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Physiology

Before proceeding with the health benefits lets discuss physiology behind this age old practice of self-discipline.

Cell is the most basic structure of any living organism. Human body is made up of trillions of cells. Cells get regenerated on a regular basis. Various yogic postures make the body flexible providing uniform blood supply to all body parts. With good blood supply cells are adequately nourished, aiding new cell formation.

Origins and history

There is a lot of debate on when and where yoga originated. Modern day yoga has taken various forms and always keeps evolving. Some evidences suggest that yoga could have been practiced more than 10000 years back. Most evidence suggests that it was very actively practiced 5000 years back – which is the span of recorded modern history. A Neolithic settlement (modern Stone Age) called Mehrgarh located in what is known as Indus Valley civilization.  Over a period of time yoga gradually spread across all parts of India.

Health Benefits of Yoga

Yoga is a light resistance workout – helps build flexibility, muscle strength, bone strength.

  • Yoga helps with improving flexibility of spine, curing back pain, sciatica and neck pain
  • Controls blood pressure, regulate blood sugars – indirectly improving heart health.
  • Yoga improves our ability to concentrate and focus, increases self-esteem
  • Helps build immune system, which reduces the incidence of common ailments.
  • Certain yogic exercises help improve thyroid gland functionality thus improving metabolism
  • Pancreas – Certain Yogic asanas improves blood supply to the pancreas, enabling it to function efficiently and produce insulin in the right quantity that helps in managing and controlling diabetes. Reduces belly fat which improves insulin sensitivity. 

Fossilled rock carvings depicting yoga practiced in Stone age

Dr Batchu flexing her abdominal muscles in a yoga pose

Yoga was introduced in America in the 1800s by Swami Vivekananda (a well renowned Indian Monk) when he addressed at the “Parliament of Religions” in Chicago and discussed about meditation

International Yoga day is celebrated worldwide with great enthusiasm

What is Yoga?

Yoga comes from a Sanskrit word “Yoke” which means union. Yoga is a form of discipline – a physical, mental and spiritual practice. It is a technique of controlling mind and body. 

Yoga is very close to my heart. I learnt this art from my father and I have been practicing it for more than 20 years. This article explains the health benefits of yoga from a physician’s perspective.

Pranayama


​In our present day busy lifestyle, we tend to ignore our breathing, resulting in fast and shallow breathing. We use only a fraction of our lung, which decreases the total lung capacity and in the long run, leads to complications like heart diseases, sleep disorders and fatigue.

Pranayama essentially means breath control. Involves deep inhalation and exhalation.

Indian Prime minister Narendra Modi leading a yoga day session in New Delhi in front of India Gate


Listen to yourself and listen to your body when practicing yoga – Do Not Force yourself. Start slowly and progress gradually.

People with spinal disorders (herniated disc, spine surgeries, scoliosis etc…) should not practice postures, which involve bending of the spine.

Introduction to Yoga & its health benefits

​Internal Medicine 

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Yoga practiced worldwide

International Day of Yoga commonly and unofficially referred to as Yoga Day, is celebrated annually on June 21 since its inception in 2015. An international day for yoga was declared by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on December 11, 2014 unanimously. The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his UN Address suggested the date of June 21, as it is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and shares special significance in many parts of the world.

Dr Vishalakshmi Batchu, M.D.
Board Certified Internal Medicine

First Lady of America Michelle Obama promoting yoga among kids

Deep inhalation (Breathe in) allows oxygen flow to different parts of the body – recharging the body. Deep exhalation (Breathe out) pushes out carbon di oxide which eliminates toxic wastes from the body. The balance of oxygen and carbon di oxide is achieved by pranayama. Pranayama increases total lung capacity.

Pranayama helps decrease asthma flare-ups, helps with prevention and cure of nasal allergies, sinus problems and bronchitis.

It also helps achieve self-control and sharpens intellect.

Pranayama should not be forced upon – it must be started slowly and increased gradually over a period as per individual tolerance.


My Suggestions

Yoga is a light intensity workout. Yoga must always be combined with good aerobic and balanced diet. Diet has effect not only on the body but on the mind too. Fill half of your stomach with food, a quarter with liquid and leave out a quarter for air, avoid irregular eating. Early to bed and early to rise contributes to good health. A diet rich in natural fresh produce purify the blood and help nourish cell reconstruction. Most of the common ailments are self-made which need to be fixed from within. Yoga, pranayama and meditation helps in a big way.

Digestive system – Our health is directly linked to our digestive system. Improper functioning of our digestive system is the prime cause for most of our diseases. Different yogic exercises strengthen the digestive system by strengthening the abdominal muscles, intestinal motility improves which helps treat common ailments like constipation, flatulence, bloating, acid reflux etc..

According to laws of physiology when body contracts and expands, energy is released which helps prevent and at times cure diseases naturally. Yoga is primarily based on this physiology

Meditation

Meditation is a means of transforming the mind. You learn the patterns and habits of your mind cultivate new, more positive ways of being. It helps one develop concentration, clarity, calmness, emotional positivity, and understand the true nature of things.

Meditation is like mild exercise for your nerves and your brain. Meditation brings in inner peace and harmony and helps in stress reduction boosting our immune system. Meditation need practice and guidance initially.

Meditation reactivates nervous system; stabilizing most mental illnesses and even curing them.

Dr. VISHALAKSHMI BATCHU , MD
Internal Medicine