Chronic illnesses are invisible to the world but have a profound impact on our lives. The pain and fatigue, reduced strength and mobility, the increased medication all make even the simple everyday so difficult.
The good news is we don’t just have to cope and survive a chronic condition, we can thrive with it.
There is increasing evidence to show that a holistic practice of yoga involving gentle asanas, breathing exercises ( pranayama), meditation and mantra chanting can have a dramatic effect on conditions like Asthma, Allergies, High Blood Pressure, Diabetes, Insomnia, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue, IBS and Migraines to name a few.
This is because most chronic conditions are often psychosomatic in nature i.e caused by mental stress or conflict. The ancient yogis knew this. Yoga texts talk in depth about the mind – body connection. They tell us that when a problem of the mind is not resolved it manifests in the body as illness and when the physical illness is not resolved it becomes a chronic condition.
Nearly 2500 years after the first texts on yoga were written, modern science is now coming to the same understanding. We now know that prolonged stress causes our nervous system to stress out and a stressed out nervous system often leads to autoimmune diseases and conditions like CFS and Fibromyalgia.
Ways in which yoga helps:
Relaxed Nervous System
Yoga combines static poses with movement, breathing and deep relaxation techniques which switch on the parasympathetic nervous system. This allows us to move from a state of ‘flight or fight’ to one of ‘rest and digest’ which is critical for healing to happen.
Better Mental Health
Research has shown that yoga increases GABA levels in our brain. GABA—gamma-amino butyric acid—is a neurotransmitter which helps calm the brain. Low levels of GABA have been linked to anxiety, depression, and insomnia.
Better Sleep and Reduced Inflammation
A relaxed body, mind and nervous system automatically lead to better sleep. Yoga is known to cure insomnia. Better sleep reduces inflammation in the body which means less aches and pains and better healing.
Researchers at Ohio State University found that a group of regular yoga practitioners had much lower blood levels of an inflammation-promoting immune cell called IL-6 than a group new to yoga.
Toned Endocrine System
Different asanas stimulate and massage the various glands in the body like the Thyroid and Thymus glands, the adrenals and also the Pineal and Pituitary glands. All of this encourages optimal secretion of hormones and drainage via the lymphatic system. Hormonal balance is essential for the proper functioning of the body, our immunity and brain health.
Scientists at the University of Wisconsin have shown that meditation increases the activity of the left prefrontal cortex—the area of the brain that’s associated with positive moods, equanimity, and emotional resilience.
In other words, meditating regularly can help us ride life’s ups and downs with greater ease, suffer less and feel happier in our daily lives.
Once the body and mind begin to find their balance again chronic conditions often tend to get better. Our bodies have a wisdom of their own and can heal themselves if we give them a chance.