This article first appeared in Today's Dallas Woman, Aug. 1996

Stretch Your Way to Better Health

Hatha Yoga Improves Flexibility and Lowers Stress

Imagine an almost effortless exercise that can help you achieve better health, flexibility and relaxation. Hatha Yoga is this gentle, yet powerful exercise.

Although most people have heard of yoga, many still ask, "What exactly is it?" There are basically three broad areas of yoga: the meditative practices, the breathing and the cleansing practices, and the physical practice of yoga called Hatha Yoga. Hatha Yoga incorporates slow moving stretches, breathing, and relaxation techniques that naturally lead to better health and beauty, while reducing stress and leaving you with a sense of inner peace.

People have been practicing Hatha Yoga for over 5000 years. It's not surprising that the stretches that you see on exercise videos, television shows, and in magazines come from yoga. It has long been known that proper stretching and breathing promotes flexibility, which is a key ingredient to keeping us young, rejuvenated and less prone to injury. Stretching also improves your circulation, which nourishes all the cells throughout your body. If your cells aren't getting enough nourishment, they die and will leave you literally feeling "sick and tired."

Yoga also stimulates the nervous system which includes your brain, spinal cord and nerves. The nerves come out of the different levels of the spinal cord and control all the muscles and organs throughout your body. Every time your stimulate the nervous system, you are also stimulating all of your muscles and organs.

The relaxation techniques of Hatha Yoga can actually reverse the reactions associated with stress. This leads to lower oxygen consumption, lower blood pressure and lower levels to stress chemicals in the body. The relaxation techniques also help improve memory and concentration and most importantly help us enjoy more inner peace.

Fortunately, more information continues to be published about the incredible benefits of Hatha Yoga not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. In his best-selling book, Reversing Heart Disease Without Drugs or Surgery, Dr. Dean Ornish recommends Hatha Yoga as an important part of exercise and attaining peace of mind. Other studies indicate that yoga may also be good for helping people break bad habits by giving them a greater sense of self control.

So, take some time and "stretch it out." Practicing yoga even for a few minutes each day can produce results that will last a lifetime.

Benefits of Yoga

When practiced regularly, yoga will:

Dr. Suzan J. Smith is a chiropractor in Carrollton, TX. She teaches yoga on a regular basis and has released a yoga video for beginners and intermediates and a second yoga video for pregnant women.

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