Minn., Oct 23, 2009 -- For an investment of 20 minutes each morning, the payback is reduced stress,
a sense of calm and peace, improved strength, limberness, better immune function
and lower blood pressure.
It's not too good to be true. The investment is practicing yoga or tai chi,
which were developed and revised over many centuries. The October issue of
Mayo Clinic Health Letter includes an in-depth Special Report on Yoga and
Tai Chi, covering health benefits, differences between yoga and tai chi, tips
for learning postures and poses, simple stretches, how breathing enhances
energy, and resources to learn more.
An important advantage of yoga and tai chi is that they combine key elements of
exercise -- aerobic, strength training, core stability, flexibility and balance
-- into unified approaches. Certain benefits, particularly stress reduction, can
be seen in as little as one day. People report better sleep and improvements in
digestive health within the first few days. Better digestive health can mean
better bowel function and decreased constipation. Practiced regularly, yoga and
tai chi may help reverse some effects of aging, such as restricted and narrowed
After 10 to 12 weeks of regular sessions, practitioners often notice significant
health benefits in other areas. For example, a study of yoga and people who
experience migraines found that those doing yoga had less frequent and less
intense headaches than did those taking medication.
In addition, those who practiced yoga saw improvements in anxiety and
depression. Yoga and tai chi can improve bone density and cardiovascular health
and decrease blood pressure.
The best way to learn yoga or tai chi is by taking a class or working with a
qualified instructor. These classes, which teach the art of breathing,
meditation and posing, are offered at many health clubs and senior centers and
through community education.