YOGA: CONNECTING BODY & Mind!

Yoga was developed in ancient India and is our gift to the world. The United Nations has declared June 21 as the International Day for Yoga. The Goan Observer caught up with DR AMIT DIAS of the Department of Preventive & Social Medicine at the Goa Medical College & Hospital, to get deeper and scientific insights into the role of doing various yogasana to contribute to a healthy mind, body, heart and soul.

QUESTION: First things first, what are the benefits of practicing yoga?
ANSWER:
Yoga is a set of body stretches and poses which help create harmony between the mind, body and soul. It helps achieve a healthy mind in a healthy body. The overall consensus is that the practice of yoga has several health benefits. It helps decrease stress and anxiety, improves mood, improves concentration, improves flexibility and muscle strength, improves balance, decreases chances of falls, helps decrease weight, lowers blood sugars and blood pressure, relieves back pain, improves breathing and lung capacity, improves immunity, etc.
Yoga also helps people quit addictions such as smoking and alcoholism. Yoga helps people cultivate mindfulness, develop a greater understanding and awareness, also improve concentration. It is useful for those in depression or post-trauma stress disorder.
To get maximum benefit one should be regular and practice the range of exercises or postures involving the use of various muscle groups as well as do pranayama which are breathing exercises.

Q: Who can practice yoga?
A: Yoga is meant for practically everyone, it’s a very gentle form of movements which may be done by anyone regardless of age, gender, fitness level. Those with some illnesses and injuries should consider taking expert advice and do the more gentler yogasana postures.

Q: What are the various forms of yoga?
A: There are various forms of yoga:
Hatha Yoga: It involves physical postures (asana) and breathing exercises (pranayam)
Iyengar Yoga: In this form one uses props like straps, weights and blocks to achieve a desired position
Bikram Yoga: It’s performed in a very hot room. Involves 26 positions
Kripalu Yoga: this is a gentle, slower style of Yoga
Ashtanga Yoga: It’s fast-paced and designed to build your endurance and strength. It is linked with breathing.

Q: You have been working with the elderly, what is your advice for yoga for seniors?
A: As said earlier anyone can practice yoga. We have regular yoga sessions online conducted during our Memory Cafe sessions for seniors, conducted by our expert. We may have to modify the pose to suit people with restricted movements or injuries. They may have to avoid yoga in case of certain conditions such as post-eye surgery, asthma, back injury, very low or very high blood pressure, neck injury, etc. Start slow and increase the intensity.

Q: Allopathy and yoga – how do the two mix?
A: Allopathy and yoga complement each other! It is we humans who have divided the systems of medicine. Our aim has always been to achieve holistic health for an individual. Allopathic medicine has evidence to treat and cure acute health conditions, chronic health conditions, which have a multi-factorial causation, and need a multi-dimensional approach and management. While sometimes it may appear as if the various systems of medicine are at loggerheads trying to compete with each other, we need to understand that the fact is that the healthcare and medical systems could complement one another as and when required and desirable. This is the philosophy of integrated healthcare for wellbeing.

Q: Any precautions to be taken while doing yoga?
A: Like the medications of Allopathy we need to know when to take them and for how long, we have to learn how to get set for doing a spot of yoga, by learning correct ways to get into a posture and how to hold it. Yoga offers a wide range of postures or exercises which move from easy to difficult, begin with the basic poses and as you get used to them you will build up strength and flexibility and be able to do yoga more easily! Take it slow and steady and you have a perfect regime of staying fit for health and happiness.
There are no side effects doing yoga; however, there are some positions that may not be suitable for those with certain health problems or for reasons of fragile age…but many yoga postures may be modified to be more easily done. Here I have just highlighted some of the precautions mentioned earlier. Sometimes one may incur some injury doing yoga such as muscle pulls, musculoskeletal problems, high blood pressure with forceful breathing. Do not practice yoga aggressively and without being taught how to do the various postures properly – best to attend yoga classes with a good yoga teacher first before being on your own.

Q: Any message for our readers?
A: Yoga is generally speaking good for healthcare maintenance. There are various options available in today’s world — some workshops are conducted online in the comfort of your house. Several videos are available on YouTube and there are exercise sessions on television that one could follow. Every year on International Yoga Day we see people get up early to click pictures of themselves doing yoga – this will not help one bit! Yoga is not for Yoga Day alone.

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