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Three benefits of yoga stretching

Three benefits of yoga stretching

If you're the type of person who likes pumping iron in the gym, you may have overlooked yoga stretching in the past. However, yoga is becoming an increasingly popular way to stay fit and limber these days, and you might want to think about signing up for a class. Here are three yoga stretching benefits to keep in mind if you're still on the fence.

Healthy heart
Cardio exercise is important for weight management, but it also can have a significant impact on your heart as well. Yoga stretches are a great way to boost blood circulation, reduce high blood pressure and lessen the chance of heart disease and heart attacks.

Muscle pains
All those hours in the gym can really take a toll on your muscles. If you've been feeling particularly achy lately, you'll be happy to know what yoga exercises can target and relieve pain in specific muscle groups like the neck, back and shoulders.

Increased flexibility
If you like participating in organized sports leagues for football, baseball or hockey, yoga is the perfect way to stay loose and limber before a game. Increased flexibility can boost your speed and agility as well as strengthen muscles that your usual workout plan may have overlooked.

This Father's Day, consider giving your dad the gift of yoga!

Yoga stretching benefits men more than they may realize

Nearly 4.4 million American men practice yoga, based on a survey conducted by the Yoga Journal. But according to FOX Providence's The Rhode Show, this number could (and maybe should) be a lot higher. The news source listed some of the many yoga stretching benefits for men – which is especially apropos right now, during Men's Health Week.

First and foremost, the holistic regimen helps men loosen up, instructor Kelly O'Connell told the news source. She explained that guys do far less to stay limber, compared to women, even though they are much more likely to have tight tendons and stiff, knotted muscles.

"They get tight in their shoulders, their chest and their hips," she told the news source. "They do a lot of repetitive sports, men tend to like to do a certain type of sport, just one, and they can get injuries sometimes with those sports."

She explained that yoga, more than any other "sport," is perfect for the kind of chronic pain management that many men need.

Furthermore, the mind-body program can reduce stress and improve cardiovascular fitness, two things that plenty of American males could certainly use more of.

With yoga stretching for runners, everyone from the casual jogger to the hardcore marathoner can improve their stride and avoid injury.

Yoga stretching for runners may lengthen active racing career

Every year, it seems like more people decide to get in shape by running, or improve their mind-body connection with yoga. But did you know that these two exercise regimens can be mutually beneficial? That's right – with yoga stretching for runners, everyone from the casual jogger to the hardcore marathoner can improve their stride and avoid injury.

The latter yoga stretching benefit – namely, reducing the risk of strains or sprains – is pretty important, at that. According to an article published in the Regina Leader-Post, holistic poses and gentle stretches may significantly extend a runner's career.

The news source explained that small injuries, like pulled muscles, can take joggers off the road for weeks at a time, which can in turn affect their ability to stay fit.

Of course, larger injuries – such as worn-out joints or torn tendons – can leave runners out of commission for months. While yoga cannot necessarily prevent such problems, it can certainly reduce the everyday wear and tear that runners are prone to.

On the flipside of things, jogging can increase leg and core strength, giving yoga practitioners better endurance for those tough-to-hold poses.

The yoga classes are part of the school's effort to teach med students about de-stressing through deep breathing, meditation and the "relaxation response."

Yoga stretching benefits med students (and patients, too!)

The students at Boston University's School of Medicine are under some serious strain. Between test prep, lecture classes, labs, clinical practice, studying and…well, more studying, the med students at this storied university could certainly use some yoga stretching benefits.

And according to NPR's affiliate in Boston, WBUR, many of them are doing just that. In a story cheekily titled "Downward-Facing Docs," the news radio station described how the students are now taking a weekly half-hour yoga course.

Lest you think that only the holistically-minded are trying out yoga stretching poses at BU, it may help to know that these classes are mandatory. They are part of the school's effort to teach med students about de-stressing through deep breathing, meditation and the "relaxation response."

The classes couldn't have come at a better time:

- A study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine found that, due to depression and stress, as many as 11 percent of med students contemplate suicide in a given year.

- In the same report, 50 percent of respondents described having experienced academic burnout.

- And another study, this one appearing in the journal Sleep Medicine, found that the average med student receives just under 2.5 hours of sleep education during their entire academic trajectory.

Somebody get these kids into a yoga class, stat!

Can yoga help convalescing breast cancer patients learn chronic pain management? According to numerous studies, it can.

Yoga stretching benefits extend to breast cancer survivors

Sure, yoga is good for the mental and physical well-being of a typical, healthy American adult, but what about those who have just recovered from a severe illness like breast cancer? Can yoga help convalescing patients learn chronic pain management?

According to numerous studies, it can. Yoga stretching benefits not only the hale and disease-free but those who are in treatment for or recovering from breast cancer.

A report published in the journal Integrative Cancer Therapies announced that breast cancer patients who practice yoga during their radiation therapy regimens tend to have higher levels of cortisol and better overall mood levels, compared to women who did not utilize the holistic system.

Another study, this one appearing in the journal Psycho-Oncology, noted that a 10-week yoga program helped breast cancer survivors improve their emotional affect and reduce fatigue.

Yet another paper found that yoga appears to give social and spiritual well-being a boost. Published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the report focused on women who had received chemotherapy for breast cancer.

That said, the authors noted that yoga appeared to improve mood and quality of life even among cancer survivors who had not undergone chemotherapy, indicating the versatility of the mind-body regimen.

chronic pain management

Millions use yoga for chronic pain management

Suffering from long-term aches and pains is no joke, since millions of Americans lose work, as well as sleep and peace of mind, over it. However, all is not lost, since yoga offers a number of tools to people looking for methods of chronic pain management.

Billions suffer from chronic pain

One fact about chronic aches that is both encouraging and tragic is that, if you suffer from them, you are by no means alone. A recent survey determined that approximately 1.5 billion people worldwide experience chronic pain. That's about one-quarter of the human population on Earth!

Plenty of conditions qualify as chronic pain or as a direct cause of it. These include cluster headaches, migraines, lower back pain, arthritis, neuropathy, slipped discs, poor posture, spinal damage, sciatica and bursitis, according to the American Academy of Pain Medicine.

Of course, getting focused clinical care for such conditions is critical, since eliminating the source may improve one's pain levels. However, complementary and alternative treatments like yoga may also soothe aches away.

Yoga stretching benefits people with chronic pain

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke states that a number of holistic practices are good for chronic pain. The agency reports that many Americans turn to acupuncture, acupressure and relaxation techniques to quell throbbing joints and lancing pains.

Yoga exercises are particularly effective at reducing pain because there are so many of them, giving a person with aches many options for reducing their pain level.

Individuals who take yoga classes often report significant reductions in back, neck, shoulder and knee pain. In part, this is due to the sheer number of yoga stretches and poses that address these specific areas of the body.

The bottom line…

If you haven't tried yoga for chronic pain, now may be a good time to start. After all, some aches can persist a very long time. The National Institutes of Health states that, without treatment, some chronic pains can last for months, years or even decades.

Yoga stretching benefits nearly anyone, from the sedentary to the extremely active.

Try using yoga stretching for runners, sprinters, marathoners and…monks?

Yoga stretching benefits nearly anyone, from the sedentary to the extremely active. After all, tightened muscles can be a near-constant source of aches and pains. Joggers often complain of tense hamstrings, aching knees or sprained ankles, which is one reason why yoga stretching for runners can be so effective.

There is little doubt that yoga is easier on the joints than running. In a recent article published by Bloomberg, for instance, Julie DiMartini, a research director the University of Connecticut’s Korey Stringer Institute, emphasized that yoga results in fewer injuries than jogging, sprinting or participating in marathons.

However, this does not mean that yoga and running are mutually exclusive. In fact, Runner's World noted that these regimens can be quite complementary, since jogging provides aerobic activity while stretching and posing are anaerobic activities.

Runner Nicole Nakoneshny told the news source that yoga has improved her ability to dash along her local fitness trails.

"Endurance is never an issue for me in my yoga classes, so if we have to hold some particularly difficult pose for a long time it's not a problem, and I'm certain that's due in large part to my running," she said, quoted by the magazine.

The Yoga Journal stressed that holistic stretching routines can maintain good muscle and joint health, which is a must for runners, whose feet pound the pavement thousands of times in a given jog or race.

In fact, yoga stretching has helped some of the most extreme runners in the world avoid injury.

An article in LA Yoga said that a sect of Japanese ascetics, nicknamed the "Marathon Monks," may have used yoga and meditation to stay healthy while participating in the Kaihogyo, surely one of the world's most daunting physical trials: a 1,000-day running regimen in which the monks run a minimum of 18 miles per day around Mt. Hiei.

During the final 100 days of the Kaihogyo, the monks run 52 miles daily. Since 1585, only 46 men have completed the trial, the source noted.

yoga stretching for runners

Marathoners use yoga stretching for runners to stay limber, avoid injury

Are you running in this year's ING New York City Marathon? Thousands will. Even if you are not a seasoned long-distance runner, making use of yoga's stretching benefits may make it easier to trot, jog, run or sprint without injuring yourself.

Here are three tips dealing with yoga stretching for runners of all experience levels.

1. Do your feet hurt when you go for a jog or take a morning walk? It's a common problem. A Huffington Post article by Dr. Neal Blitz emphasized that cramping and tendon injuries are some of the most common foot injuries you can get while running. A world expert on podiatric care – he is the Chief of Foot Surgery at the Bronx-Lebanon Hospital in New York – Blitz recommended working on the foot's strength and flexibility. Fortunately, a number of yoga exercises specifically address the foot. Try techniques that gradually stretch and soothe the toes, arch and Achilles tendon.

2. Be sure to stretch! The Yoga Journal emphasized that most runners experience aches and pains because their muscles slowly tighten over time. Not only might this lead to sprains and strains, but it can also throw off a runner's balance. The news source said noted that runners don't just use their legs to run upright – the arms, shoulders and core muscles come into play, too. Therefore, stretching all the major muscle groups is a must. What better way to do so than with a little yoga?

3. Focus on your breathing. You may be one of the strongest and most flexible people you know, but if you don't have the lungs for it, you'll never be able to succeed in running. Yoga's deep breathing techniques and diaphragm exercises can improve your lung capacity. Likewise, taking some time for mindful breathing can lead to lower anxiety and fewer toxins in the lungs.

Lower back pain is the leading cause of missed work and job-related disability in the U.S., according to the NINDS.

You can ease aches with massage, yoga stretching for back pain

Having aches, pains or outright injury in one's back can be a serious problem, one that should not be taken lightly. After all, lower back pain is the leading cause of missed work and job-related disability in the U.S., according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). With that in mind, researchers have conducted a number of studies into massage and yoga stretching benefits for the back.

A new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine (AIM) determined that individuals who received massages for back pain were more likely to have improved function and fewer aches, compared to those who received typical care.

The research team, which hailed from the Group Health Research Institute, noted that after 10 weeks of regular massage, one in three participants with back pain felt greatly or entirely better. By contrast, just one in 25 people who received the usual care felt the same way.

However, massage is not the only way to loosen the kinks in one's back and assuage aches. Another study in the AIM compared the effects of using a physiological self-help book with yoga stretching for back pain.

The results were plain to see. After 12 weeks of yoga classes and another 14 weeks of health monitoring, patients who performed yoga exercises were much more likely to experience improvements in back function. Likewise, this group tended to report less back-related bother than those given the book-based self-treatment.

A similar study appeared in the journal Pain. Scientists from West Virginia University tested the effects of yoga on people who had suffered from backaches for at least a decade. Many of the participants took pain medications prior to the investigation.

The team found that the yoga-based interventions reduced pain intensity, disability and medication usage in a majority of patients.

In all, Americans spend around $50 billion per year on back pain, according to the NINDS.