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Yoga and Chronic Illness

Chapter

Abstract

Yoga is no longer a fringe, odd specter in American society, but rather so much a part of mainstream culture today that major medical centers around the country, local healthcare centers, and neighborhood Yoga centers offer Yoga as a mind-body practice to support health and healing. Although Yoga has existed in various forms for around 2,500 years, the phenomenon of Yoga for health and healing is a modern characteristic of Yoga (Alter, 2005; De Michelis, 2008; Singleton, 2008 2010). While Yoga has always offered the promise of freedom from suffering (Miller, 1995; Feuerstein, 1998), only recently has Yoga literature addressed medically defined chronic illness. We see today a field of “yoga therapeutics” in which yogic practices are prescribed to “heal,” and sometimes “cure,” specific chronic disease conditions (Swami Satyananda, 1997; Iyengar, 1979, 2001. As a health practice, it is both reflective of and a catalyst for a growing body of scientific research on Yoga that suggests a valid evidence-base for the beneficial effects of Yoga on a wide range of chronic health problems (Khalsa, 2004), including cardiovascular disease (Raub, 2002), cancer (Bower et al., 2005), diabetes (Upadhyay et al., 2008), arthritis (Haaz & Bartlett, 2011), asthma (Vempati et al., 2009), depression (Pilkington et al., 2005), and anxiety (Kirkwood et al., 2005). But scientific research on its health effects occurs against the sociocultural backdrop of Yoga schools promoting Yoga as a healing pathway in which healing is conceived of as “a holistic tool that teaches [one] how to live a better life and cope with difficulties” (De Michelis, 2008, p. 25).

Keywords

Chronic Illness Integrative Medicine Yogic Practice Physical Ailment Yoga Practitioner 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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© Michael J. Stoltzfus, Rebecca Green, and Darla Schumm 2013

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