Science Sunday: Yoga and Medicine

Medical Yoga Symposium Jan 11-12, 2014
This weekend I have been attending a Medical Yoga Symposium in Washington, DC, which is co-sponsored by Therapeutic Yoga of Greater Washington and the Center for Integrative Medicine at the George Washington University Medical Center.

As a long-time practitioner of yoga, a yoga teacher and a scientist, I am very interested in scientific studies of the effects of yoga and its use in addressing disease and medical issues. I have personally benefited from my yoga practice in ways that have clearly improved my health, but as a scientist I want to understand more about why this is, and am always hungry for information on this topic that is not tainted by the hype and pseudo-science that is so rampant in this field.

I signed up for this conference because the presenters have deep backgrounds in both yoga practice and in medicine and science, with most of the speakers holding MDs or PhDs or, in several cases, both degrees. Speakers on Saturday included Dean Ornish, MD (Preventive Medicine Research Institute), Timothy McCall, MD (author of the book Yoga as Medicine), Richard Miller, PhD (of the Integrative Restoration Institute) and several others. I hope to post a longer article after the conference concludes with more details about the contents of the talks, which cover both yoga as a therapeutic intervention, as well as research reports about the influence of yoga on disease and health.

For some years now, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has funded research on the effects of yoga on a variety of health issues, including back pain, arthritis, diabetes, HIV, menopausal symptoms, multiple sclerosis and as a therapeutic tool for cessation of smoking. The NIH has posted a list of references where you can read more about the results of these and other studies.

Watch for an update when the conference concludes!


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  6. The mind is constantly involved in various activities and thoughts, oscillating between the past and the future; only a few moments manages to remain in the only moment that exists: the present. Being aware of this natural tendency of the mind is the first step in reversing it. And yoga and pranayamas, through conscious breathing, help bring the mind to the present moment, which brings a greater state of alertness and concentration.


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