Yoga for Health

Yoga originated in northern India over 5,000 years ago, as a set of spiritual practices aimed at achieving a mind-body harmony. Today, it has been embraced as a fitness regime with mental fringe benefits by everyone from housewives to office workers and cancer patients.

Through a combination of physical poses and breathing techniques, yoga is able to reduce heart rate, lower blood pressure and regulate breathing. Experts believe that it achieves these remarkable results by working directly on both the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which is activated by the ‘flight or fight’ response and releases the stress hormone cortisol, and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which is often called the ‘rest and digest’ system.

While practising the mindful moves of yoga, the body’s cues are picked up by the brain, stimulating the PNS and suppressing the SNS. This results in a heightened state of calm and an ability to shut out the ‘noise’ and focus more clearly on the body and be more fully present in the moment.

It goes without saying that few things in life are more stressful than being diagnosed with a life-threatening disease. Hence, in progressive hospitals around the world, yoga is being used as a form of therapy for patients suffering from cancer and other stressful medical conditions. Classes typically combine gentle movements with slow, deep breathing for meditation and relaxation.

In view of the compromised strength and mobility of many patients, a special form of adaptive chair yoga is being practised in American hospitals. It uses a chair to provide balance and support. The benefits echo those of more conventional forms of yoga, and include improved muscle tone and flexibility, reduced stress and pain, enhanced mood and an overall improved sense of well-being.

The beauty of yoga is that almost anyone can do it, almost anywhere. Certain poses can even be performed while sitting at a desk.

The realisation that healthier workers result in a healthier bottom line has prompted businesses big and small to introduce office yoga. After all, we all know that sitting at a desk all day long is neither healthy nor productive. Moving around aids the circulation of blood that transports oxygen and nutrients to every cell in our body, including those in the brain. Physical activity makes us think better, work better and feel better.

The experiences of the regular office yogis at Mount Alvernia Hospital attest the benefits of yoga in the workplace. “I feel fresh, lighter and more energetic,” said Anne Heng, Senior Secretary, Fiscal Division. “It is an opportunity to de-stress and exercise at the same time,” shared Chan Yu, Management Associate.

Echoing similar sentiments are the nurses who spend long hours on their feet throughout the day. “I am stronger and more flexible now,” said Elizabeth Loh, Senior Nurse Manager, who is already in her 60s. And yoga helps with better quality sleep and rest, according to Phyllis Lim Yen Ling, Nurse Manager, who heads Our Lady’s Maternity Ward, and Rosalind Goh, who helms the Intensive Care Unit.

‘Zen Out’ Time with Yoga

Every week on Wednesday at 6.15pm, around 20 of the staff at Mount Alvernia Hospital will head to the rooftop terrace of Assisi Hospice for an hour of yoga practice, organised by the Sports & Recreation Committee.

Judith Lee, Senior Secretary, Corporate Development Division, has been attending the sessions since they started in 2009. “Office yoga has prompted me to take up regular exercise in other forms – brisk walking and cardio-aerobics,” she shared. Like the nurses, Judith looks forward to the weekly sessions for a good stretch and workout.

For Ong Guan Jie, Management Associate, yoga helps clear his mind and improve his focus through meditation.

Germaine Chua, Executive, Tenancy Management, said it teaches her how to let go of and release unhappiness and tension at work.

Be it in the areas of strength, flexibility, mobility, mental clarity or mood, yoga is improving the fitness and quality of life for people from all walks of life – people just like you.

This article is taken from our My Alvernia Magazine Issue #34. Click here to read the issue on our website or on Magzter.