Indian High Commissioner to the UK Ranjan Mathai made the announcement at a parliamentary group meeting here yesterday.
The UN adopted an India-led resolution declaring June 21 as ‘International Day of Yoga’ in December last year, less than three months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed the idea.
The resolution was overwhelmingly co-sponsored and adopted in the world body, recognising that “Yoga provides a holistic approach to health and well-being”.
Yoga is the 5,000-year-old Indian physical, mental and spiritual practice that aims to transform body and mind.
Describing UK’s decision to celebrate the ‘World Yoga Day’s as a sign of India’s growing “soft power”, Mathai told a group of British MPs at the meeting that it will be a “big day in the UK as well”.
Mathai was invited as a guest speaker by the Indo-British All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) to present an overview on ‘Recent developments in India’s foreign relations and India-UK relations’.
The meeting was attended by leading British Indian parliamentarians who are members of the group, chaired by Virendra Sharma and vice-chaired by Lord Karan Bilimoria.
Another key member Keith Vaz expressed his disappointment that Prime Minister Modi had decided not to visit Britain among his first few foreign visits.
“The need for an early visit has been reflected back from the UK. As election rules come in place here in March, no high-level visits are being planned. I am certain there will be a quick scheduling of a visit as soon as elections are over in May,” Mathai told the APPG.
In reference to a proposed visit by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to unveil a statue of Mahatma Gandhi at Parliament Square on March 14, Mathai added: “There is no official announcement on it yet but it will be a very significant visit, coming just weeks after the Union Budget.”
Chronic lower back pain is often referred to medically as non-specific low back pain, in that the cause of the pain or stiffness is unclear. It does not appear to be associated with any disease, fractures, inflammatory condition, compression or infection. There is a high burden on health service and a high level of persistence among sufferers leading to reduced capacity to work and a reduced quality of life. The benefits of remaining active to those that suffer low back pain are well established.
In a randomised controlled trial of 313 participants, funded by Arthritis Research UK, researchers at the Universities of Manchester and York and yoga clinics in York and Cornwall have found that those with back pain may see significant improvements in physical tasks if they completed weekly yoga sessions.
The participants were mainly female with an average age of 46, half were assigned a yoga intervention (156 participants) and the other half were assigned an undisclosed method of usual care (157). The yoga intervention consisted of a progressive 12 class programme delivered by experienced yoga teachers over 3 months.
Yoga participants were given guided weekly classes in addition to study materials and encouragement to practice for 30 minutes twice a week at home. Classes consisted of teaching pranayama (breathing techniques), relaxation, guided meditation and philosophy were included. Classes followed a weekly theme encouraging body awareness and control to the yoga control group.
Those that were in the yoga control group and those undergoing ordinary care completed questionnaires on the level of disability associated with their lower back pain before embarking on the study. Follow up questionnaires at 3, 6 and 12 months were carried out to determine the effect of each cohort. The study showed that those in the ordinary care group showed no change, those in the yoga control group reported a lower disability score on all subsequent questionnaires.
87% of both groups completed the follow-up at 12 months and 60% of the yoga group attended at least half of the first 3 sessions and at least 3 subsequent sessions. At all 3 follow ups the yoga control group reported lower disability scores than the usual intervention group. Although 8% of yoga participants reported adverse events, such as increased pain, compared to 1% of usual care participants, this is still a relatively low proportion of the sample. While there was no reduction in the reporting of low back pain from either group after 12 months, those that practiced yoga had increased score of pain-efficacy, meaning that they were more able to undertake tasks than before the intervention.
It is worth bearing in mind that there are limitations to every scientific study and participants were aware that yoga may be beneficial to their symptoms therefor this could have had a positive bias on the participants perceived outcome. The study promotes the current medical treatment for chronic lower back pain where sufferers should remain active followed by a referral to a physiotherapist for a targeted exercise program if there are no improvements.Yoga may not be suitable for all those who suffer from chronic lower back pain as 8% of the yoga group discovered. Guidance should be sought from a GP or physiotherapist before starting any exercise regime.
More information on the York Trials Unit’s randomized controlled trial is
available at www.yogatrial.co.uk. Lower back pain sufferers, yoga teachers
and health professionals can also learn more about the ‘Yoga for Healthy
Lower Backs’ programme at www.yogaforbacks.co.uk, a website created by the
yoga teachers involved.
Original article: Geraldine Beirne (http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/jan/05/yin-yoga-calm-mind-stretch-body-slow)
The benefits attributed to yoga – increased flexibility and strength, more energy and better posture – should be enough to get anyone on the mat, especially now there is a plethora of classes to choose from if you want to work on your core, break a sweat or even learn handstands. But what is on offer for those who just want to relax, or runners and amateur athletes who want the benefits of stretching without exhausting themselves for future training sessions?
Yin yoga can complement an already active life or help those who feel distracted by “mind chatter”. Constantly emailing, texting and posting social media updates has led, for some, to mental overload and a feeling that we are not good enough or achieving enough. Yin yoga can provide an antidote to this.
Ten years ago, there was but one regular yin yoga class in London. Now there are about 50, and classes are springing up around the country as people feel the need to slow down and just “be”.
The term “yin yoga” comes from the Taoist tradition. Yang relates to movement, often repetitive movement, creating heat in the body. Yin is about finding stillness and cooling the body. And, the theory goes, we need both to come into balance to stay in optimum condition.
Running and cycling are yang activities. Even some vigorous forms of yoga, such as ashtanga vinyasa and Bikram yoga (the hot one!) are – arguably – overwhelmingly yang. But if you focus only on the yang, your body can suffer from fatigue and burnout.
Yin yoga is practised sitting or lying on the floor. There are no planks, no warriors, no core work. No dynamic sun salutations. No standing poses. The pace is slow, so you need to wear comfortable, warm clothes and maybe keep your socks on. The classes should be suitable for beginners and more experienced practitioners alike.
You can expect forward bends with legs together or apart, lunges and gentle backbends – poses that are commonly practised in dynamic yoga classes. But here’s the key difference: in yin yoga, they are held for a longer period of time to increase flexibility in that part of the body. Instead of holding for five breaths, as in an ashtanga vinyasa class, in a yin class they could be held for between two and 20 minutes, although five is more usual.
Yin yoga also dispenses with the Sanskrit names of the poses in favour of descriptive English. So in one class you will encounter evocatively named poses such as butterfly, swan, dragon and twisted roots.
The reason behind these longer holds involves a short lesson in anatomy. Our bodies are made up of yang and yin tissues. Muscles are yang, so in order to be strengthened they must be subject to yang activity (repetitive movement, creating heat). Shorter holds, dynamic stretching (eg sun salutations) and running, cycling etc target yang tissue – muscles.
Longer, static holds enable us to access yin tissue – fascia and connective tissue. We need the combination of yang and yin to keep the joints healthy. Teeth are an example of a very yin part of the body. If you wanted to change and shape the position of your teeth, you wouldn’t knock or hammer away at them quickly, but rather apply extremely gentle pressure over a long period of time – months or years (ie bracing).
So what is fascia? Fascia is the buzzword in the anatomy world. For so long, we were educated in muscles – how to stretch them and how to build them. But our muscles are encased in fascia, a continuous web of tissue that weaves in and around not only our muscles but also our organs, nerves and lymph. It is rather like a silk body stocking, only it is inside our bodies. The whiteish, sometimes glistening fibres you see when you pull a piece of meat apart – that is fascia. And to keep it healthy and springy, we need to keep it hydrated and we need to apply pressure to it with these longer holds.
Yin yoga was developed by teachers for students of meditation who found it too painful or difficult to sit on the floor for long periods of time. It is no surprise, then, to learn that yin yoga – while being a very effective way to open tight hips and hamstrings – also goes hand in hand with mindfulness practices. Teachers of yin provide guidance during the class showing people how to observe the breath and use this as a way to focus on the present moment, allowing thoughts and feelings to arise but practising the art of sitting with them and watching them without getting “involved” before letting them fade away. The “mind chatter” is lessened and the “volume” turned down on persistent and negative thought patterns. The hope is that we develop mindfulness skills that can be transferred from the mat to everyday life. When we are stuck in worry or frustration, we can bring the same kind of attention to the sensations of the body and the workings of our mind and stay with them for a time.
On a mental and emotional level, the practice allows the body to drop down into the parasympathetic nervous system, and therefore becomes deeply healing and nourishing. Practitioners report that it is grounding, calming and revitalising, with profound energetic and emotional effects.
Yin yoga is a simple, quiet practice, but – make no mistake – it is not always an easy or comfortable one. One of the leading teachers of yin yoga, Bernie Clark, says: “Yin yoga is not meant to be comfortable; it will take you well outside your comfort zone. Much of the benefit of the practice will come from staying in this zone of discomfort, despite the mind’s urgent pleas to leave.”
But if you can stick with it, people who regularly attend yin yoga classes say it stimulates perception and awareness of the quality and joy of the breath, and therefore of life itself.
Yoga could be as effective as cycling or brisk walks in reducing the risk of a heart attack or stroke, new research suggests.
The ancient Indian practice is a potentially effective therapy for making it less likely that people will develop cardiovascular disease (CVD) and should be promoted for that purpose, experts say.
The research, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, finds that the ease and low cost of doing yoga mean it could become a useful tool in reducing heart-related illness, which kills 160,000 people a year in the UK – about one in four of all deaths.
The study is a meta-analysis of 37 previous randomised control trials, involving 2,768 people, into whether yoga can be beneficial for heart health. All but two of those studies found that those practising yoga benefited measurably compared with those who did not exercise.
“This review helps strengthen the evidence base for yoga as a potentially effective therapy for cardiovascular and metabolic health,” say the authors, who are from the Netherlands and the US.
“Yoga may provide the same benefits in risk-factor reduction as traditional physical activity such as cycling or brisk walking.”
The researchers, who were led by Prof Myriam Hunink of Erasmus University medical centre in Rotterdam and Harvard school of public health in Boston, add: “This finding is significant as individuals who cannot or prefer not to perform traditional aerobic exercise might still achieve similar benefits in CVD risk reduction.”
That could see it being used by groups such as the elderly or those with musculoskeletal or joint problems.
When those who did yoga were compared to those who took no exercise, the former were found to enjoy significant improvement in their body mass index, systolic blood pressure and levels of LDL (“bad” cholesterol), as well as higher levels of HDL (“good” cholesterol).
“We believe these findings have important implications for the acceptance of yoga as an effective therapeutic intervention. This review demonstrates the potential of yoga to have an impact on concrete, physiological outcomes that represent some of the greatest health burdens today”, the paper says.
But it is still unclear how much yoga someone has to do to get the benefits found and how cost-effective it is relative to undertaking other forms of exercise or taking drugs. And although the evidence of yoga’s role in reducing the risk of seizures is growing, there is as yet no physiological explanation of why it appears to confer such benefits, Hunink adds.
The British Heart Foundation, said the findings showed yoga producing real benefits and that any form of physical activity that reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease should be encouraged.
“This study’s findings are promising, showing real improvement in blood pressure, cholesterol and weight, which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease,” said Maureen Talbot, a senior cardiac nurse with the charity.
“The benefits could be due to working the muscles and breathing, which can bring more oxygen into the body, leading to lower blood pressure.”
Yoga class. Photograph: Boston Globe via Getty Images
The myriad benefits of yoga – including lower blood pressure, increased strength and bone density and reduced anxiety – should be enough to get anyone on the mat. However, as a yoga teacher I meet many people who hesitate to embrace this ancient form of fitness due to some pervasive myths. Yoga is too slow and boring; it’s practised in stuffy, incense-filled rooms – or in 90C heat; it’s just for girls and people who are into chanting. And – most misguided of all – yoga is only for the flexible.
The truth is that there is a class to suit you whatever your body type or temperament. Yoga develops strength and balance as well as flexibility – the latter is a consequence of practising yoga, not a prerequisite. No one has turned up to their first yoga class (unless they were a dancer or a gymnast) able to execute advanced yoga poses.
All yoga styles create a feeling of lightness, ease and relaxation. But to get the most benefit and the most enjoyment, you need to find a yoga style and a teacher that suits you. For example, if you’re already doing lots of strength training your best choice is likely to be a yoga style that focuses more on flexibility. That way, you can balance your fitness routine. Perhaps try yin or hatha yoga. Those who have an injury or live with a chronic medical condition such as arthritis might want to try Iyengar yoga, or one-to-one sessions with a teacher where you will be able to focus on alignment and your unique needs. If you are drawn to experience the spiritual side, you could try jivamukti. And for those who are relatively healthy and want a challenge, ashtanga vinyasa or vinyasa flow might be a good choice.
Before you make a decision, try a few of the most common styles of yoga that you might see on a yoga studio (or gym) timetable. Some classes – marked general or open level – are suitable for all. This is how I started my yoga journey – by watching and copying. When you think you’ve settled on a style of yoga you enjoy, try a few different teachers. All teachers have their own unique focus based on their personalities, their own yoga practice and where and with whom they’ve trained.
Yoga can be expensive, especially in the larger cities. The most cost-effective way is to take advantage of studio offers. Newcomers can sign up for deals such as £20 for 14 consecutive days of classes. Aim to go to a class every few days – later, you can consider committing to a course. Regular attendance is needed to really reap the benefits. A good teacher will not do his or her own practice at the front of the room. They should be roaming around adjusting, correcting and giving alternatives to people who cannot do the full pose or have an injury. They should be helping you to focus on what you can do, rather than what you can’t. A good teacher won’t expect you to be anything other than a beginner and they want you to have – and enjoy – a beginner’s experience.
A guide to the most common yoga styles
Yoga instructor Tao Porchon-Lynch, 93. Photograph: Keith Bedford/Reuters Iyengar yoga
Iyengar and ashtanga yoga come from the same lineage – the teachers who developed these styles (BKS Iyengar and the late Pattabhi Jois) were both taught by Tirumalai Krishnamacharya. Many of the asanas (postures) are the same, but the approach is different. Iyengar yoga is great for learning the subtleties of correct alignment. Props – belts, blocks and pillow-like bolsters – help beginners get into poses with correct alignment, even when they’re new to them, injured or simply stiff. Anusara yoga is a more modern form of Iyengar.
Ashtanga is a more vigorous style of yoga. It offers a series of poses, each held for only five breaths and punctuated by a half sun salutation to keep up the pace. You can either attend a regular class or the more traditional Mysore style (see below).
Ashtanga yoga taught one-to-one in a group setting. Students turn up at any time within a three-hour window to do their own practice as taught by their teacher. This is my preferred style of learning yoga and, I think, the safest and most traditional. You go at your own pace, on your own breath.
Teachers lead classes that flow from one pose to the next without stopping to talk about the finer points of each pose. That way, students come away with a good workout as well as a yoga experience. If you’re new to yoga, it is a good idea to take a few classes in a slower style of yoga first to get a feel for the poses. Vinyasa flow is really an umbrella term for many other styles. Some studios call it flow yoga, flow-style yoga, dynamic yoga or vinyasa flow. It is influenced by ashtanga yoga.
Bikram yoga is the favourite of anyone who loves to sweat. It was created by Indian yogi Bikram Choudhury in the early 1970s. He designed a sequence of 26 yoga poses to stretch and strengthen the muscles as well as compress and “rinse” the organs of the body. The poses are done in a heated room to facilitate the release of toxins. Every bikram class you go to, anywhere in the world, follows the same sequence of 26 poses.
Kundalini yoga was designed to awaken energy in the spine. Kundalini yoga classes include meditation, breathing techniques such as alternate nostril breathing, and chanting, as well as yoga postures.
Hatha yoga really just means the physical practice of yoga (asanas as opposed to, say, chanting). Hatha yoga now commonly refers to a class that is not so flowing and bypasses the various traditions of yoga to focus on the asanas that are common to all. It is often a gentle yoga class.
Yin yoga comes from the Taoist tradition and focuses on passive, seated postures that target the connective tissues in the hips, pelvis and lower spine. Poses are held for anywhere between one and 10 minutes. The aim is to increase flexibility and encourage a feeling of release and letting go. It is a wonderful way to learn the basics of meditation and stilling the mind. As such, it is ideal for athletic types who need to release tension in overworked joints, and it is also good for those who need to relax.
Restorative yoga is all about healing the mind and body through simple poses often held for as long as 20 minutes, with the help of props such as bolsters, pillows and straps. It is similar to yin yoga, but with less emphasis on flexibility and more on relaxing.
Founded in 1984 by David Life and Sharon Gannon, Jivamukti means “liberation while living”. This is a vinyasa-style practice with themed classes, often including chanting, music and scripture readings. Jivamukti teachers encourage students to apply yogic philosophy to their daily life.
Yoga seems to bestow mental benefits, such as a calmer, more relaxed mind. Now research by Chantal Villemure and Catherine Bushnell of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Bethesda, Md., may explain how. Using MRI scans, Villemure detected more gray matter—brain cells—in certain brain areas in people who regularly practiced yoga, as compared with control subjects. “We found that with more hours of practice per week, certain areas were more enlarged,” Villemure says, a finding that hints that yoga was a contributing factor to the brain gains.
Yogis had larger brain volume in the somatosensory cortex, which contains a mental map of our body, the superior parietal cortex, involved in directing attention, and the visual cortex, which Villemure postulates might have been bolstered by visualization techniques. The hippocampus, a region critical to dampening stress, was also enlarged in practitioners, as were the precuneus and the posterior cingulate cortex, areas key to our concept of self. All these brain areas could be engaged by elements of yoga practice, Villemure says. The yogis dedicated on average about 70 percent of their practice to physical postures, about 20 percent to meditation and 10 percent to breath work, typical of most Western yoga routines. Villemure presented the work in November 2013 at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in San Diego.