by Dr Joseph Mercola
Yoga and meditation are becoming increasingly mainstream according to a new report issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As compared to data collected in 2012, rates of involvement with these two complementary health approaches were on the rise in 2017, with more women than men taking advantage of these activities and the health benefits associated with them.
CDC Reports Increased Use of Yoga, Meditation and Chiropractic
Based on data compiled through the National Health Interview Survey, which was conducted in 2012 and 2017, the report, which was issued by the U.S. CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics notes:
• GREATER NUMBERS OF ADULTS AGED 18 AND OLDER USED CHIROPRACTIC, MEDIATION AND YOGA IN THE PAST 12 MONTHS THAN EVER BEFORE
• IN 2017, MORE WOMEN THAN MEN BENEFITED FROM THESE ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES
• ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES ARE MORE OFTEN USED BY NON-HISPANIC WHITE ADULTS THAN HISPANIC ADULTS AND NON-HISPANIC BLACK ADULTS
“Many people turn to complementary health approaches such as yoga and meditation in order to help with symptom management such as pain. As well, they turn to these approaches for a general sense of wellbeing,” noted report co-author Richard Nahin, Ph.D., lead epidemiologist at the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) in an email to CNN. When comparing the results of the 2012 and 2017 surveys, Nahin and his colleagues observed:
• THE USE OF YOGA AS A COMPLEMENTARY HEALTH APPROACH INCREASED FROM 9.5 PERCENT IN 2012 TO 14.3 PERCENT IN 2017
• MEDITATION USE INCREASED MORE THAN THREEFOLD FROM 4.1 PERCENT IN 2012 TO 14.2 PERCENT IN 2017
• THE USE OF CHIROPRACTORS EDGED UP SLIGHTLY FROM 9.1 PERCENT IN 2012 TO 10.3 PERCENT IN 2017
About the survey outcomes, the NCCIH said:
“OVER THE PAST FIVE YEARS, MORE AMERICANS OF ALL AGES ARE ROLLING OUT THEIR YOGA MATS AND MEDITATING.
A LARGE NATIONALLY REPRESENTATIVE SURVEY SHOWS THAT THE NUMBER OF AMERICAN ADULTS AND CHILDREN USING YOGA AND MEDITATION HAS SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASED OVER PREVIOUS YEARS AND THAT THE USE OF CHIROPRACTIC CARE HAS INCREASED MODESTLY FOR ADULTS AND HELD STEADY FOR CHILDREN.”
Nahin told CNN all three methods of complementary medicine are believed to have health benefits. Specifically, he noted:
• YOGA IS THOUGHT TO IMPROVE NOT ONLY YOUR GENERAL WELLBEING, BUT ALSO MENTAL HEALTH AND STRESS MANAGEMENT
• YOGA HAS BEEN SHOWN TO RELIEVE LOWER BACK AND NECK PAIN
• MEDITATION CAN HELP YOU DEAL WITH MEDICAL PROBLEMS SUCH AS THE SYMPTOMS OF IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME (IBS)
• CHIROPRACTIC SPINAL MANIPULATION IS SAID TO HELP ALLEVIATE LOW BACK PAIN, AS WELL AS WHIPLASH-ASSOCIATED DISORDERS
Yoga Is a Powerful Mind-Body Practice
Yoga, which has been around for thousands of years, is a form of exercise you can perform at any age or skill level. It provides both mental and physical benefits. Beyond being a form of physical exercise, yoga can be a lifestyle practice that integrates mental and spiritual elements as well.
With regard to the latter, yoga can be viewed as a form of meditation that demands your full attention as you move from one asana (yoga position) to another.
As you learn new ways of moving and responding to your body and mind, other areas of your life tend to shift and change too. In a sense, you not only become more physically flexible, but your mind and approach to life may gain some flexibility as well.
A report by the Institute of Science in Society details how meditative practices such as yoga, tai chi and qigong, just to name a few, can actually alter your genetic expression through their impact on your mind. Indeed, thousands of genes have been identified that appear to be directly influenced by your subjective mental state.
Examples of genetic effects obtained through yoga and other meditative practices include the down-regulation of cellular stress response genes and genes associated with the pathway responsible for the breakdown of proteins, while expression of heat shock proteins and immune function are increased.
One study investigating genetic changes triggered by the relaxation response determined that meditative or mindfulness practices affect no less than 2,209 different genes.
Among its many health benefits, regular yoga practice can:
|Alleviate anxiety and depression||Diminish job stress|
|Improve your immune function and sleep||Lower your blood pressure and blood glucose levels|
|Promote balance, body alignment, flexibility, stamina and strength||Reduce your risk of migraine headaches|
|Relieve low back pain|
According to the CDC survey, in 2017, 19.8 percent of adult women said they had practised yoga in the plast year, compared to 8.6 percent of men.
In terms of how race plays into the results, about 17.1 percent of white adults said they practised yoga, compared to just 9.3 percent of black adults and 8 percent of Hispanic adults.
Laughter yoga is one form of unusual yoga that combines some of the benefits of regular yoga with the joyfulness of laughter. About this unique form of exercise, certified laughter yoga teacher Celeste Greene, director of Laughter Yoga Atlanta, told CNN:
“IN LAUGHTER YOGA WE COME TOGETHER IN A GROUP AND GENERATE LAUGHTER AS A FORM OF EXERCISE. WE MAKE EYE CONTACT … AND ENGAGE IN PLAYFUL EXERCISES. IT’S CALLED LAUGHTER YOGA BECAUSE OF THE DIAPHRAGMATIC BREATHING THAT TAKES PLACE – WHEN WE LAUGH, IT’S A FULL INHALATION AND A FULL EXHALATION.”
One participant in Greene’s program claims laughter yoga helps her manage stress more effectively because she is in a more relaxed frame of mind. Another says laughter is a good form of exercise because it lifts his spirits. About laughter yoga, Sophie Scott, professor of neuroscience at the University College London’s Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, said:
“IT FEELS GOOD TO LAUGH BECAUSE YOU GET A CHANGE IN THE UPTAKE OF NATURALLY CIRCULATING ENDORPHINS AND THOSE ARE THE BODY’S PAINKILLERS. YOU ACTUALLY GET A MEASURABLE INCREASE IN YOUR ABILITY TO TOLERATE PAIN. A LOT OF TIME YOU GET A DECREASE IN CORTISOL AND CORTISOL IS A STRESS HORMONE. WHEN YOU LAUGH, YOU’RE MORE RELAXED, YOU FEEL BETTER AND YOU BECOME LESS STRESSED.”
If you are bound by stress and are looking for a light-hearted form of exercise that can be performed by nearly everyone, you may want to check out laughter yoga.
Meditation May Help You Reduce and Manage Stress
Stress is one of the biggest challenges facing U.S. adults, with many reporting the negative impact stress has on their mental and physical health. The American Psychological Association’s 2018 Stress in America survey revealed the average reported stress level of American adults on a scale of 1 to 10 is 4.9.
Older adults were on the low end of stress (3.3), whereas millennials claimed to have the highest stress level (5.7). Other results include:
|74 percent of American adults suggest they have experienced at least one symptom of stress in the past month|
|64 percent name work and money as sources of significant stress|
|63 percent consider health-related concerns to be a significant source of stress|
|56 percent felt they needed more emotional support in the past year|
|45 percent say they lie awake at night due to stress|
|37 percent eat too much or eat unhealthy foods due to stress|
Given the extent of stress and its far-reaching effects, meditation is a simple technique you can practise anytime, anywhere to alleviate stress. If you are not sure where to begin, gratitude can be a great focal point for lower stress.
Simply reflecting on things for which you can be thankful (versus what is irritating or lacking) can do wonders to energise your mood and ratchet down your stress levels.
One type of meditation easily applied to virtually any activity is called “mindfulness,” which involves paying attention to the moment you’re in right now. Rather than letting your mind wander, you actively choose to live in the current moment, while letting distracting thoughts pass through your mind without getting caught up in them.
You can incorporate mindfulness into virtually any aspect of your day – eating, doing household chores, driving or working – simply by reining in your mind and paying attention to the sensations you are experiencing in the present moment.
In a 2017 study, 70 adults with generalised anxiety disorder who completed a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) class fared better when facing stressful situations than those who were trained in stress-management techniques alone.
In the MBSR class, participants learned elements of mindfulness meditation, including paying attention to the present moment, as well as gentle yoga and body scan meditation.
The MBSR group reported meditation helps reduce stress. Notably, their physical measures of stress were also lower, including the stress hormone ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) and pro-inflammatory cytokines which are markers of inflammation.
Though awareness of meditation is growing, the numbers are still pretty low. According to the CDC survey just 16 percent of women said they had practised meditation in the past year, as had about 12 percent of men.
Race is not a significant factor with respect to meditation based on the fact 15.2 percent of white adults, 13.5 percent of black adults and 10.9 percent of Hispanic adults said they had meditated in the past year.
Chiropractic Adjustments Help Relieve Pain and Treat Chronic Conditions
While previously used most often to treat back pain, chiropractic treatment addresses many other problems -including asthma, carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia, headaches, migraines, musculoskeletal pain, neck pain and whiplash..
According to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, patients with neck pain who used a chiropractor and/or exercise were more than twice as likely to be pain-free in 12 weeks compared to those who took medication.
During your initial visit, a chiropractor will likely record your health history and perform a physical examination – with special emphasis on your spine. If chiropractic treatment is considered appropriate, your clinician will create a treatment plan to address your particular needs.
Although spinal manipulation is the type of adjustment most commonly associated with chiropractic, your practitioner may also use:
• Electrical stimulation
• Heat and ice
• Rehabilitative exercise
• Relaxation techniques
Children Also Increasingly Turning to Meditation and Yoga
Lest you think adults are the only ones supporting the trends toward alternative therapies such as chiropractic, meditation and yoga, the CDC survey revealed:
|Yoga use by children ages 4 to 17 years increased from 3.1 percent in 2012 to 8.4 percent in 2017|
|Meditation use by children increased significantly from 0.6 percent in 2012 to 5.4 percent in 2017|
|Chiropractic use by children remained unchanged between 2012 (3.5 percent) and 2017 (3.4 percent)|
|In 2017, girls were more likely to have done yoga during the past 12 months than boys|
|In 2017, children ages 12 to 17 years were more likely to have visited a chiropractor or used meditation in the past 12 months than children aged 4 to 11 years|
|Non-Hispanic white children were more likely to have used yoga and chiropractic in the past year than non-Hispanic black children or Hispanic children|
Mindfulness meditation has been making inroads to schools, such as the Robert W. Coleman Elementary School in Baltimore, where disruptive kids are no longer sent to the principal’s office for misbehaving. Instead, they go to the “Mindful Moment Room,” which is tastefully decorated with lamps, plush pillows and other comfortable surroundings.
Rather than staring at a wall or sitting in a corner, kids are encouraged to engage in healthy practices like breathing and meditation designed to help them calm down, focus and re-centre. An adult also helps them calmly talk through what happened.
Schools like Coleman Elementary and nearby Patterson Park High School that use meditation instead of traditional detention programs note lower rates of absenteeism and suspensions.
The Coleman Elementary program, which is sponsored by the Holistic Life foundation, a local non-profit, teaches pre-K through fifth-grade students proper breathing, mindfulness meditation and yoga. “It’s amazing,” says Kirk Philips, the Holistic Me coordinator at Coleman Elementary, “You wouldn’t think that little kids would meditate in silence. And they do.”