I hear such wonderful stories from my students about the truly amazing benefits they are enjoying because of their yoga practice. The range of conditions that yoga treats continues to amaze me.
Karen is a 65 year old woman diagnosed with osteoporosis last year. She was adamantly opposed to pharmaceutical treatment. Karen began coming to my yoga class in 2011 or 2012. She told me of her illness and asked if yoga could help. I told her that I was confident that it could. She came to class faithfully, even recruiting her husband, Roger. She practiced daily at home as well. I emphasized the standing postures, especially the one-legged balance poses and other postures that put her body in weight-bearing resistance to gravity. A year later she got another bone scan. Karen’s expectations were low; she hoped that she just wouldn’t lose anymore bone density. Her results astounded her and her doctors. Karen gained eight-percent bone density in her spine and one-and-one-half-percent in her femurs. She was thrilled! She was above the bone fracture threshold and no longer had osteoporosis. She also lost a chronic cough and banished her vertigo during this same time.
Yoga uses the weight of the body to send the signal that it needs to build more bone. The weight bearing poses of yoga asana put the body into many different relationships to gravity. This prompts the body to build bone in response to these weight bearing poses.
I taught a yoga class to Debbie and her co-workers at their work place. Even though she was not in the best condition, this late-thirty something was enthusiastic about yoga practice. We were able to practice together for only about 12 weeks before budget cuts nixed our yoga sessions, but she learned fast and well.
Debbie struggled with asthma and would sometimes wake from sleep at the onset of an asthma attack.
One of the central teachings of yoga is the conscious use of the breath to promote wellness and combat disease.
One night she awoke in a panic with an asthma attack. Suddenly, she remembered the long, slow three-part breathing we practiced in class. She composed herself and began using this technique. As she breathed slowly and deeply she began to relax and her attack melted away. This gave her a feeling of tremendous empowerment. She no longer had to be afraid because she knew how to stop these attacks in their tracks.
Just barely 50, Hunter is the picture of vibrant health and loves her yoga practice. Just weeks ago she was riding a Segway, the two-wheeled personal transport. She crashed, severely spraining her ankle and back. In moments she found herself alone in an emergency department treatment room waiting for a doctor. Hunter felt herself going into shock. She wanted to do something to help herself. She remembered her breath as we’d practiced it so many times in class. As she focused and breathed consciously she blocked the advance of the shock and restored herself to calm, lucid, normal awareness. She, too, had realized the power of her breath and was so grateful that she hadn’t been more badly injured considering the potential consequences of her accident.
These are not uncommon stories among yoga practitioners. They are the results available to us as we increase our consciousness through the use of asana and pranayama, or yogic breathing techniques.