Yoga's Surprising Health Benefits
For centuries, yoga gurus have said this ancient mind-body practice can do more than just keep you fit and flexible. In fact, they believe that regularly twisting your body like a pretzel on a sticky mat will yield incredible health benefits -- staving off insomnia, extra pounds, even heart disease. Skeptical? We were too, at first, so we did some digging to see if we could track down legitimate research to back up these bold claims. Here's what we found:Lower-Back Pain
Yoga increases the range of motion in your hips, which can reduce lower-back pain, says Loren M. Fishman, MD, coauthor of Relief is in the Stretch: End Low Back Pain Through Yoga (W.W. Norton & Company, 2005). In fact, a small study of older women (ages 44 to 62), presented at the American College of Sports Medicine's annual meeting last year, suggests that yoga increases lower-back flexibility and diminishes pain. A word of caution: People suffering from persistent lower-back pain need a professional diagnosis before embracing yoga, because both backbends and forward bends can exacerbate some back conditions.Pose Rx: Pigeon
Begin in downward-facing dog, extend right leg behind you, then bend the knee and draw it toward your forehead. Place right knee on floor behind right wrist and right foot behind left wrist; extend the left leg behind you on the floor. Inhale and sit up tall. Exhale and bend forward, extend arms, and rest forehead on the floor. Hold for two minutes; switch sides.
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