There is no way around it. Nearly two decades of research on yoga has conclusively established that yoga not only improves physical fitness, overall health, and mental and emotional well-being, it is a healing modality par excellence.

In his comprehensive book, Yoga as Medicine, Timothy McCall, MD. discusses the evidence for the therapeutic value of yoga in many conditions including: alcoholism, anxiety and stress, asthma, ADHD, cancer, carpel tunnel syndrome, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, congestive heart failure, depression, diabetes, eating disorders, fibromyalgia, high blood pressure, infertility, insomnia, IBS, migraines, MS, neurological and neuromuscular diseases, osteoporosis, pain, rheumatoid arthritis, scoliosis, urinary stress incontinence...and the list goes on.

Study after study shows yoga can help virtually every ailment under the sun - not to mention its amazing rejuvenating and anti-aging properties. (See links below) Moreover, a great deal of research also shows that these same healing benefits do not accrue from just doing regular exercise.

So why is yoga different?

One reason often put forward is yoga's unique ability to activate the "rest and digest function" of the nervous system. It is in the deeply relaxed parasympathetic mode that the immune system and repair mechanisms of the body become fully functional.

The nervous system has two components, the sympathetic and para-sympathetic. The sympathetic, often described as fight or flight mode, helps us fight or flee from life threatening danger. When this happens the parasympathetic nervous system is shut down, and energy is diverted away from the healing systems of the body.

Today the stress of modern life keeps our nervous system in nearly chronic "flight or fight". Slowly this wears the body down, our repair systems become sluggish. Over time, this can take a toll, leading to all kinds of health problems, including insomnia, depression, chronic pain, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Comment: Learn about the Vagus Nerve and how the stimulation of the Vagus nerve (through breathing exercises) is an integral part of the healing benefits yoga:

  • The Neurobiology of Grace Under Pressure: 7 habits that stimulate your vagus nerve and keep you calm, cool, and collected
What exactly is the vagus nerve?

The word vagus means "wandering" in Latin. The words vagabond, vague, and vagrant come from the same root. The vagus nerve is known as the wandering nerve because it has multiple branches that diverge from two thick stems rooted in the cerebellum and brainstem that wander to the lowest viscera of your abdomen touching your heart and most major organs along the way.

The vagus nerve is constantly sending sensory information about the state of the body's organs "upstream" to your brain. In fact, 80-90% of the nerve fibers in the vagus nerve are dedicated to communicating the state of your viscera up to your brain. When people say "trust your gut" they are in many ways saying, "trust your vagus nerve." Visceral feelings and gut-instincts are literally emotional intuitions transferred up to your brain via the vagus nerve.

As with any mind-body feedback loop, messages also travel "downstream" from your conscious mind through the vagus nerve signaling your organs to create an inner-calm so you can "rest-and-digest" during times of safety or to prepare your body for "fight-or-flight" in dangerous situations.

Your vagus nerve is the commander-in-chief when it comes to having grace under pressure. The autonomic nervous system is comprised of two polar opposite systems that create a complementary tug-of-war which allows your body to maintain homeostasis (inner-stability).
Try out Éiriú Eolas: the amazing stress control, healing and rejuvenation program based on breathing techniques that stimulate the vagus nerve.

When our body engages in challenging physical activity our sympathetic system can come into play. Aerobics, weight training or running can by themselves, trigger a full-fledged stress response in the body.

Yoga offers a different kind of workout. When we assume challenging yoga poses and breathe through them, we train our bodies to remain calm. Yoga's emphasis on relaxation, mindfulness and breathing, brings the parasympathetic system back online.

More amazing is the research suggesting yoga may actually condition the nervous system to better deal with life's stresses off the yoga mat and in the real world, leading to overall improved immune function.

Yoga is an amazing healing technology - accessible to all no matter their age or ability. By consciously using mindfulness and the power of intention, yoga offers a choice between stress and depressed immunity and peace of mind and healing.

But I suspect the true secret behind yoga's power may have nothing to do with "doing" at all. I agree with esteemed yoga teacher and author Donna Farhi, that the true goal of yoga is to "to live in your body and to learn to perceive clearly through it."

We live in a time of extreme dissociation from bodily experience. Often when we exercise, we run on treadmills, or pump stairmasters all the while trying to distract ourselves. Our consciousness, our minds seek to detach from the experiences of the body.

Farhi writes "when we are not in our bodies we are dissociated from our instincts, intuitions, feelings and insights"..."we become numb to our bodily experience and the feelings and perceptions that arise". We are left "powerless to know who we are, what we believe in, and what kind of world we wish to create."

Yoga simply asks us to inhabit our body as consciously as possible. As Farhi states, "In reattaching ourselves to our bodies we reattach ourselves to the responsibility of living a life guided by the undeniable wisdom of our body." I've come to believe this is the true source of yoga's powers of healing and renewal.

Here are only a few links to research on yoga's ability to help practically everything!

Yoga & Healing

Relax your way to perfect health

Yoga Reduces Cytokine Levels Known to Promote Inflammation, Study Shows

Boost your immunity with Yoga:

Yoga helps fibromyalgia symptoms relief

Yoga reduces inflammation, depression and asthma

Yoga for anxiety and depression

Yoga & Detox:

Yoga for Detox

Yoga & The Brain

Yoga_boosts_the brain

New Study Finds New Connection Between Yoga and Mood

Yoga better than walking for mood, study confirms

Yoga Therapy

Yoga as therapy

Yoga and Sleep

Yoga may be better than counting sheep