How yoga helps men with Aids

The doubling of new HIV infections in the UK in the past decade is leading experts to tell GPs to offer testing to all adult male patients in some areas. This is because new diagnoses in the group of men who have sex with men has increased by 70 per cent in the past 10 years.

In New York, where the number of male Aids sufferers is high, many have found that yoga has helped them deal with their disease more effectively.
Brooke Myers, yoga instructor at the Iyengar Institute of New York, in New York City, emphasises a more physical style of yoga in her class for people living with HIV and AIDS.

“Asana is performed with a lot of attention to anatomical detail. Attention is constantly drawn to alignment and different areas of the body we are focusing on,” she says. “The Iyengar approach rests on the belief that through the physical body you can quiet the mind.”

Most of the poses are chest-expanding, often referred to as “open postures,” and require some type of prop, such as a bolster or chair.

One theory underlying open postures is that the breath flows deeper and more naturally than in other postures. The props are used to assist students in accomplishing or holding a posture.

She says: “You don’t just fall into this system of yoga; there is a real way to do it.” She believes that her students gain a real sense of well-being and control over their bodies through the postures. This carries over to their daily lives.

Myers believes that there are four poses that everyone should do each day, especially individuals affected by HIV. These are the headstand, shoulderstand, the bridge, and the plough. This group of poses promotes strength, flexibility, relief from pressure on the abdominal organs, and enhancement of circulation.

Can yoga help with specific health conditions?

Yoga is really a holistic approach to health. This means that it is not only good for the physical body but for the mind and spirit also. However, yoga can be used by people who have a specific physical condition that they want addressing, and there are also yoga classes which have been developed specifically for pregnant women, and for those people who are less able-bodied.

Yoga has also been used as a complementary therapies for people who have other health conditions beside Aids, These include cancer, diabetes, asthma and irritable bowel syndrome.

Because yoga is such a popular form of therapy in the Western world, the number of studies being conducted is increasing. These studies tend to concentrate on the effectiveness of yoga as a supplementary therapy when performed alongside conventional medicine, and analyse whether yoga is effective in reducing stress levels, lowering blood pressure, helping with sleep patterns etc. Results have shown that yoga is partly effective in these respects.

With regards to yoga as a form of exercise, the fact that it is becoming so popular would tend to suggest that there must be a high level of benefit achieved by going to yoga classes. The numbers speak for themselves as it is estimated that about five million Europeans practise hatha yoga and about 30 million Americans.

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