Devotees celebrating the first International Yoga Day today have a science-backed reason to love the ancient practice. Since the yoga-honoring day was proclaimed by the United Nations in 2014, a study was released that shows yoga, which originated in India more than 5,000 years ago, may contribute to heart health as much as doing aerobic workouts like cycling or brisk walking.
Based a review of 37 clinical trials, researchers found that doing yoga, with its breath control and body stretches, lowered blood pressure, cholesterol, heart rate and other cardiovascular risk factors in increments comparable to those seen with aerobic exercise.
“Taken together, these improvements could facilitate and complement a regimen toward better cardiovascular health,” said Paula Chu, a doctoral candidate in health policy at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who led the study published in December, 2014.
Not only is yoga a medical benefit, the postures, which can be done at any age with adaptations, are believed to help nourish self-awareness, control stress and develop physical strength and balance.
Thousands of celebrities, soldiers and politicians in India stretched out in sun salutations and downward dogs on June 21 to mark the day. See more celebration activities from NBC, here.
“Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition,” said the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi. “It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature.”
Photo submitted by Michelle Ploog