Yoga is a relaxation technique that is becoming increasingly popular with today’s society. According to Garfinkel and Schumacher (2000), the term first appeared in ancient India where it was passed from teacher to student as an oral tradition. The term yoga is a Sanskrit word which was coined from the root yug meaning to unite.
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Patanjali, who was known as The Father of Yoga, wrote The Yoga Sutras where he transferred the oral tradition of yoga into text. He explained in the text how yoga allowed one to heal and unite both the body and the mind. Westerners were first introduced to yoga through hatha yoga, one form of yoga which focuses on preparing the body for meditation. It employs the uses of asanas (poses) and pranayama (breathing exercises) which are both used in modern western yoga routines.
Yoga is done today because of many different reasons. It can help increase one’s flexibility, mental fortitude, etc. Some do it to escape from the pressures of the real world. Others do yoga because of the many health benefits that come with it. According to Field (2016), some of the many reasons people do yoga are to increase energy levels, enhance their immune systems, and prevent diseases. From that data, it was found that around 21 million people in America have done yoga in 2015. This is mainly because yoga is becoming widely popular amongst the female population. Though that is the case, yoga is certainly not just for women as both men and women can participate in it and receive its benefits (Winter 2011).
Field (2016) found that yoga has been beneficial to students through her review of a variety of different yoga studies conducted over the past few years. Field identified yoga studies done on grade school, high school, university, and graduate students. The studies described grade school students having improved self-esteem and mood with a decrease in anxiety and tension. High school students who did yoga had on average higher GPAs than students who did not do yoga. In addition, troubled high schoolers who did yoga found themselves to be overall more sociable and compliant to school rules. The university students reported having more positive emotions while their amount of negative emotions decreased. Finally, the graduate students reported having reduced levels of stress.
Field (2016) also found that yoga was a great help in people with stress related disorders, anxiety related disorders, depression, and overeating. According to Field’s findings, yoga helped those with PTSD by decreasing PTSD symptoms and any other symptoms that generally come with having PTSD (the study mentioned alcohol use and drug abuse). Those with anxiety related disorders found themselves having lower levels of anxiety and better physiological functions. In the study with overeaters, those in the yoga group had a reduction in eating in response to emotional distress. Those in the control group did not have similar findings.
In Field’s (2016) research, she found that a large portion of the yoga studies had similar limitation in their findings. The main limitation was that it was difficult to analyze the effects of yoga. Since yoga is essentially a mix of breathing techniques, poses, and meditation, it is difficult to separate yoga into three parts to individually analyze the effects of each. In addition to that, the results of yoga sessions widely vary among participants. People who already have experience in yoga will have different results from people who do not. Thus, the participants must be hand-picked as having a group of beginners and experienced people would be troublesome.
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