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Yoga and Medicine. 3 Questions. What is Yoga? What is the evidence that Yoga has health benefits? How do I use and prescribe Yoga as a physician?. Yoga. 5000 years old founded in India The word “Yoga” means “yoke” or “unity” translated from Sanskrit, the classical language of India.

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3 questions
3 Questions
  • What is Yoga?
  • What is the evidence that Yoga has health benefits?
  • How do I use and prescribe Yoga as a physician?
  • 5000 years old
  • founded in India
  • The word “Yoga” means “yoke” or “unity” translated from Sanskrit, the classical language of India.
  • It also means “discipline” or “effort.”
  • Yoga requires you to make an effort to unify your body and mind.
  • You do this by concentrating your awareness on your physical body through breathing and postures.
meditation is part of yoga
Meditation is part of Yoga
  • Meditation is a technique in which the meditator seeks not only to reach a deep state of relaxation, but to quiet the mind.
  • The mind is a chattering monkey that one tries to make quiet with meditation.
types of yoga
Types of Yoga

The approach to Yoga that focuses on postures is called Hatha (haht-hah) Yoga.

  • Ananda
  • Ashthanga
  • Bikram
  • Iyengar
  • Kundalini
  • Sivananda
  • Viniyoga
yoga breathing
Yoga breathing
  • Abdominal breathing
  • Sends a fax to the brain to relax
  • Close your eyes
  • Put your hand on your belly
  • Imagine …..
yoga postures asanas
Yoga postures (Asanas)
  • Asanas are the heart of Hatha Yoga
  • Stretching that maintains and enhances flexibility
  • Many poses are a form of isometric strengthening exercise, which involve the contraction of muscles without moving the joint.
  • Isometric exercise is often used in physical therapy for the rehabilitation of injured joints.
meditation techniques
Meditation techniques
  • Focused
  • Mantra
  • Walking
focused meditation
Focused Meditation
  • is a technique in which you direct your awareness onto something.
    • a picture or statue of a deity
    • a universal principle such as compassion or forgiveness
    • or the syllable OM, the famous Hindu mantra.  
mantra meditation
Mantra meditation
  • In Sanskrit, the “man” in mantra means “to think,” and “tra” suggests instrumentality.
  • Mantra literally means an instrument of thought.
  • You repeat a word, phrase or sound in order to transcend the constant distractions of the mind.
transcendental meditation tm
Transcendental Meditation (TM)
  • movement founded by Maharshi Mahesh Yogi of India.
functional mapping of meditation
Functional Mapping of Meditation
  • Meditation is a conscious mental process that induces a set of integrated physiologic changes termed the “relaxation response” by Herbert Benson.
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to identify and characterize the brain regions that are active during a simple form of meditation.
  • Significant signal increases were observed in the dorsolateral prefrontal and parietal cortices, hippocampus/parahippocampus, temporal lobe, pregenual anterior cingulate cortex, striatum, and pre- and post-central gyri during meditation.
  • This indicates that the practice of meditation activates neural structures involved in attention and control of the autonomic nervous system.
    • Neuroreport. 2000 May 15;11(7):1581-5. Functional brain mapping of the relaxation response and meditation. Lazar SW,…, Benson H.
  • What is the evidence that Yoga/meditation have health benefits?
there is good scientific evidence that exercise
There is good scientific evidence that exercise:
  • Increases muscle and bone strength
  • Increases lean muscle and decreases body fat
  • Helps control weight
  • Enhances your psychological well-being, reduces depression
  • Reduces symptoms of anxiety and improves your general mood
yoga is exercise
Yoga is exercise
  • Stretching for flexibility
  • Improved Strength
  • Improved Balance
evidence for health benefits of yoga
Evidence for Health Benefits of Yoga
  • HTN – Relaxation Response
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Asthma and improved vital capacity
  • Stress reduction to diminish the many conditions caused or made worse by stress.
relaxation response
Relaxation Response
  • Herbert Benson, MD
  • founding President of the Mind/Body Medical Institute
  • Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School
relaxation response31
Relaxation Response
  • Sit comfortably with your eyes closed.
  • Pay attention to your breathing, and repeat a word or phrase or prayer silently to yourself as you exhale.
  • When you notice your mind wandering (It will) just notice it and passively bring your attention back to your breathing.
    • A form of meditation.
autonomic ns
Autonomic NS
  • Sympathetic NS
  • Parasympathetic NS
fight or flight
Fight or Flight
  • Whether you fight or run, your sympathetic nervous system will be on overdrive pumping out nor-epinephrine.
  • What are the physiological effects of this process?
  • Why would you not want this to be a chronic state of existence?
fight or flight34
Fight or Flight
  • Yoga and meditation decrease this sympathetic tone and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety
  • Many modern health problems are worsened by stress and anxiety
  • Yoga works to decrease sympathetic tone
relaxation response35
Relaxation Response
  • Significantly greater reductions in psychological distress, anxiety, and perceived stress were found in the experimental group who had learned the relaxation response.
    • The evaluation of a mind/body intervention to reduce psychological distress and perceived stress in college students.
    • Deckro GR, …, Benson H.
    • J Am Coll Health. 2002 May;50(6):281-7.
yoga can prevent seizures
Yoga can prevent Seizures
  • More than 50% reduction in seizure frequency and duration compared with the control groups.
    • Cochrane Database Systematic Rev. 2000;(3)
yoga for poststroke rehabilitation
Yoga for Poststroke Rehabilitation
  • A yoga-based exercise program for people with chronic poststroke hemiparesis.
    • Pilot study with four patients
  • Gentle exercise program adapted for people who have had a stroke.
  • Yoga showed some benefit.
    • Bastille JV, Gill-Body KM. Phys Ther. 2004 Jan;84(1):33-48.
yoga to improve quality of life of patients with cancer
Yoga to improve quality of life of patients with cancer
  • Persons with breast or prostate cancer were taught to use Yoga.
  • Significant improvements were seen in overall quality of life, symptoms of stress, and sleep quality.
  • Carlson LE, et al. Mindfulness-based stress reduction in relation to quality of life, mood, symptoms of stress … in breast and prostate cancer outpatients.
  • Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2004 May;29(4):448-74
pain in the hands
Pain in the hands
  • Evaluation of a yoga based regimen for treatment of osteoarthritis of the hands.
  • The Yoga program was effective in providing relief in hand osteoarthritis.

Garfinkel MS, et al. J Rheumatol. 1994 Dec;21(12):2341-3.

carpal tunnel syndrome41
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • “Current evidence shows significant short-term benefit from oral steroids, splinting, ultrasound and yoga.”
  • Cochrane review, Issue 1, 2004.
  • Garfinkel, et al. Yoga-Based Intervention for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. A Randomized Trial. JAMA. 1998
health conditions in which yoga may help heal or treat




Coronary Artery Disease

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Heartburn (GERD)


Tension Headaches and Migraines

PMS and Menstrual Discomfort


Pain of the Back, Hips, Knees

Depression & Anxiety

Substance Abuse

Skin Disorders

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome


Sleep Problems

Health Conditions in which Yoga may help heal or treat
yoga and meditation to stay healthy
Yoga and Meditation to stay healthy
  • Exercise and relaxation can reduce feelings of stress and keep the body and mind healthy
  • How do I use and prescribe Yoga as a physician?
treating back pain with yoga
Treating Back Pain with Yoga
  • Similarities to PT
    • Williams flexion exercises
    • McKenzie extension exercises
  • Addition of breathing and relaxation
yoga and meditation
Yoga and Meditation
  • As forms of medical treatments do Yoga and Meditation meet standards for being safe and effective?
  • Safer than most medications
    • No adverse effects such as allergic reactions, liver or kidney damage as seen with some medications.
  • Safe from musculoskeletal injuries if you listen to your own body
  • No pain and a lot of gain
  • Avoid postures that you can’t handle
  • Can continue in to older age – 80 year old yoga teacher in San Antonio
  • We have reviewed some studies showing effectiveness for certain conditions
  • More studies are being done
  • People only continue Yoga when they find that it works for them
  • Built in effectiveness meter
  • People often continue medications when they see or feel no benefit and are subject to real side effects
  • Can be free – cost effective
yoga and meditation51
Yoga and Meditation
  • Best when they are practiced as part of an overall healthy lifestyle:
    • Good diet
    • Aerobic exercise
    • No smoking
    • Safe drinking
    • Wearing seatbelts
how to get started
How to get started
  • Books - hundreds
  • Videos - many
  • Classes – all over San Antonio
  • Yoga can be valuable to:
    • You
    • Your patients
  • WE can write prescriptions for healthy lifestyles (not just medications)
    • Diet and exercise
    • Smoking cessation
    • Yoga