Yoga and chronic disease

Yoga benefits for chronic disease management and prevention.

Yoga offers many benefits for individuals with chronic disease. Yoga supports mental and physical endurance for individuals at any age and  physical ability level. First practiced in India more than 5,000 years ago, yoga is one of the oldest mind-body health systems in existence. Yoga includes breathing control, simple meditation and the adoption of specific bodily postures. It is widely practiced for health and relaxation. 

As part of an overall healthy lifestyle, yoga may help:

  • Reducepain
  • Lower anxiety
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Increase lung capacity
  • Improve respiratory function and heart rate
  • Boost circulation and muscle tone and stiffness
  • Improve balance
  • Improve bone density
  • Improve your overall well-being while offering strength-building benefits

Yoga and your heart

According to The American Heart Association, traditional yoga is done by slowly stretching the body into a variety of poses while focusing on breathing and meditation. “Yoga is designed to bring about increased physical, mental and emotional wellbeing,” said M. Mala Cunningham, Ph.D., counseling psychologist and founder of Cardiac Yoga. “Hand in hand with leading a heart-healthy lifestyle, it really is possible for a yoga-based model to help prevent or reverse heart disease. It may not completely reverse it, but you will definitely see benefits.”

Yoga can be a tremendous benefit to manage stress. Stress has an adverse reaction on blood pressure and heart disease. For most individuals, yoga offers a calming effect.

Yoga and joint pain

According to John’s Hopkins Arthritis Center, physical activity is an essential part of the effective treatment of osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis. In persons with arthritis, exercise is safe and does not exacerbate pain or worsen disease. In fact, exercise may play a key role in promoting joint health since those who do not exercise often suffer more joint discomfort than those who do.

The Mayo Clinic recommends that although you can learn yoga from books and videos, beginners usually find it helpful to learn with an instructor. Classes also offer camaraderie and friendship, which are also important to overall wellbeing. Selecting an instructor who is experienced and attentive to your needs is an important first step to a safe and effective yoga practice.

For more Michigan State University Extension has several yoga resources. To learn more about exercise and chronic disease visit

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