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Yoga: Healing the body, quieting the mind


June 3, 1999
Web posted at: 4:33 p.m. EDT (2033 GMT)

From Medical Correspondent Linda Ciampa

(CNN) -- More than 10 million Americans practice yoga, and some doctors are prescribing it to combat medical conditions.

At the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Medicine, students take classes on yoga.

"I hope that this impact will carry through their careers and allow them to have a much more opened mind in other ways of treating patients," said Dr. Richard Usatine of the UCLA School of Medicine.

Most yoga classes consist of a dozen or so gentle poses and end with meditation. Each pose is supposed to stimulate circulation in a certain part of the body and improve the health of muscles and internal organs.

Recently, researchers studied yoga and found some positive results. Their report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, said that carpal tunnel patients who practiced yoga did better than those who simply wore wrist splints.

Other evidence has shown yoga may be effective in treating diabetes, arthritis and stress.

The first benefit from any form of good yoga is stress reduction, according to Larry Payne, author of "Yoga for Dummies." The second thing one should notice, Payne says, is an improvement in concentration.

But the smooth moves of yoga can pose some of the same injury risks as other forms of exercise. With this in mind, experts advise people to go easy.

Yoga instructor Alya Harrison says some tell people to breathe into the pain. It is that kind of advice that caused her a bad knee injury, she says. Despite the injury, she continued her study of yoga and now teaches it.

"I just know now that these risks are really unnecessary," Harrison says.

Here are a few tips to avoid injury:
  • Avoid inverted poses such as shoulder stands if you have high blood pressure, glaucoma, a hernia or current heavy menstruation.
  • Avoid poses that put pressure on the uterus if you are pregnant.
  • Be careful with back bending if you have disc or back problems.

With a few precautions and the right class, many are finding yoga can be a natural way to tone and balance the body and quiet the mind.

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