The world can definitely be a stressful place. Society praises the busy lifestyle of multitasking and tight deadlines. I understand the philosophy that “you can’t achieve success without hard work.” It took a lot of hard work to get where I am today; however, there is a lot of responsibility as a medical professional, and that can be very stressful.
The other day a patient of mine asked, “Doc, how do you relax after a stressful day?” I explained how I practice an ancient exercise known to benefit physical, emotional, and mental health—the body and the mind. Yoga has been around for centuries, and I enjoy yoga about three times a week. Restorative yoga, in particular, helps complement my hectic lifestyle. It is a gentle yoga practice that uses props such as bolsters, pillows, and blankets, to further experience your relaxing exercise.
I have a stressful job. But is there anything more stressful than being told you have a potentially fatal disease, such as cancer? I can’t say I know where your mind is, but I know well the battle that lies ahead for anyone diagnosed with such a disease.
It turns out that lying down for your exercise is a good place to start. There is evidence that supports restorative yoga as a possible intervention.
A few years back, there was a study published in the journal Psycho-Oncology. It found that restorative yoga can reduce stress and fatigue in women with breast cancer or those who have survived treatment of the deadly disease.
The study’s researchers from Wake Forest University observed 44 breast cancer patients with an average age of about 56 years, and 34% of the participants were also receiving cancer treatment. The participants were randomly divided into a waitlist control group or a 10-week, 75-minute restorative yoga class group.
When the study began, the cancer patients would complete an emotional and mental health questionnaire. There was another similar questionnaire after the 10-week program for the yoga group.
From my experience with yoga, I certainly can’t say I was surprised with the results. The first questionnaire revealed that some of the women were emotionally exhausted with a negative outlook toward their situation. However, the yoga mat really seemed to do wonders for these women. After the restorative yoga classes, the breast cancer patients were incredibly calm, any depression had vanished, and they saw much more meaning to their life. It was incredible! They had a greater outlook and more energy than the women who didn’t participate in the relaxing exercise.
But the benefits of yoga actually go deeper than that. A 12-month randomized study published earlier this year in the Journal of Diabetes and Its Complications found that restorative yoga can improve fasting glucose in underactive adults with metabolic syndrome greater than an active stretching exercise. There were 180 participants randomly split between a yoga group and a stretching group. After six months, yoga helped reduce levels of fasting glucose, insulin, and hemoglobin A1c, while increasing HDL cholesterol. Fasting glucose was the only metabolic factor sustained upon completion of the 12-month study. The stretching group only reduced their triglyceride levels at the six-month mark.
There are actually even more benefits to relaxing on your yoga mat. I have also found that restorative yoga has benefited people with arthritis, insomnia, headaches, high blood pressure, fibromyalgia, and back pain. Start with a yoga class for beginners and start feeling the extensive health benefits of yoga today. Namaste!
Sources for Today’s Article:
Danhauer, S.C., et al., “Restorative yoga for women with breast cancer: findings from a randomized pilot study,” Psycho-Oncology April 2009; 18(4): 360–368, doi: 10.1002/pon.1503.
Kanaya, A.M., et al., “Restorative yoga and metabolic risk factors: the Practicing Restorative Yoga vs. Stretching for the Metabolic Syndrome (PRYSMS) randomized trail,” Journal of Diabetes and Its Complications May to June 2014; 28(3): 406–412, doi: 10.1015/j.diacomp.2013.12.001.
“Benefits of Restorative Yoga,” Incline Chiropractic Natural Health Center website; http://inclinechiropractic.com/services/restorative-yoga-therapy/benefits-of-restorative-yoga/, last accessed September 18, 2014.