It isn’t exactly scientifically accurate to say that yoga can cure some of the biggest health conditions we face today. However,there is scientific evidence out there to back up that yoga can help treat and even alleviate symptoms of back pain, migraines, anxiety, and depression, four of the most common health conditions currently plaguing the US.
Yoga for Back Pain
Back pain is no joke. In fact, we’ve had more than a few posts on the topic. And that’s because around 80% of adults will experience back pain at some point in their lives. It’s how we’re built to operate: our widest muscle (the latissimus dorsi) spans across the back and does everything from helping maintain posture to rotating the shoulders. Stress, poor posture, and neglect can take a serious toll on this muscle and cause some serious back pain.
Luckily, research has shown that yoga can help alleviate chronic back pain in a time when chronic back pain is typically treated with a host of various pain medication. Just focus on more therapeutic poses and styles of yoga (rather than going for the hard core vinyasa classes) and your back (and kidneys!) will sincerely thank you.
If you’re one of the many people who suffers from frequent migraines, you don’t need us to tell you how much of a pain they are – figuratively and literally. If you’re not, imagine your worst headache. Now multiply that by 20. Now add serious light and sound sensitivity and some nausea to top it off and that’s a migraine. See? A pain.
Two big contributing factors to migraines are stress and tension, two things yoga is all about relieving. While it isn’t clear exactly how yoga relieves migraines, but the experts are betting it has to do with the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS). During more relaxing yoga sessions, like hatha or yin classes, the PSNS slows your heart rate and lowers your blood pressure, easing that migraine pain.
Yoga helps with anxiety similarly to how it helps migraines. Very, very basically, anxiety is caused by the sympathetic nervous system (SNS, the sister system of PSNS) freaking out more than it should. The SNS is responsible for stimulating activities associated with your fight-or-flight response so it does serve a very important purpose…when it’s in check. Too much anxiety can wreak serious havoc on your digestive and neurological systems so it’s important to keep in check., which yoga can help with!
Depression goes so much farther than feeling sad. It’s a chemical imbalance in the brain that not only adversely affects mood, but also negatively affects ambition, energy, interpersonal relationships, and even the physical body.
Yoga and other forms of exercise have been shown to have a similar therapeutic effectiveness as established depression treatments, like cognitive therapy, sertraline, and imipramine. How yoga comes into play is high-energy and frequent aerobic exercises have proven to reduce symptoms of depression. So sign up for that vinyasa class – you deserve it!
Kat Wiseman is a content writer for Span Enterprises in Rock Hill, SC. She has a B.A. in English-Creative Writing from Winthrop University and her RYT 200 from Yoga Alliance. When she's not writing or doing yoga, she enjoys Netflix marathons, mystery novels, and being at the beach.