discovered it is not just good for the body but for the mental health as well.

    Glad to have met a male yoga enthusiast and read his interesting article.
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  26. nena says:

    i like your web. still i didn’t try yoga but i think i should try it now.. thanks friend now i will

  27. I’ve just started yoga and I instantly fell in love with it. I don’t just get to exercise, but it also releases my stress and anxiety especially a week-long of work.
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  28. I started yoga a long time ago, when I was just a kid and its keeping me pretty much healthy.
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  29. Tom says:

    I did not know yoga was so important for the heath, thanks for all the info my friend, by the way excellent article, love it a lot. Keep up the good work ;)

  30. Yoga and India have a deep connection, it is helpful to overcome many heart disease, obesity. It is being practiced in India for long, Yoga Guru Baba Ramdev had rediscovered it.

  31. Even sudharshan kriya is also a best form of yoga it is too much practiced in India i read about it in a resource…thanks for sharing your enlightenment views on Yoga
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  32. Brian Couch from nerium reviews says:

    Matt’s signature says he writes about diet a lot. I think that diet plays a massive role in heart disease. Of course changing your diet isn’t a quick fix, but not every culture in the world suffers from heart disease
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  33. Even sudharshan kriya is also a best way of yoga exercises it is too much used in Indian i study about it in a resource…thanks for discussing your enlightenment opinions on Yoga.

  34. Yoga is such an old and vedic principle. Same with ayurveda. It is only now that the west and rest of the world are re embracing the healing, authentic powers of yoga. A more yogic life style would mean there are no more diseases.

  35. Yoga is a commonly known generic term for the physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines which originated in ancient India with a view to attain a state of permanent peace.

  36. Health Tips says:

    Hi Shalu, You have comeup with a Great post on Yoga which is quite useful for people who has obesity issue with them.
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  37. Sara Morgan says:

    Great article! Really informative.Thanks for sharing. Keep up the good work. :)
    Use a bullet-point list to incorporate short, straightforward ideas. When you’re using lists in sentences, the reader may lose interest. When you place them in bullets, though, they become a nice break from the rest of the article. This is a good way to keep readers interested.
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  38. Tariqul says:

    I never did Yoga but I hear so many time about its usefulness from many people. But after reading your post I believe it really can help from obese and serious heart failure. Thanks for your informative share.
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  39. Thank you for the wonderful article. Many people who use hypnosis to lose weight and get in better shape usually make the change to eating better and drinking more water, and hopefully they decrease the amount of cold soft drinks they consume.
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  40. Tim says:

    I think the fact that yoga has been practiced for so long emphasizes what great benefits it has.

  41. Richa Sudeep says:

    Thanks for the very great post! I feel only a long practice of yoga can benefit us as it has the power of healing stress and purifying our soul.

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